When a fire engine, fire truck, ambulance or another of the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department's other seven emergency vehicles leaves the bay off Southwestern Boulevard, Paul Meseke likely won't be on it.
But because of Meseke, those riding along know that vehicle and its equipment will be fully functional and ready when they arrive at the scene.
That's why Paul Meseke was named Maryland's Volunteer Firefighter of the Year by the American Legion on July 14 in Ocean City, said Doug Simpkins, captain of the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department.
Meseke was chosen from nominations from each American Legion post in the state during the ceremony.
The ceremony also honored a law officer of the year, career firefighter of the year and career and volunteer EMS of the year.
"Paul is my right-hand man that takes care of a very integral part of our operation here, which is the safe operation of our vehicles," Simpkins said. "He has a very good knowledge of how things are supposed to work in a proper way."
Having spent all but one of his 51 years living in Arbutus, Meseke started volunteering with the 73-year-old department in 1980.
A mechanic since he was 17, he said he took over the maintenance of the company's equipment when he saw a need for someone to assume that responsibility.
And Meseke lets no detail, not matter how small, go unnoticed.
Simpkins said if a light bulb is replaced on an emergency vehicle, for example, Meseke will log the date it was changed, so if the bulb goes out again soon afterward, he knows to inspect the electrical system for a possible short.
If something is beyond Meseke's expertise, Simpkins said he knows where to send the malfunctioning equipment, even if it's in the middle of the night.
"It's gratifying, but it can also be nerve wracking," said Meseke, who works as a mechanic for airplanes at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. "Calls have increased, so the equipment is used more.
"It makes my job harder to keep up."
One of Meseke's greatest thrills as a volunteer, he said, was designing the fire engine the department received in 1997.
He more recently acted as a consultant for the department's new utility vehicle that's expected to arrive in Arbutus this week, Simpkins said.
For his consistent work behind the scenes, Simpkins and other high-ranking members of the department nominated Meseke for Volunteer Firefighter of the Year from the Dewey Lowman Post 109 of the American Legion in Arbutus.
Winning that earned him consideration for the state-wide award.
"I thought that was pretty humbling when I received the one from the whole department of Maryland American Legion," Meseke said. "I had to get my wife (Donna) to read it a couple of times. I couldn't believe it.
"I'm very proud to be able to serve (the department) and the community."
Meseke's family makes up part of the community.
In addition to Meseke and his wife of 29 years, his two children, Amanda, 27, and Paul Jr., 22, live in Arbutus.
The family is expected to grow when Amanda gives birth to their first grandchild this fall.
"(That's) the highlight of our life right now," Meseke said.