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Harford County

Bel Air fire company members subjects of documentary

Members of the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company are the stars of an online documentary series, whose executive producer is pounding the pavement to get it on television.

"It's everything that's still right with this country," Rick Otenasek said of the volunteer fire service. "These are ordinary people doing extraordinary work."


The series is titled "VFC Strong" and can be viewed online at It consists of video spots and interviews featuring Bel Air fire company leaders, as well as rank-and-file members and community supporters.

The documentary celebrates the ethic of volunteer firefighters and EMS workers across the country who are willing to drop everything and race to a scene to help their fellow community members, Otenasek said.


The series is also designed to help raise awareness of, and especially funds for, the companies.

"It's not about the emergency," he explained. "It's about the community; it's about taking care of each other."

The series will also show the effect on the members' personal and family lives. Otenasek noted there are multiple generations in the Bel Air fire company, and members' spouses and children are often with them at the firehouse.

Otenasek, who lives in Bel Air, is the founder of MsgWorx, a Hunt Valley-based marketing solutions company.

He said the firm is "fluent in multimedia with a particular emphasis and expertise in video." Otenasek produced the series through MsgWorx.

He spent about a year with company members, spending time with them in the firehouse and riding along on calls.

The series includes video shot by Otenasek and his crew, as well as by the fire company members themselves, who used personal GoPro cameras that can be attached to a vehicle or a person's body to give the perspective of the firefighter's point of view.

"We're using everything we've learned about digital media to build and leverage this brand," Otenasek said of "VFC Strong."


Bel Air Fire Chief Edward Hopkins said the series would "not just portray what we do, but educate the public on who we are, what we do, why we do it and also encourage people to consider joining."

"I know that he was trying to portray an honest representation of the fire company," Hopkins said of Otenasek.

Otenasek showed the series to the members of the company's board of directors on May 2 and to company members on May 6.

He is also shopping the series to local and national broadcast and cable networks and online streaming companies, such as Netflix and Amazon, that have expanded into television production.

Otenasek said new video clips will be added to the website about once a week or once every two weeks.

Hopkins said he is "hopeful" Otenasek will expand the series to include all fire companies in Harford County, which Otenasek said he is working to do.

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The website for "VFC Strong" includes a feature that allows members of other companies to send in photos and videos of their activities. It also has a link to the Chincoteague, Va., Volunteer Fire Company.

That company, known as the "Saltwater Cowboys," owns and manages the island's famed pony herd, and runs the annual pony roundup and swim, which draws thousands of visitors to Chincoteague and is a major fundraiser for the company.

"It's about the volunteer community, not just Bel Air," Otenasek said.

He also stresses in the series the tens of million in taxpayer dollars that counties, such as Harford, save every year by having a volunteer fire and EMS service.

Harford County has 11 volunteer companies (plus a volunteer EMS company in Havre de Grace).

Otenasek encourages local residents to either visit their firehouse and ask about volunteering, or contribute money.


"These are great American patriots, right here in our backyard, and it's right here in Bel Air and thousands of communities across the country," he said.