Twenty-three year-old Anthony Simonetta of the Odenton Volunteer Fire Company received the Firefighter of the Year award at the Maryland State Fireman’s Association Convention June 19 in recognition of outstanding citizenship and exemplary job achievement.
Simonetta also received the John E. “Sunny” Rose Jr. Memorial Training Award in recognition of an individual who dedicates the most hours to fire, EMS and rescue training during the year.
“I was very surprised to get the award,” Simonetta said. “You put in all this time to do something you love every day and don’t expect to be recognized on that level.”
Simonetta began volunteering at OVFC as an 18-year-old, a few months after graduating Old Mill High School.
“When I graduated high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do,” he said. “I knew I didn’t want to work at a desk and I wanted to be outside.”
Simonetta first looked into becoming a ‘smoke jumper’ which is a firefighter who parachutes into wildland fires to contain them. A friend who volunteered at OVFC suggested he first get experience as a firefighter.
In November 2013, Simonetta joined OVFC .
“I fell in love with it (firefighting) from the beginning,” Simonetta said. “There is nothing I would change about the decision to join the OVFC.”
Simonetta earned an associates degree from Anne Arundel Community College and then transferred to the University of Akron. There, he received a Bachelor’s of Science in Emergency Management and Homeland Security.
While in Akron, Simonetta decided on firefighting as a career. While on breaks from college, Simonetta would return to OVFC.
“I would ride 24/7, Simonetta said. “I don’t think I ever went home. My family is very supportive. This is what I like to do and it keeps me out of trouble.”
Simonetta was at OVFC five nights a week.
“I practically lived here,’ he said. “It became my temporary home.
“The comradery between everyone who volunteers brought me back. They became like my second family, but at the same time being able to make a difference and help the community, too.”
Simonetta’s desire to be at the firehouse led him to be the OVFC’s ‘Top Responder’ of 2017 with 946 calls.
After graduating from the University of Akron in May 2017, Simonetta received a scholarship from the One Hundred Club of Anne Arundel County to pursue his Master’s Degree in leadership with an emphasis on disaster preparedness and executive fire leadership.
Simonetta earned his ‘Red Card’ in 2015 from the Department of Natural Resources that allowed him to become a wildland firefighter. Wildland firefighters receive specialized training and must pass an annual fitness test that requires them to walk three miles in 45 minutes with 45 pounds of weights attached to them.
In August 2016, Simonetta was deployed to Idaho for 16 days to aid in extinguishing a wildfire in the Panhandle National Forest.
“It was pretty small, but awesome for me since it was my first (wildland) fire,” Simonetta said. Crews from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland with 20 crew members each, as well as local resources, contained and put out the fire.
“We drew a fire line around, which is essentially a trench around the fire (to keep it from spreading).”
In December 2016, Simonetta paired with nonprofit disaster relief program, Team Rubicon, and traveled to Gatlinburg, Tennessee to aid residents recover from wildfires. He helped remove debris, cut down burned trees and helped families sift through their burnt homes to find family memorabilia and momentos.
Simonetta is now in Phase Two of his field training at the Anne Arundel Fire Academy. Since being hired by the county, he can’t ride along to any emergency calls anymore with OVFC. He can only do administrative actions. He is chairman of the Grant Committee.
“The OVFC helped me grow as an individual and firefighter, and just made me more proficient in all my skills,” he said. “The ability to give back to the community is the reason I do this job. If someone needs help, I want to be there to help. It gives me a sense of purpose.”
Simonetta’s goals are to work for the county fire department on the front lines for 20 to 25 years and continue his upward trajectory in promotions.
“After retiring from the county, I would like to work more in the background for an Emergency Management Agency on planning and preparedness,” Simonetta said. “That’s why I’m getting all my degrees now while I’m young.”
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer for the OVFC, can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The push is on to save historic Whites Hall, birthplace and childhood home of Johns Hopkins, 2173 Johns Hopkins Road in Crofton. Beginning Thursday, a beer garden will be featured on the property four days a week.
In the past two and a half years, Whites Hall has faced the possibility of demolition, or having its 13 acres subdivided for development. The nonprofit, “The Johns Hopkins House Inc.” was formed and has been working to restore the abandoned home with the goal of turning it into a country restaurant and tavern, with several rooms for overnight stay.
To help with fundraising of the Whites Hall project, an outdoor beer garden will be held Thursdays 4-10 p.m., Fridays 3-10 p.m., Saturdays noon-10 p.m. and Sundays 1-9 p.m.
Food, beers, wines, cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages will be available as will be yard games. Regular live acoustic music will also be featured.
For more information, visit: www.johnshopkinshouse.org or contact Executive Director Robert Brown at 315-729-0633