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Greencastle firefighters honored as heroes

March 15, 2000|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - The three firefighters clung together as they groped their way through heat, darkness and smoke in the burning warehouse looking for a man they were sure was dead.

All the while they reassured each other over and over that the situation would not be "another Worcester," referring to a December warehouse fire that killed six firefighters in the Massachusetts town.

Daniel Monn, Jamie Hammond and Robert Mellott stood together again Tuesday night, but in a different situation. They were in the Greencastle fire house being honored by 200 applauding firefighters and guests for saving the life of a trapped worker in a burning warehouse two months earlier.

They stood close together in mutual support, looking uncomfortable amid all the praise coming their way from the trapped worker's grateful wife, Mayor Frank Mowen and state Rep. Pat Fleagle, R-Franklin. Their hands were filled with plaques and framed citations.

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Their rescue of Terry P. Metcalfe of Mercersburg on the morning of Jan. 24 was called heroic and daring.

A fire broke out in the giant warehouse of Vision Warehousing & Distribution Inc. at 255 N. Carlisle St. It would become the biggest fire in Greencastle's history, Mowen said.

It started when Metcalfe and fellow workers were removing old refrigeration pipes in the basement. Sparks from their cutting torches ignited nearby foam insulation.

Metcalfe's fellow workers got out and told firefighters Metcalfe was still inside.

Monn, 32, and Hammond, 27, both of the Franklin Fire Co. in Chambersburg, Pa., and Robert Mellott, 32, of Greencastle's Rescue Hose Co. No. 1, went in to look for him.

The smoke and heat was intense even with their protective clothing and breathing equipment. They searched for an hour but refused to give up. Then Monn spotted Metcalfe, unconscious, at the bottom of a stairway in the basement.

"We never thought we'd find him alive," Mellott said. "He wasn't anywhere near where they said they thought he was."

"We figured it would be a recovery, not a rescue," Hammond said.

Less than 30 minutes after they carried Metcalfe out, part a of the warehouse caved in.

Metcalfe, 42, was flown to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, where he remained Tuesday.

Tammy Metcalfe, his wife, said he may be released as soon as today for transfer to either Chambersburg or Washington County hospital in Hagerstown.

"He had his last surgery yesterday," his wife said. "I don't even know how many he's had."

Metcalfe was burned on his face, back and hands. Skin grafts were done on his back and hands. He also received some brain damage because of the lack of oxygen in the burning warehouse, she said.

Tammy Metcalfe said his progress has been far beyond doctors' expectations. "I don't know when he'll be coming home. He goes to therapy next," she said. "I just know that if it wasn't for these three firemen I wouldn't have him today."

The couple has three sons ages 8, 17 and 21.

Mellott said he, Hammond and Monn made sure backup teams were never far from them during the search for Metcalfe.

"We wanted them close by and we kept yelling to let them know where we were all the time," he said.

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