Heroes recognized at awards banquet

March 19, 2001

Heroes recognized at awards banquet


Joey ChojnackiPhoto: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

The Hagerstown Fire Department has no shortage of heroes.


When a two-alarm fire broke out at 25 1/2 W. Franklin St. last Nov. 15, firefighters climbed ladders to second- and third-story windows to save the lives of seven people trapped inside, while others fought the blaze from the ground.

Joey L. Chojnacki, J.W. Andrew Hartman, Russell A. Grim, Frank Shupp, Tony L. Lida, Mitchell Gearhart, James Sprecher Jr., Larry G. Koons and W. Kyd Dieterich were honored for their efforts that day during a recent Hagerstown Fire Department awards banquet.


"It was a terrific job of fire suppression and rescue from three sides of that building," said Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker of the November fire scene.

Chojnacki received a special award, Outstanding Career Firefighter of the Year, for a difficult rescue of two occupants during the West Franklin Street fire.

"I know it's my job, but it feels good to be recognized," said Chojnacki, 32.

During the fire, Chojnacki climbed a ladder to a second-story window where a heavy-set man and woman were trapped.

The woman was afraid to come out, so Chojnacki climbed into the burning building to comfort and convince her that she would be safer going down the ladder than staying inside, he said.

"They were getting panicky," said Chojnacki.

Breathing inside the blackened building was difficult, but Chojnacki gave up his breathing apparatus to the couple, he said.

"The building was filled with heavy brown smoke," he said.

Once the woman calmed down, Chojnacki had to partially lift the woman onto the ladder to safety.

Other award winners were:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Douglas DeHaven, George J. Reichert III and John W. Thomas, who received the Special Award of Excellence for quick actions in saving an unconscious person trapped inside a burning vehicle Dec. 10.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Toby S. Higgins, who won Rookie Volunteer Firefighter of the Year 2000, for responses, training and public education efforts.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> James L. Sprecher III, named Outstanding Volunteer Firefighter of the Year 2000 for responses, training and public education efforts.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Cindy Blackstock Kline of the Washington County Chapter of the American Red Cross, given an Award of Appreciation for her efforts for fire victims.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Jack Brown, given an Award of Appreciation for his help in rescuing a victim at the 25 1/2 W. Franklin St. fire.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> C. William Karn, who received the Chief's Award for dedication and devotion to fire service.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> James L. Sprecher III, Toby S. Higgins, James L. Sprecher Jr., James Forberger, David Sheppard, Edward Bryan, Gerald Saum, Stanley Bryan, Jeffrey Snyder and Travis Barkdoll, who each received a Certificate of Commendation for volunteers who went to the most incidents in 2000.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Hagerstown Mayor Bob Bruchey and the Hagerstown City Council received Awards of Appreciation for their support of the fire department.

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