Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company leaders not only honored those who answered the most emergency calls during the past year, or those who had given decades of service to the company, but also those who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to support the front-line volunteers, as well as those on the front lines who worked to save members of the community and fellow first responders.
The awards were presented during the company's annual awards banquet held Saturday at the Richlin Ballroom in Abingdon. It was the first time the fire company's annual awards banquet has been held at Richlin. It was also the first for awarding citations to units and individuals for critical work behind the scenes and valor in the field.
Assistant Fire Chief Mike Walker oversaw the awarding of the citations. He said later it was a project he had worked on for two years – a committee was formed to review nominations and award citations – to recognize individual and group acts that were "above and beyond" the scope of duty, and often go unseen by anyone other than those who are immediately present.
"It really lets [the department] know how much hardship these guys are going through on a daily basis," Walker said.
He said the people honored don't typically seek recognition, but "they just wanted to feel like somebody had seen what they had done."
Awards of Valor and Merit
The Individual Valor Bar: Fire went to two firefighters, Sgts. Gus Everhardt and Aaron Bellmyer, who suppressed a fire in an engine of a Maryland State Police Medevac helicopter that had experienced "catastrophic engine failure" while responding to the scene of a fatal accident on Route 543 near Wheel Road last February.
Everhardt said later that a "fireball" could be seen coming from the stricken helicopter's exhaust port.
Three Fallston siblings died in that accident. Two other people were injured.
The Unit Valor Bar: Fire was presented to the multiple personnel who worked in 95-degree heat and 100 percent humidity last August to free a victim trapped in a wrecked dump truck which had gone off the road.
They included Bill Snyder, Mike Walker, Eddie Hopkins, Bill Wynne, Brandon Ruble, Adam Siemek, Steven Campbell, Stephen Cooney, Bill Marshal, Gary Rohde, Kyle Condon, Taylor DiAgostino, Austin Ensor, Chad Rogers and Brian Holden.
Long-serving member Gary Kadolph, a firefighter who serves as training coordinator, was among those who received the Individual Merit Bar.
He was recognized for his work in organizing company personnel's training records, which includes ensuring all members have been signed up for the appropriate training classes, that they have met the prerequisites, that the proper certifications are returned and all training is documented.
Fire Chief Eddie Hopkins later described Kadolph's work as a "huge endeavor."
"It's one of those unseen jobs that people don't know about, but it's vitally needed in our firehouse," Hopkins explained.
The Individual Merit Bar also went to Tony Petralia, Rob Claridge, Mark Johnson and Rich Gardiner.
The Unit Citation Bar: EMS went to Scott Cooney, Tyler Stroh, Lauren Nicholson and Marcella Bauer.
The Unit Merit Bar went to Tom Zecha, Bill Snyder, Tony Coliano, Rusty Eyre, Mike Lochary, Richard Presberry, Gary Kadolph, Jeff Winter, Paul Chizmar, Joe Rutherford, Gus Everhardt, Aaron Bellmyer, Derrick Williams, Gary Rohde, Ryan DiMauro, Greg Sentman, Bev Britton and Raymond Belcher.
Individual Auxiliary Bar went to Ginger Holloway and Shirley Maclean.
Unit Auxiliary Bar went to Linda Kadolph, Susan Eyre, Sharon Price, Jessica Norstrand, Pam Burkhart, Danielle Eyre, Bob McNutt, Walt Holloway and Charlie Walls.