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Fire house grads

June 23, 1999

Fire house gradsBy KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer

photo: MARLA BROSE / staff photographer




left: Shown in the truck, from left, are Shannon Peters, Mike Alderton, Jason Nicol and Angie Bussard. Standing in front are Tina Morse, left, and Craig Sipes.

MAUGANSVILLE - In February, Tina Morse accepted a challenge that changed her life.

Many of her friends were pursuing their firefighting certification and encouraged her to do the same.

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"They never thought I'd go through with it," she said.

Now a probationary firefighter with the Maugansville Volunteer Fire Department, Morse said she is glad she didn't back down.

"Before I started I had no direction. I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life," she said.

The 1999 graduate of North Hagerstown High School said she intends to complete her training in the next few weeks and eventually to become a fire marshal.

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Morse is one of five Maugansville firefighters to graduate this year from North Hagerstown High School. The others are: Craig Sipes, Shannon Peters, Angie Bussard and Mike Alderton, all 18 and from Maugansville.

Firefighter Jason Nicol, 17, of Hagerstown, is a 1999 graduate from Washington County Technical High School.

To achieve the firefighter certification, the graduates had to complete more than 90 hours of classroom and on-site exercises while keeping up with their school work, activities and jobs, according to Maugansville Fire Chief Phil Ridenour.

Bussard, Nichol and Sipes received a special acknowledgement for their involvement in the rescue of a woman from a burning home on Dec. 30, 1997, he said.

"This group is one of the most willing we've had to take the training and help out. In this day and age, it's hard to find people who want to get involved when the only set pay is the satisfaction of helping your community," Ridenour said.

For Bussard, becoming a firefighter meant giving up running track, but it was a sacrifice she was willing to make, she said.

She completed her firefighter training while going to high school and attending Hagerstown Community College classes geared to helping her become a paramedic.

"It was hard. I was tired a lot but it was worth it," she said.

Joining the Maugansville fire department was natural for Jason Nicol of Hagerstown, whose mother, brother and father have volunteered with various fire and ambulance companies.

"I always wondered what it would be like" he said.

With more than 200 hours of training to his credit and a commendation for being the eighth top responder in 1998, Nicol can speak with experience.

"It's really exciting, an adrenaline rush," he said.

In between high school classes and studying, Nicol participated in baseball and ice hockey and held down a part-time job as he went through firefighter training.

"It wasn't hard because I was really motivated," he said.

Nicol intends to further his emergency medical training to become a paramedic and eventually a flight medic for Maryland State Police.

"It's a lot of fun and I've made friends through it," he said.

Shannon Peters was inspired to become a firefighter by his father, Barry Peters.

Formerly a paramedic for Community Rescue Service, Barry Peters was among the fire and rescue personnel called to the Maryland Theatre in downtown Hagerstown when its lobby and apartments burned in the 1970s.

"I thought, I'd like to do that," said Shannon Peters.

Peters has excelled as a student as well as a firefighter. In his freshman and senior years he received the Good Student award at North Hagerstown High School. He also was 10th top responder in 1998 and was fifth runner-up for Firefighter of the Year for 1998.

Craig Sipes considers the other firefighters at Maugansville his extended family.

"We have a good time," said Sipes, Firefighter of the Year for 1998.

An honor student, Sipes got involved with firefighting at the suggestion of his brother-in-law and found he loved it, he said.

Discipline and hard work helped Sipes finish his training while maintaining a 3.5 average and participating in baseball and football.

Sipes plans to attend Hagerstown Community College to study electrical engineering while working part time as a maintenance worker and firefighter at Hagerstown Regional Airport. If given the opportunity, he would like to become a professional firefighter, he said.

Sipes has put in more than 400 hours of rescue service training, he said.

Honor student Mike Alderton completed his training while working part time at County Market in Hagerstown. He was selected the Maugansville department's Rookie of the Year for 1998 for going on more than 100 calls.

Maugansville firefighters responded to 550 fires last year and to more than 200 so far in 1999.

"There were times when I just wanted to slow down and take some time off but I really wanted to finish it," he said of his firefighting training.

Like many of the other graduates, firefighting has lead to a career for Alderton.

He works part time as a maintenance worker and firefighter at Hagerstown Regional Airport.

"I really enjoy knowing I'm helping the community," said Alderton.

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