Three generations of firefighting Geisels serve Wheeling through 45 Father’s Days

Photo by Joselyn King Three generations of the Geisel family have served with the Wheeling Fire Department. Pictured from left are retired Assistant Chief Ed Geisel Sr., Lt. Cody Geisel and Capt. Ed Geisel Jr.

WHEELING — Firefighters often call themselves “brothers.” But at the Wheeling Fire Department, there are three who can literally call a colleague “grandfather,” “father” and “son.”

Three generations of the Geisel family have been firefighters with the Wheeling Fire Department. The patriarch — retired Assistant Chief Ed Geisel Sr. — first started with the department in 1979. And for the past 45 Father’s Days, there’s been a Geisel on call for the department.

Ed Sr.’s son, Ed Jr., followed him as a Wheeling firefighter. And so did Cody Geisel — Ed Jr.’s son and Ed Sr.’s grandson.

Ed Sr., 69, said there had not been anyone in the family prior to him who was a firefighter. But it was a career path he wanted to pursue since childhood.

“I was one of these guys who just followed my childhood dream,” Ed Sr. said. “I either wanted to be a cowboy or a fireman — but there weren’t any cowboys around here.”

He went on to spend 40 years with the Wheeling Fire Department before retiring as assistant chief in August of 2019. During that time, he also worked 30 years at Sears.

Ed Jr., 49, said when he was a child he would go see his father at the fire station when he was working.

“Every kid wants to be a firefighter or an astronaut or something like that,” he said. “I remember we went to Station 10 one day to visit my dad, and they got a fire alarm. He told me, ‘We’ll be back in a minute.’ Then he jumped on the back of the truck and hung on to the tail bar.

“I thought, ‘That’s cool. That’s something I want to do.'”

He added that firefighters are no longer permitted to hang on and ride on the back of the trucks, and he never got to do that. That day long ago at the station was the only time he ever got to see it in action.

Ed Jr. holds the rank of captain after 18 years on the job. On his days off, he sells cars.

Cody, 30, has been a firefighter for nine years. And yes, as a child he saw both his father and grandfather as firefighters, “and thought it was cool.”

“So I signed up to take the test, and never looked back,” he said.

Cody has four-year-old twins, but he isn’t yet certain whether they will want to be firefighters.

“They do love the fire trucks, though,” he added.

Cody noted the camaraderie within the department is what he most likes about the job.

While the trio all worked for the fire department for a number of years prior to Ed Sr.’s retirement, they never responded to the same call together.

They noted that one may have responded and the other two became involved later, but they were never all on the same truck going to a fire.

The Geisels said they are worried for each other on the job, but in the same way as they are for all their firefighter colleagues.

“As a father, you are concerned,” Ed Sr. said. “But as a firefighter, you know they are trained and have the capabilities. They can watch out, and know what to do. …

“Everybody has good training. If they follow what they are supposed to do, everything should work out.”

Ed Jr. added he doesn’t worry about Cody.

“I worry about him about as much as I do all the other guys responding to that fire or hazardous incident,” he said.

Cody agreed that any concern he has for his family members is the same he would have for any firefighter.

“They will be as safe as they can,” he continued. “But sometimes things are out of our control.”

The men also acknowledged they talk a lot about their firefighter jobs when they are together outside the station and with other family members.

Sometimes they have to be told, “Hey, you guys are all off work today.” Or, “Don’t you know about anything else?”

Also, there’s the “hey, you guys aren’t at the firehouse,” And, “I’ve heard that story 150 times.”

“I get told I hang out with them too much at the firehouse,” Ed Jr. said. “She hates when I go there off-duty. She says, ‘You’ll never come back home.’ It’s true.

“We spend a third of our lives with the other guys … and girls. It’s a unique job, in that it is a second house and a second family.”

Cody added colleagues at the firehouse truly are “a second family.”

“We have family game nights,” he said. “We eat lunch together and dinner together.”

They also “sweat together, cry together and leave together,” Ed Jr. noted.

Cody believes the camaraderie is the best thing about being a firefighter.

“You come to work, and you hang out with your best buds for 24 hours, “ he said. “We can be sitting here talking like this, then the next moment we’re out the door. And often you don’t know what you’re going into.

“Then there’s a problem-solving aspect. People call you because they don’t have the answers, so they call the fire department and expect you to know the answers.”

Ed Sr. added most everyone who becomes a firefighter takes the job because they want to help people.

“We’re never not doing that,” he continued. “When we see something happen, even when we’re off-duty, we help.

“In one respect, we love our job. But we also realize that when someone calls, it could be the worst day of their life,” Ed Sr. said.


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