Firefighters go through stringent screening system

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A young firefighter was charged with arson for setting a series of fires in the Mechancisburg area. Fire departments look for signs of trouble during the application process.

“We have free rein of your house. There’s nobody else you’re going to let in your house but a firefighter like that,” said Doug Gochenaur, Fire Administrative Officer for Hampden Township Fire Department. “So, we have to have trustworthy and good firefighters to be able to be trusted when they’re inside your house.”

To make sure that happens, the Hampden Township Fire Department has a stringent screening system.

“Which includes background checks they submit to the state police. You can do that online. State police background check, FBI background check, that includes child clearances,” Gochenaur said. “We send it over to the Hampden Township Police Department. They also do a check and they send it back okay or not okay. Once that happens, our fire chief and the president sit down and interview.”

That is how it is done at most fire departments across the Midstate. Still, a few firefighters turn into fire starters.

That is where the Pennsylvania Association of Arson Investigators comes in. They offer a class called “Hero to Zero.”

“It’s three hours in length. It’s free. That we offer to every fire department in Pennsylvania,” said Craig Herman of the Pennsylvania Association of Arson Investigators. “It gives them an idea of signs to look for in a person.”

Gochenaur hopes one firefighter does not extinguish your trust.

“There’s a lot of volunteers in this area. There’s a lot of companies and most are good people,” Gochenaur said.

For more information on that “Hero to Zero” class, visit

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