Jarrettsville Volunteer Fire Company member Mitch Vocke, who recently retired after nearly 45 years with Harford County emergency services, was held up as an example of dedication to fellow first responders and the community, during the fire company’s annual banquet Saturday evening.
Vocke, who received a plaque in honor of his 45 years volunteering with Jarrettsville, retired from the Harford County Department of Emergency Services Jan. 31 as manager of technical services, a position that saw him oversee much of the dispatching software and hardware installed at the 911 Center, as well as the emergency communications system components.
Vocke, a Norrisville resident, said he started working with the county Dec. 31, 1973 as an emergency dispatcher, one of two people working 24-hour shifts at the county Emergency Operations Center in Hickory. He came to work for the county before it had a true 911 calling system.
“Can you imagine what it was like to put crews together in Harford County, to get pieces from one place to another . . . to sit in that room all by themselves [at the 911 Center] in Hickory, 24 hours a day and accomplish that goal?” master of ceremonies Richard Brooks III asked.
Brooks, the director of emergency services for Cecil County and a longtime friend and colleague of many people in Harford’s fire and EMS community, said he calls dispatchers “guardian angels,” or people who “overwatch us all the time as we’re out running the streets.”
“To be in that capacity for 45 years, is just beyond what most do,” Brooks said. “It is beyond what most people have done.”
Vocke reflected on his career after the banquet. He said Harford County did not get 911 service until 1984, and people would have to dial an emergency number based on their local telephone exchange before then.
He said DES now has about 13 people on an emergency dispatch shift.
“Back then [in 1973], you wouldn't believe the technology as it is today, and it's still going forward,” he said.
Vocke was far from the only Jarrettsville member recognized for going “above and beyond” to serve the community, during Saturday’s banquet at the company’s fire hall in its main station on Federal Hill Road.
Sean Snee was named Firefighter of the Year, an honor presented to a member who company officers think “went above and beyond last year, not only on calls, but around the station, events, community and our miscellaneous company functions,” Chief Bryan Schulz said.
Snee, who is also a student in the Baltimore County Police Department academy, has completed multiple firefighter and EMS training programs and is in training as an apparatus driver, according to Schulz.
“This individual has always shown professionalism around the station on calls and was always the first person to lend a hand or volunteer to go first for something,” Schulz said.
Schulz presented the annual Chief’s Award to 40-year member Ted Burkhardt.
“This individual truly has their heart in the Jarrettsville Volunteer Fire Company, whether it’s nighttime, daytime, fire or EMS, you can always count on seeing them on calls,” Schulz said.
Michael Galbreath received the inaugural EMS Chief’s Award “for all his hard work and dedication and accomplishments,” EMS Capt. Jack Mory, the head of EMS for Jarrettsville, said.
“When help was needed he was always there, willing and able,” Mory said of Galbreath.
The Rev. Terry Murphy, company chaplain, received the President’s Award for his “continuous service and guidance to our members” from company President Stephen Lancaster.
Murphy led a memorial service in honor of three members who died in 2017: George Cairnes, a World War II veteran who flew B-29 bomber aircraft; Fred James, an Army airborne veteran; and Raymond Aldao Jr., a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War who was on the USS Forrestal aircraft carrier during a deadly fire on the vessel in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1967 at the height of the Vietnam War.
“What an honor ... to have known these men and what they did for us and how much they gave,” Murphy said.
Mory presented the company’s Thurman B. Ellis Memorial Award for Service, which is not given every year. Rick Tauson became the third honoree since the award was established after Ellis, an EMS captain emeritus, died in 2010.
“The nominee is the kind of person that you would just like to have around because he truly cares for both patients and fellow members,” Mory said.
Phillip Hartline, a 35-year member, was inducted into the Harford-Cecil Volunteer Firemen’s Association Hall of Fame.
“This is such an honor, I never dreamed of this; I just don’t know what to say but, thank you very, very much,” Hartline said as he accepted the award.
Jarrettsville VFC handled 1,561 calls for service in 2017, including 499 fire calls and 1,062 EMS calls.
The top fire responders were Chief Bryan Schulz, who had 359 calls; Allen Henderson, 348; Ben Kurtz, 306; Rob Parks, 297; Zach Kraft, 295; Mike Galbreath, 293; Joe Ranney, 277; Bryan Hoskins, 264; John Simpson, 255; and Ted Burkhardt, 248 calls.
The top EMS responders were Brittany Aris, 233 calls; Mike Galbreath, 213; Rick Tauson, 167; Ted Burkhardt, 132; Zach Kraft, 126; Cory Townsend, 73; Hannah Riale, 72; Ben Kurtz, 70; Kat Wright, 53; and Joe Ranney, 38 calls.
Members Patrick Hoskins, Mark Mahan, John Merbach, Lindsey Murray, Kati Porter, Bonnie Tipton, Shaun Uroda and Hannah Wedge were honored for five years of service.
Janet Endres was honored for 10 years, and Malea Daughton and Larry Gruz for 20 years of service.
Tina Cartwright, John Cooney Sr., Steven Townsend and Ernest Tracey were recognized for 25 years of service, and Scott Cooney Sr., Bill Pullen and Ruth Hoskins for 30 years.
Donita Dietz, John Dietz and Bryan Hoskins were honored for 35 years of service, and Ted Burkhardt for 40 years.
In addition to Vocke, Thomas Fruhling, Russell Harkins and Ben Kurtz were recognized for 45 years of service.
Stephen Saneman was honored for 50 years and William Grove for 55 years of service.