SUMMIT — While sitting on his brother’s deck down the road from the remains of his gutted trailer in the Schoharie County hinterlands, Summit Volunteer Fire Department Chief Lynn Wayman questioned how he could ever pay back friends, peers and strangers for their support.
Sister-in-law Bobbi Wayman had a quick response.
“She looked at me and said, ‘You’ve been doing it for 42 years of your community service,'” Lynn recalled.
The top fire official has spent less than two weeks recouping from a twist of fate — a Feb. 6 conflagration which destroyed his home and most of his belongings.
Lynn was unscathed thanks to his dog, Orville, waking him up before flames encircled the Baldwin Road unit. The seasoned first-responder unsuccessfully attempted to douse the inferno with a fire extinguisher before retreating.
Encouraged by family and friends to start an online donation campaign, Bobbi launched a GoFundMe fundraiser the next day.
Email notifications immediately started pouring in. Donations started pouring in. Lynn and Bobbi were dumbfounded.
“It’s something to know that you have that big of an impact on people around you that want to help, whether they’re friends, friends of the family, or they’re just other firefighters,” Lynn said. “It’s a lot.”
As of Tuesday, the sister-in-law collected $10,605 and counting of a $15,000 goal. Funds cover household items, food and are eventually expected to support property reconstruction. Lynn doesn’t want to move into a trailer again due to his experience during the fire.
Of course, Bobbi isn’t the only one advocating for Lynn. The Summit Volunteer Fire Department expects to hold a spaghetti benefit dinner on Feb. 20, nine days after the Schoharie Fire Department held a Valentine’s Day benefit dinner.
Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-Schoharie, a close friend of Lynn Wayman and former volunteer firefighter, attended the benefit.
“I think the world of him,” said Tague. “I feel awful that he’s going through all of this, but I think his spirits have been lifted from the outpouring and outreach of the community, which is well-deserved.”
Tague added that the tragedy displays how first responders aren’t “invincible” to the situations they encounter on call.
Lynn has spent three terms as chief of the rural volunteer department during his four-decade-plus run fighting fires and has been an EMS responder for 23 years.
With his knees and back shot from more than 30 years of working as a construction laborer, Lynn retired from full-time work two years ago. When he stopped by Local 157 in Rotterdam last Wednesday to pay his retirement dues, the union gave him clothes.
“We keep clothing that we give to our union guys as far as shirts, sweatshirts and jackets, and we also have the necessities because of the whole pandemic, we carried toothpaste, toothbrushes, things like that for the bathroom,” said union administrative assistant Nikki France. “We did give him everything that we could give him in the office, but there’s definitely more that we will do.”
Glenn Marek, assistant business manager for the union, hopes to get him a check through a state funding stream from the state Department of Labor later this week. Additional support for Lynn will be decided at the union chapter’s next executive board meeting in March.
Meanwhile, Lynn resides with family members. One of his friends has offered him their seasonal home to temporarily settle in.
The born-and-raised Summit resident purchased the now-charred residence in 2000, but moved out after a few years to live in a larger home with his now ex-wife and two kids in Otsego County. He bought back the trailer after a 2009 divorce.
Demolition is expected to begin soon. The site is mostly a field of debris.
A safe survived, including some change his son put in about 20 years ago. Bobbi has been searching eBay, trying to replace his Budweiser stein collection.
“If it’s like one thing that you can get back that you had, it’ll make you feel a little bit better,” Bobbi said. “Everything can be replaced. You’re alive, but just the sentimentality of some things” remains.
Grateful to be alive, Lynn thanked fire crews from the scene, Orville, and everyone involved in his recuperation in a radio call last week, so “the whole county could hear” him.
“It took me about 10 minutes to get it all out,” he recalled.
Visit www.gofund.me/d20e0bfe to help Lynn Wayman. A spaghetti dinner benefit will be held in five days for the fire chief at 2912 state Highway 10 in Summit.
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-527-7659 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @TylerAMcNeil.