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Hagerstown Fire Department honors its finest

March 03, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Toby Higgins wasn't really into fire fighting until his uncle, James Sprecher, got him into it. Higgins, a 27-year-old former U.S. Marine, said now he really loves it.

Justin Malott, 20, credited his stepdad, Wayne Hottle of the South End Fire Co., with getting him into the business.

Among those honored recently at the Hagerstown Fire Department's annual awards banquet, Higgins and Malott run as volunteers with the Utility 3 van, which answers all fire calls and assists on medic calls when needed.

"Sometimes we run 24-hour shifts and other times just 12 hours, it depends," Malott said. Volunteers handle the Utility 3 duties Thursday through Sunday, freeing up the paid firefighters to work out of the fire halls.

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Married with a 5-year-old daughter, Higgins returned to Washington County after a four-year stint in the U.S. Marines. Since January, he has been employed as a federal firefighter attached to Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md.

At the banquet held last month, Higgins was tapped as the top volunteer firefighter who responded to the most incidents in 2002. The number of calls was 591, which represented more than 3,000 hours spent on volunteer responses.

Malott ranked fourth overall with 368 calls. His special commendation noted his attendance at training classes and his 2,000 hours of in-station time on Utility 3 - all while being a full-time student at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va.

Malott got his first taste of fire fighting as a 16-year-old probationary volunteer. He wasn't able to actually fight a fire until he was 18. He currently is training to become an emergency medical technician (EMT) like Higgins.

"When I finish my schooling, I'd like to get on with the Hagerstown Fire Department full time," Malott said.

At the banquet, other kudos went to Richard P. Gilbert, William R. Ball III and J. Todd Grimes, who received special awards of excellence; Robert L. Pereschuk, individual excellence in fire prevention; Brandon Higgins, rookie firefighter of the year; James F. Balogh and Scott A. Baire, outstanding career firefighters; David C. Sheppard, Edward L. Bryan and Mark A. Schlotterbeck, outstanding volunteer firefighters; and Douglas P. DeHaven and Richard L. Miller, Western Maryland Police Academy training award, career firefighter.

The remaining top 10 volunteer firefighters in addition to Higgins and Malott were Edward L. Bryan, James L. Sprecher Jr., Robert Pereschuk, Travis J. Barkdoll, David Sheppard, Robert P. Hade, Frank L. Shupp Jr. and Anthony Smith.

Individual certificates and fire station plaques also were awarded to all who successfully fought a Randolph Avenue house fire last May, averting thousands of dollars in property loss.

Administrative secretary Cindy Lewis got a special plaque for her 14 years of "dedication, reliability and efficiency."

The Hagerstown Housing Authority was lauded for allowing the fire department to train in the buildings slated for demolition at the Westview Housing Development.

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