Firefighters honor a hero

March 08, 1997


Staff Writer

Dave Poffinberger was a bit uncomfortable being honored this month by his peers in the Hagerstown Fire Department for his efforts to save a woman from her burning Leroy Street home last September.

Poffinberger, a 12-year veteran, said he has a little trouble feeling like a hero - because he was unable to save Sharon Marie Gossard that night.

But it wasn't because he didn't risk his own life and limb trying to save the 38-year-old woman's life.

"I gave it 110 percent,'' he said.

That night, Poffinberger was the driver for Western Enterprise's ladder truck. He and his tillerman were the first on the scene.


"I knew it was going to be a bad fire,'' Poffinberger said. "I heard there was an entrapment as soon as I got there.''

Poffinberger raced to put on his gear as he ran toward a group of people who were pointing at second-floor bedroom in the double house just off South Burhans Boulevard.

"There was too much heat, I couldn't even get in the front door,'' Poffinberger said. With that effort failing, he decided to climb a ladder to the roof over the front porch and get in through a window.

"I pushed the window in and she was right there...her arm was right at the window,'' Poffinberger said.

He grabbed her by the arm and struggled to try to pull her out that way. Then his air mask was yanked up from his face and Poffinberger got a serious dose of smoke.

When that effort failed, Poffinberger went over the adjoining window and dived through it.

"I found her again and we got her out,'' Poffinberger said.

And there, right on that little roof, firefighters began CPR in an effort to save Gossard.

But Poffinberger said he felt no response to his efforts to revive the woman.

Poffinberger took in more smoke when he took off his mask and started working to revive Gossard. He was later taken to the hospital for oxygen.

In addition to outstanding career firefighter, Poffinberger was also given the medal of valor from the Hagerstown Fire Department and Local 1605 of the firefighters union.

Other awards went to:

  • James Sprecher Jr., outstanding volunteer firefighter
  • Fred Kramer and Dr. Mark Jameson, special appreciation awards for support while on Hagerstown City Council.
  • Pioneer Hook and Ladder and Western Enterprise Fire companies, chief's awards for dedication and devotion
  • Terry Brown, Jason Royce, Andy West, James Sprecher Jr., Harold Semler, Rod Miller, James Forberger, Craig Sheppard, Jay Goodman, James Sprecher III, Ernest Giradin, and Stephen Mitchell, excellence in fire prevention.
  • Harold Semler, James Sprecher Jr., Jason Royce, James Forberger, Terry Brown, Keith Sprecher, David Smith, Andrew West, Gerald Saum, and Brian Sheppard, certificates of commendation in firefighting to the firefighters who responded to the most calls in 1996.
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