This month, the Westminster Fire and Engine Co. No. 1 held its annual awards ceremony to honor the accomplishments of its members last year. The ceremony is usually held in January, during the annual banquet. That is, until the COVID-19 pandemic arrived as an uninvited guest. For safety reasons, the annual meeting was not held last year or in January.
The awards ceremony is a time-honored tradition that dates back many years. The first mention of a fire department in the City of Westminster was in 1808 when the Maryland General Assembly passed “an act authorizing the raising of money by lottery to pay for a fire engine. …” It took another 15 years before the fire company was formed. The name of that company, formed in 1823, was the Union Fire Company of the Town of Westminster.
The current tradition of the annual meeting and banquet goes back to 1879. An ambulance service was started in Westminster in 1928, when the Rotary Club of Westminster insisted that the mayor and council buy an ambulance.
At the May 4 company meeting, Michael Karolenko, Vishal Agrawal, Seth Robinson, Lt. Mikel Hess, Michael Erdman, and paramedic Briana Seymour Stull earned the 2021 Lifesaving Award.
At the meeting, fire department 1st Vice President Dr. Tim Bangerd read the following account — prepared by Hess. On the evening of Feb. 25, 2021, responders were dispatched for a seizure at 65 W. Main St., at the Rock Salt Grill. En route, the call was upgraded to an unconscious person. Once the patient was in the back of the medic unit, lifesaving interventions were started. Before arrival at Carroll Hospital, the patient started to become conscious. A few weeks later the patient stopped by the station to thank those who had saved the patient’s life.
Another Lifesaving Award was given to Matthew Hafler, Lee Bowers, Cassie Houpt, Hess, Bobby Moser, and paramedic Madeline Plaut.
According to Hess’ narrative, read by Bangerd, on Dec. 5, 2021, responders were dispatched for a subject with trouble breathing in the 1100 block of Singer Drive in Westminster. Sykesville responded and located a patient in cardiac arrest. Upon arrival at Carroll Hospital, the patient had an organized heart rhythm with a pulse. Without the fast and effective lifesaving measures taken by responders this could have had a much different outcome.
A Unit Citation was awarded to Bryan Deckelman, Dennis Mann, Capt. Chad Petry, Chief Jeff Leppert, Lt. Marques Price; and from Pleasant Valley, Chief Forrest Shaw, Grant Shaw, Wayne Short, and Chris Staley.
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According to Bangerd, on Dec. 9, 2021, units were dispatched to the area of Route 97 and Bachman Valley Road for a reported vehicle collision with entrapment. On arrival, responders located one person trapped inside the vehicle after striking a tree. The front of the vehicle was ripped off and was found farther down the road. Further investigation revealed the driver’s head was trapped between the driver’s door and the frame of the vehicle. The driver was struggling to breathe and was unconscious. The door had to be positioned and spread at certain areas to keep from crushing the driver during the extrication.
A second Unit Citation was awarded to Capt. Chad Petry, Lt. Dave Stull, Thomas Ray, Lt. Bill Brehm, Casey Smith, Matt Vosburgh, Steve Caho, and Hank Swann. On Oct. 8, 2021, responders were alerted to a vehicle collision with rescue to the rear of the 800 block of Washington Road. While en route, units were advised there was possibly a vehicle over an embankment. Units arrived to find a vehicle suspended approximately 15-20 feet off the ground at the end of the parking lot. The vehicle was being held up by a small branch under the front bumper and the rear wheels, which were at the edge of the retaining wall. Crews saw that the operator was still in the driver’s seat.
Crews spent approximately an hour monitoring the vehicle’s stability. That was necessary because any slight movement could have resulted in the vehicle plunging 15-20 feet into the ravine. After the arrival of additional heavy equipment, the car was placed back on the parking lot. The driver was removed uninjured.
A President’s Award was given to Timothy Bangerd, James Bangerd III, Mike Garber, Amy Garber, Kenny Carlisle, Robin Stansbury, Bill Brehm, and Richard Koons, for their work in bringing Bingo back to the station.
Chris Petry was named Firefighter of the Year. According to Assistant Chief Marques Price, Petry is always in the firehouse assisting with house chores, cleaning and checking apparatus, and preparing himself for the next service call. Petry attended more than 430 hours of training throughout the year and obtained numerous certifications for both fire and EMS. He has also responded on more than 500 calls, making him one of the top responders for 2021. Petry has a positive attitude and is always willing to help, Price said.
We have been blessed with many generations of extraordinary citizens who step up to do the hours of training and volunteer their time to the community, in a show of selfless dedication and commitment to our safety. Next chance you get, visit and get to know your local fire company.
Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.