HARRINGTON — Members of the Harrington Fire Company quickly become family as they work closely together to fight fires and keep those in the community safe.
The idea of a “fire family” couldn’t be more true for the Outten’s, a family known for their service to others.
Cody Outten is a fourth-generation firefighter, one of the few in the Harrington Fire Company’s membership list. At just 17-years- old, he has been a member for two-and-a-half years. He hopes to move on to military service and study at Westpoint.
His dad, third-generation firefighter Jeff, was recently honored for his 20th year of service to the community. He, like Cody, also started around the age of 15.
Rep. Bobby Outten, the patriarch of the family, has an even longer record of service above and beyond his community contributions through legislative work. His wife, Lynn, is also an active member of the fire company through the Ladies’ Auxiliary.
The farmer and state representative was recently honored with 50 years of service to the Harrington Fire Company, having starting with his volunteer service when he was 18-years- old.
“My father was in it at the time,” he said thinking back to why he joined the company.
Throughout his volunteer service, Jeff said Rep. Outten has had many roles in Harrington.
“He was chief emeritus, past president, vice president, treasurer for 27 years, director for more than 20 years and chairman of the board for a few years. He was also the driver with most alarms at least five, maybe 10 years in a row. And in the 90s, he would constantly have the most fire and EMS calls,” Jeff said. Rep. Outten said attending the calls was the easy part since he worked for Delmarva Power during the day in town. “I was always here,” he said. “It was interesting. I enjoyed it. I like to help people.” The desire to help people runs deep in the Outten family, but doesn’t come without risk regardless of the volunteer role chosen, according to Jeff. “It’s funny to think of all the people who come and go. They say they don’t have time. Or they don’t want to do it anymore. It’s a big responsibility. On the administrator side, we have to make sure our doors will be open tomorrow. On the fire side, we have to make sure our guys come home. We have to ask: Is the risk worth the time? It is,” he said.
Rep. Outten and Jeff agreed that the risk is worth it.
Keeping the tradition of community and fire service in the family is “-good feeling” for Rep. Outten.
“The gratification from helping someone is the best for the three of us,” Jeff said. “It’s not about us. It’s never about the thank you. It’s about knowing you provided service.”
Harrington Fire Company’s 50-year veteran added that fire service is similar to legislative work.
“When [George] Quillen retired, he said to me, ‘You’re working for the people.’ And I’ve held that true. I missed a meeting the other day because Lake Forest High School called and wanted me to come by. Voters are the ones that elect you,” Rep. Outten said.
His son, Jeff, said Rep. Outten is known for similar leadership in the Harrington Fire Company through his 50-years of service, adding that he has always been a “people person.”
Jennifer Antonik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org