NEBRASKA CITY – Nebraska City’s new fire chief, Robert Schreiner, has a family album full of lifelong firefighters.
His father Bob Schreiner was a 50-year firefighter and his uncle Tom served even longer. He said his grandfather Eugene encouraged the service.
Schreiner: “My grandfather told me years ago, he says, one time in your life you have to do something for your community, so this is what I do. You have to volunteer for your community to give back for what your community gave to you. This is one of the things I do.”
He was seven years old when he answered his first fire call. Nebraska was playing football that day, so few answered when they heard a railroad tie was smoking. He road shotgun in his father’s truck.
Schreiner: “They had what they called Indian packs, which is just a metal tank you put on your back. So dad takes off down there and he gives me one to carry down the tracks. He told me two things, don’t stand on the tracks and follow me down here. Of course, a little six year old, I probably got it 10 feet.”
Schreiner’s grandfather was in charge of the fire department’s scout program, so he got his start at the age of 16. He officially joined in 1989.
He remembers chiefs before him starting with Otto Berthold to Chuck Swanson and Alan Viox and witnessed innovations, such as steam conversion.
The 53-year-old Schreiner is an arborist with Nebraska City Utilities and said he is encouraged by the quality of people on his team and the depth of community support.
Schreiner has previously been a training chief and a captain, but said he needed some prompting before offering his service as fire chief.
Schreiner: “We knew that Alan was going to retire, we talked about somebody stepping up. I just didn’t think I had the time to do it. Actually, a couple of firefighters and chiefs talked to us and said, you know natural progression, that’s what we’re grooming you for. If you’re not wanting to lead us, then go back to being a fireman.”
He said the addition of emergency medical service has meant the addition of medic skills to the roster.