Deputy fire chief given career award

February 23, 2004|by Alicia Notarianni

The Hagerstown Fire Department held its 22nd annual awards banquet Saturday at Hagerstown Elks Lodge No. 378.

More than 270 firefighters, guests and elected officials gathered for a social hour, dinner, awards presentation and dancing to the music of DJ Sounds of the Nite.

Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker, who returned to work three weeks ago following a year of illness, led the awards presentation.

"This is my life," Hawbaker said. "After three weeks back, it's good to see everyone in the same room."

Award winners honored at the banquet were nominated by letters of recommendation and chosen by the department's awards committee.

Deputy Chief Richard Kipe received the Outstanding Firefighter - Career award.

Kipe began as a volunteer firefighter in 1962 and became a paid firefighter in 1972. He stepped in as acting chief during Hawbaker's absence last year.


Kipe said life in uniform is about investment and intensity. He said a firefighter can be in the recliner watching television one minute, then out in the night fighting fire, weather and unknown variables the next.

During Kipe's tenure as acting chief, the department acquired three new engines and a public education vehicle, as well as two new paid firefighters.

Kipe will begin retirement March 1. He thanked those at the banquet for working with him, and encouraged the companies to continue to "practice the art, expand the science and cling to the spirit" of firefighting.

The Honor Deed Firefighter award went to four firefighters who saved the life of a Hagerstown woman by rescuing her from the second floor of her burning home on Dec. 3, 2003. John Crist, John Latimer IV, James Sprecher Jr. and Edward Bryan reached the victim - who was suffering from smoke inhalation, burns and respiratory arrest - through a bedroom window more than 15 feet off the ground and pulled her to safety.

Hawbaker commended the men, saying he knows "how chaotic extrication and reviving can be." Those who attended the banquet responded with applause and a standing ovation.

Special Awards of Excellence were granted to the Antietam Fire Co., Independent Junior Fire Engine Co. and South Hagerstown Fire Co. for their monetary contributions toward the purchase of three new engines. Each company approved $130,000 expenditures for the trucks.

A Plaque of Commendation was presented to Robert Pereschuk, who answered 536 calls during the year, more than any other volunteer firefighter in the department.

Certificates of Commendation were presented to the top volunteer responders following Pereschuk. Those honored were James Sprecher Jr., Justin Malott, Toby Higgins, Edward Bryan, Travis Barkdoll, Robert McGhee, Frank Shupp Jr., Ernie Girardin, Brandon Higgins and Robert Hade.

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