Firefighters honored for efforts in line of duty

March 07, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

Paula Pottorff always wanted to ride in a fire truck, but when her chance came last June, she would have gladly said no.

The ride turned out to be a desperate attempt to save her life on a day when Hagerstown was being hit by several tornadoes and every ambulance was busy.

The firefighter who helped rescue her and others that day, Richard L. Miller, has been named the honor deed firefighter for 1998.

"I had gone out on a call for wires down in the West End when I heard people shouting from a porch on Dale Street," said Miller, who is with the Hagerstown Fire Department.


Alone that June 16 day on the Western Enterprise fire engine, Miller found 56-year-old Pottorff. She had stopped breathing and was being given CPR by her son, William.

"I tried to call for a medic unit but there was too much radio traffic on the air," Miller said. Neighbors tried 911, but got only busy signals.

So Miller and Pottorff's son loaded her onto the engine and off they went to the hospital.

On the way, Miller stopped briefly to rescue two women stuck in their car in high water in the Burhans Boulevard underpass.

He then dropped off Pottorff at the hospital, went back to the West End and continued to respond to calls related to the storm and its aftermath.

"At the end of the shift, I went back to the hospital to see how she was doing and to explain why I had to bring her in the fire engine," Miller said.

Pottorff spent one night in the hospital. "I do remember him coming to see me later that day," Pottorff said. "I'm glad he got the award."

Miller, 35, is a 10-year veteran of the Hagerstown department. He also spent four years as a firefighter in Chambersburg, Pa.

Other "extraordinary feats performed by extraordinary people" were highlighted recently at the Hagerstown Fire Department's annual awards banquet.

They were:

-Edward Bryan, Donald Boward, Harold Semler, Aaron Short and James Sprecher III were honored for their rapid intervention on a "code blue" call which saved a life.

- Larry Williams and Kevin Eichelberger received a special award of excellence for participating in a water rescue of three people.

- John L. Miller was recognized for his 30 years of service to First Hose Co. and the Hagerstown Fire Department.

- Wayne D. Smith received kudos for his many years of service to the Hagerstown Fire Marshal's office.

- Michael W. Weller earned his Chief's Award for setting an example of dedication and devotion which the entire fire department should follow.

- Certificates of commendation went to James L. Sprecher Jr., James L. Sprecher III, Andrew West, Harold Semler, Rodney Hottle, David Sheppard, Aaron Short, James Forberger, Tony Lida and Gerald Saum.

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