Area deputy fire marshal earns state recognition

July 06, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

HALFWAY - Maryland Deputy State Fire Marshal Ed Ernst seems to know how to make a splash when it comes to dealing with fires.

With less than three years of service under his belt, the Hagerstown native in June was named 2003 Maryland Deputy State Fire Marshal of the Year for the Metro Regional Office.

Ernst, 32, of the Halfway area, was one of six employees to be recognized by the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office. Ernst won the award for the region that includes Frederick, Howard and Carroll counties.


Although Ernst is based to the east, 20 of his 80 cases in 2003 were calls in Washington County.

Among those cases were three fire fatalities in a two-month period late last year. They were the first fire deaths he had to face during a professional career as a deputy state fire marshal that began in June 2001, and a volunteer stint of more than a decade with the Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway. He currently is deputy chief of that company.

"I've been in the fire service for 12 years, I had never been on a fire fatality," Ernst said. "When you're going into a situation like that, you're going into a different type of scene. There's a lot of high emotion, especially if there's family around."

On Oct. 11, 2003, a 16-year-old boy was burned when gasoline vapors ignited while he was attempting to light a campfire at a Spielman Road residence. He died about a month later.

On Nov. 10, 2003, a woman was burned in a suicide attempt in a parking lot at Byron Memorial Park in Williamsport. She died nearly three weeks later.

On Dec. 7, 2003, a Mapleville Road resident was burned when a fire ignited in the area of an oxygen tank the man was using for breathing assistance. He died in January.

Ernst said the incidents changed his perspective. He said he was accustomed to helping families who had lost homes or possessions, but not loved ones.

"There's nothing I can say to make it better," he said.

Ernst, who earned Halfway's award for its top rookie member in his first year as a volunteer and Firefighter of the Year in his second, said he wanted to pursue his current position after seeing investigators work cases.

"I always got more interested to go in and do the investigating, find out how it started," Ernst said. "I like to have an answer for everything."

His next goal is to become a part-time member of the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office's bomb squad.

Ernst said he has no plans to stop volunteering in Halfway. In fact, he said he would like to be the company's chief one day.

"I love being a volunteer, doing what I can to help my community," Ernst said. "And I'm still young enough that I like riding the fire truck."

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