It runs in the blood: Three generations of firefighters serving at Criner Hills VFD

Sierra Rains
The Ardmoreite
(From left to right) Tyler Campbell, Chief Charles Campbell and Deputy Chief Michael Campbell pose for a picture outside the Criner Hills Fire Department. Tyler Campbell was accepted as a probationary firefighter earlier this week, marking the first time three generations have served at the department.

Firefighting runs in the Campbell blood. The family has been dedicated to protecting the community since the Criner Hills Volunteer Fire Department was established nearly 37 years ago, and this week marked the first time three generations have served at the department. 

Chief Charles Campbell joined a group of individuals from around the Overbook area to help set up the department in 1983 and has maintained his position as chief since 1984. “We started it in 1983, us and several guys around the neighborhoods. Most of them have passed on now,” he said. 

His son Michael Campbell, now the deputy chief, joined the department in 1995, and Tyler Campbell, Charles Campbell’s grandson, was officially accepted as a probationary firefighter earlier this week. 

“It’s been in my blood ever since I was a freshman in high school,” said Charles Campbell. As a freshman in high school, Campbell was part of a fire brigade that would go out and fight fires when necessary. “Our superintendent, when he’d get a grasp of where it was going, he’d blow the whistle and us and a bunch of guys would go fight it,” Campbell said. 

Over the past several years as chief, Charles Campbell has watched many new firefighters join the department that he helped create. A total of 20 individuals currently serve in the department. Charles Campbell said it has been rewarding to train the new recruits and see them go on to help serve the community. 

Deputy Chief Michael Campbell was six years old when the department was established. “I grew up in it,” Michael Campbell said. “I saw my dad help building trucks and making calls. So, of course, like any son, you usually want to follow in your father’s footsteps.” 

When he came of age in 1995, Michael Campbell joined the department and has been serving alongside his father as a volunteer firefighter ever since. 

“It’s kind of a tradition now because we’ve been here so long,” Michael Campbell said. “It’s going to be good, I’m glad my son wanted to step up and do this — he’s not doing it for us, he’s doing it for himself too, and the community.”

Tyler Campbell turned 18 earlier this month and has already been on several calls for the department. “He’s already been on three or four calls with us and he’s doing real good so far. He’s listening and he’s learning,” said Charles Campbell. 

As a rookie at the volunteer fire department, Tyler Campbell will go through a several month probationary period but will still be a functioning member of the crew. Tyler Campbell will also be balancing firefighting with school and athletics. 

“I don’t know if he’s going to be able to stick around here after school, but I hope wherever he winds up that he chooses to volunteer in some fashion in the community where he lives,” Michael Campbell said. 

To the Campbell’s and many other volunteer firefighters at the Criner Hills Fire Department, the position is more than just a job. It is a commitment to the community. Volunteer firefighters spend several hours responding to emergencies, often with little compensation. 

“I feel great that he is going to help us out and join with us and wants to do what we did — to carry it on for the community, to help the community, because that’s what we’re doing it for,” Michael Campbell said. “We’re not doing it for our own recognition, we’re doing it to help our fellow neighbors and friends and family.”