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.
The traditional awards Saturday included the top fire and EMS responders and years of service.
The top 20 fire responders in 2012 were Ronald Britton with 1,079 calls, Steve Campbell with 939, Brandon Ruble with 829, Richard Presberry with 814, Ricky Davis with 775, Eddie Hopkins with 709, Bill Snyder with 668, Mark Johnson with 659, Scott McNutt with 626, Mike Walker with 611, Todd Schlossnagle with 588, Aaron Bellmyer with 571, Gary Rohde with 526, Gus Everhardt with 518, Rob Claridge with 512, Adam Siemek with 501, Jordon Bosse with 501, Mark Ensor with 498, Bev Britton with 483 and Austin Ensor with 468 calls.
The top 10 EMS responders fro 2012 were Mike Fields with 264 calls, Bev Britton with 198, David Birk with 159, Ginger Eisenhardt with 139, Leigha Reader with 112, Michele Goldman with 107, Michele Cirillo with 105, Mike Marino with 103, Tanisha Hawkins with 96 and Brad Baker with 86 calls.
Those who achieved fire call milestones included Josh Krebs and Bill Wynne with 10,000, and John Stansfield, Mike Walker and Brandon Ruble with 5,000 calls.
Years of service awards went to Joanne Adamo, Eric Larson, Todd DeFelice, Sharon Price and Tara Lundon for 10 years; Scott Sizer, Mike Turks and Mike Marino for 15 years; Josh Krebs for 20 years; Mike Livezey and Joe Rutherford for 25 years; Dave LaBar and Doug Struve for 30 years; June Potter and Russ Eyre for 35 years; and Dave Winchester for 40 years.
Also honored Saturday were the members of Medic 394 and EMS Utility 399, who responded to C. Milton Wright High School in January and helped save the life of Colleen Houck, a basketball player who collapsed during a game from a sudden cardiac arrest.
Don MacLean, a former Bel Air fire chief who serves as a representative of the local public safety sector on Harford County's Development Advisory Committee, was honored by County Councilmen James "Capt'n Jim" McMahan and Richard Slutzky.
MacLean was honored for his 30 years of service on the Harford County Development Advisory Committee, where he has been a tireless advocate of having new development plans take into account fire safety needs.
In an interview after the awards ceremony, McLean called the award "a surprise," and explained he works to ensure planned developments meet fire protection needs, such as having an adequate number of fire hydrants and that fire apparatus can access all driveways. He's also advocated that street names not be redundant and houses be clearly marked on the outside, both to make it easy for fire and EMS crews to respond in an emergency.
His wife, Shirley, also called her award for her work with the Auxiliary a "surprise."
Former EMS chief honored
Bev Britton, who stepped down at the end of 2012 after five years as EMS chief, was also recognized Saturday.
In written remarks provided in the banquet program, Britton thanked the paid EMS workers who have bolstered the efforts of the volunteers as the company's call volume has grown in recent years, as well as the volunteer EMS workers.
"You should always remain proud of your past, present and future commitments to Bel Air," she wrote. "The hard work, the upward mobility of your status, and your genuine concern for the Company and community you serve will never go unnoticed.
Hopkins, company President Tony Coliano Sr. and Banquet Chair Valerie Kulis also provided written remarks in the program.
"BAVFC thrives and succeeds on the talents of every member," Hopkins wrote. "To each of these people I say thank you for your hard work, your dedication and a job well done in 2012."
Coliano thanked administrative office staff and the members of the board of directors for their support in 2012, plus Harford County Executive David R. Craig and the county council for funding construction of the Patterson Mill substation, the first volunteer fire facility to be fully funded by the county.
"To the men and women who respond to emergencies every day, the citizens should thank God for your passion and dedication you truly make a difference in people's lives," the president wrote.
Kulis thanked those who worked to put on Saturday's banquet and awards ceremony.
"As we come together and celebrate at the banquet tonight, we congratulate those members receiving awards and all of our members for facing challenging times and graciously giving themselves to serve the community," she wrote.