Donald Coons Jr., of Taghkanic, NY, has been a volunteer firefighter since he was 16 and is now the first Assistant Chief of Taghkanic Fire Company in Columbia County. In addition to being a firefighter, he also works part-time as an EMT for Copake Rescue Squad. Aside from work, he volunteers as an adult leader to his step-son's Boy Scout Troop.  As an adult leader to the troop, he takes time off from his full-time job to spend the week of summer camp with them.

Coons is also a father to a 3-year old daughter and enjoys spending time with her, his wife, and his stepson.

As part of the “Hometown Heroes” series, we’ve partnered with County Waste, Latham Ford, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region and Awards by Walsh to celebrate local unsung heroes for their good deeds and honorable work.

We asked Coons a few questions. Here's what he had to say:

Q: What inspires you to be a volunteer firefighter?

A: It started from as early as I can remember, my father is a volunteer firefighter and when I turned 16, I handed in my application and never looked back.  I feel that those who are able have a responsibility to our neighbors to help in anyway we can, and I'm happy that I have learned the skills to potentially make a difference. Watching a community rally behind its fire company is one of the very few times I see people come together and put political and personal differences aside, if only for a moment.

Q: What's the most rewarding thing about what you do?

A: That summer day, when you're walking down Main Street, halfway through a parade, and someone simply looks at you and says "thank you."

Q: What are some challenges?

A: Only one, and it's huge: TIME.  The time away from my family and other responsibilities. I've been a volunteer firefighter for almost 18-years and the time and training commitment required has grown by leaps and bounds.  Time at the firehouse is time that I'm not at home with my wife and children. Trying to keep a balance between work, family and fire is one of the most difficult things I'm tasked with.

Q: Do you consider yourself a "hero?" Why or why not?

A: No, I do not consider myself to be a "hero."  While the job of a firefighter is inherently heroic, I personally feel that I have never been called upon to do anything above and beyond what any other firefighter would do without hesitation. If I must name a hero, it would have to be my wife.  Her willingness to put up with me and all my jobs and obligations is quite heroic.