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Washington Township firefighters mourn fallen comrade

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - 7:05 am

Mark Haudenschild II loved serving as a volunteer firefighter. He loved fixing things, and if he didn't know how, he would figure it out.

But the 25-year-old Fort Wayne man's five years of service with the Washington Township Fire Department ended in tragedy Sunday night when Haudenschild's tanker truck crashed as he drove to the scene of a brush fire.

Haudenschild's death left his colleagues with the small volunteer department reeling Monday. In the department's 67-year history, no firefighter had died in the line of duty, said Washington Township Fire Chief Brian Gillett.

“Mark loved being here, he loved being a volunteer here,” Gillett said. “Words cannot describe adequately the tremendous sorrow this small fire department and community are feeling at this time.”

Authorities said Monday that Haudenschild was going south on Hillegas Road at about 8:40 p.m. Sunday and started to turn west onto Butler Road when the tanker truck – which carries about 3,500 gallons of water – overturned and rolled several times.

Haudenschild was thrown from the truck as it rolled. He was pronounced dead at about 11:15 p.m., according to the Allen County Coroner's Office.

Haudenschild leaves behind his wife, Janet, and their two children, ages 3 and 1, Gillett said. Arrangements were under way for a funeral service this week, but details had not been set as of Monday afternoon, Gillett said.

Department officials called Haudenschild, the assistant chief engineer, an energetic young man who always did whatever was asked of him. Assistant Chief Bruce McBride, a 31-year veteran, said veteran firefighters forge a close bond with their younger colleagues by training rookies.

"It's a brotherhood, a sisterhood," McBride said. "It's a bond of trust. We're running into situations that everybody else is leaving."

The department of about 25 active-duty volunteers had suspended all runs through at least Tuesday, Gillett said, with the Fort Wayne Fire Department and other rural forces providing coverage for its service area.