PRINCETON — Princeton Fire Territory Captain Scott Horn has been a firefighter for 35 years. On Independence Day, he will walk out of Station 2’s bay doors as an emergency responder for the last time.
Hired in 1982, Horn has served under seven different Princeton mayors, and seen things some will only witness in a movie.
“It’s funny how you remember and accident or incident when someone says something to trigger it. Some of them you never forget,” Horn said of his experiences.
He says having his fellow firefighters around when times got tough helped make all the difference throughout the years.
“That’s the best part about the camaraderie we have here,” he said. “When you have a really bad wreck or someone’s been killed, it’s not taking anything away from the incident but you may start joking around because it’s a way to deal with it and unwind, burn off what you’re thinking about. Sometimes you don’t want to think about it real quick.”
“You see a lot of things on this job no one should see,” he said.
Fire Chief Mike Pflug says Horn’s leadership will be missed.
“Any time you lose someone of 35 years, you are losing a vast wealth of experience,” Pflug said. “The guys look up to that kind of experience and (Horn) is one of the last of the old guard. When he walks out of the station for the final time, it will be a whole different scenario.”
Over the years, equipment may have become lighter, uniforms may have changed, but one thing that
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stayed the same was the brotherhood.
“I’ll definitely miss his knowledge,” said fellow firefighter Justin Hyneman. “I was in fifth grade and remember him fighting the theater fire. We were out on recess. Smoke was showing and all of the firefighters were out there, it was one of the first things I remember.”
Hyneman compared the bonds of the fire station to a kind of marriage.
“When you’re with the guys 24 hours a day, for one-third of your life, you get to know their quirks — when they are mad or when they need to talk.”
Horn said he didn’t always dream of being a firefighter. He began a career in machinery at 18.
“Back then, this job paid less than $15,000 — they actually had to go out and look for people to take the job.”
He says the near-fatal accident involving Cody Byrns is one he will never forget.
“It was pretty unbelievable that anyone could make it through that, and we weren’t the only people there helping him stay alive — God was there that day for sure.”
“You can’t do jobs like this and believe it’s not going to bother you at some point,” he said. “Even though you may let go of it now and then, you still have flashbacks of a specific night or situation.”
But it’s not all serious faces and tragic business at the fire department.
“If you know anything about the fire service, you know we do a lot of pranking on each other around here,” Hyneman said.
“If you know something that ticks a guy off, that’s what you tend to go for,” Horn said “But they always know you are just joking.”
“In the old station there was a hose tower in the living quarters, which was extremely small. The dormitory was only four beds with a pool table in the middle and it was nothing to go in and see your mattress cranked up into the hose tower. That happened quite a bit — and one time an entire mattress ended up on the roof,” Horn said.
“... Salmon patties disguised in a cheeseburger … That’s a prank I got one time. But I ate it,” Hyneman remembers.
However when the warning bells go off, Horn says everyone knows play time is over and it’s time to get to work.
The biggest lesson he’s learned on the job? Don’t judge a book by its cover.
“You never know what you’re going to run into, so you can’t get locked in on the same thing, because there are always things out there are going to surprise you.”
Fighting fires and rescuing people from car wreckage has only been part of Horn’s duties. A few years ago, Horn and firefighter Chad Butts started a program repairing electric wheelchairs for free for those in need.
“He always worked construction as well, so when we needed help around the station, he was there,” Pflug said. “When the chips were down I always knew Scott was one of the guys I could count on in a pinch and he never failed to do that. I’ll miss him being around, but we wish him well.”
Now Horn is looking to spending more time traveling and playing with his triplet granddaughters Riley, Josie and Ella.
“I plan on taking a few more bike trips, going out to see my sister, head to South Dakota and play with the grandkids a lot more,” he said.
“I have always stayed busy and I plan to keep it that way—but 35 years on the job — at this point it’s time to turn it over to the young guys.”