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Exchange Club honors Brown for 'attention to detail'

Hagerstown organization names Firefighter of the Year

Hagerstown organization names Firefighter of the Year

December 03, 2007

Charles T. "Tom" Brown Sr. was named Firefighter of the Year Nov. 15 by the Exchange Club of Hagerstown in a ceremony at Nick's Airport Inn.

Brown, who was nominated for the honor by Hagerstown Fire Department's Deputy Chief Ronald Horn, began his career in February 1975 as a firefighter/apparatus operator.

In just a few months, Brown was awarded the slot of regular operator of HFD's ladder truck, No. 4, which Horn said was one of the most difficult pieces of equipment to operate.

In 1978, Brown became an assistant fire marshal. In 1981, he completed training with the Western Maryland Police Academy and was then promoted to senior fire marshal, a position in which he still serves.

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While he served, Brown was able to contribute to a rate of arrests and convictions for arson that was higher than the national average.

"The Hagerstown Fire Department's arson arrest and conviction rate is much higher than the national average," Horn said, adding that "the achievement is due to Brown's attention to detail."

Horn noted that in a Randolph Avenue home fire and explosion, key evidence came from a suspect's car and cell-phone usage, which put the man in the neighborhood at the time of the fire.

During his term, the department formed a Public Education Division and helped initiate the following programs:

· The stop, drop and roll programs for public schools, day-care centers and youth groups.

· Children's Safety Village, which teaches children about fire-prevention skills and how to use the 911 system.

· Annual smoke-detector surveys and provision of free detectors for low-income residents.

· Public-education programs for the elderly and other high-risk citizens.

· Finding federal funding for a variety of prevention projects.

· Regular fire inspections of city businesses and apartment buildings.

· Changing the threads on city fire hoses to make them conform to national standards and initiated a two-year campaign to get all standpipes in the city converted to the same threads, plus place locking caps on each of them.

Horn said that one of the highlights of Brown's career was his investigation of the Super 8 Motel fire in 1990. The fire, which resulted in a number of fatalities and subsequently, a number of lawsuits, was thoroughly investigated by Brown, Horn said.

"Tom's report was over 450 pages long and was the longest report and most detailed he would do in his career as senior fire marshal," Horn said.

Brown will retire from the Hagerstown Fire Department on Jan. 2. Horn said Brown will have ended his career just one month shy of 33 years of service.

"I could mention many other accomplishments in Tom's career, but it would take all afternoon," Horn said.

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