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Boonsboro officials, first responders honored

February 25, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

ANNAPOLIS -- It took Boonsboro almost a year to recover fully from a fire that spread to several downtown buildings in a matter of minutes.

On Wednesday, one year after the blaze, Boonsboro Town Council members and the town's first responders were honored by the Maryland General Assembly and Gov. Martin O'Malley for their work to restore the town after the Feb. 22, 2008, fire.

Del. Christopher B. Shank thanked Boonsboro officials and first responders for their efforts on the floor of the House of Delegates.

"... Tragedies occur, and heroes step up to do extraordinary things for their town," Shank, R-Washington, said while thanking Boonsboro officials and first responders.

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Shank thanked Boonsboro officials and first responders for their efforts on the floor of the House of Delegates.

He said it was their dedication to the town that helped 44 people evacuate from the burning buildings and prevent any injuries or loss of life.

Announcements honoring Boonsboro officials were made on the floor of the House and Senate chambers, and Mayor Charles F. "Skip" Kauffman Jr., said he was honored and humbled by the state's support for the town.

Gov. Martin O'Malley also met with the group, shaking hands and posing for photos. He thanked them for "saving the town."

About 25 people were honored for their service to the town, including Kauffman, town council members Cindy Kauffman and Kevin Chambers, Assistant Mayor Howard Long and Town Manager Debra Smith. Several members of First Hose Co. of Boonsboro and Boonsboro Ambulance and Rescue also attended.

Bruce Wilder, who co-owns the Inn BoonsBoro with his wife Nora Roberts, also was honored. Roberts is a romance novelist and longtime Washington County resident.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, also recognized Boonsboro in the Senate chamber, and said the downtown fire was the largest in the town's history, and one of its most tragic days.

"This was a Godawful fire," Munson said.

However, just one year later the damaged buildings look better than ever, and additional plans for improvements are moving forward.

"It's nice to bring a closure to what happened to us a year ago," Kauffman said of Wednesday's recognition.

Renovations to turn a historic town inn into the Inn BoonsBoro were under way when a fire destroyed the building. Work began again, and the inn is now open and accepting guests.

Wilder and Roberts also purchased the neighboring building that once housed a bakery, but has not been used since the fire. Wilder said Wednesday that they have applied for a permit and hope to become reconstruction work soon.

He hopes another bakery will move in once the building is restored.

"It's been a year of rebuilding, and truly the community has come together," said Washington County Commissioners President John F. Barr.

The teamwork that helped rebuild the town began the day of the fire when firefighters from more than 20 stations worked together to extinguish the blaze, said First Hose Co. of Boonsboro Chief Oley Griffith.

On the anniversary of the fire, Griffith said he went downtown and remembered what he saw one year ago, and was amazed by what he saw now and the progress that has been made.

First Hose Co. Vice President Pat Warner remembers being at work at 7:30 a.m. when he learned about the fire. Warner works as an electrician and was allowed to drive back to Boonsboro to help his fellow firefighters.

Once he arrived, Warner said he learned that the fire had knocked out the power to the fire station, preventing radio communication and slowing the availability of apparatus to the scene. Warner used his skills as an electrician -- and a generator provided by Barr -- to help restore power to the station.

"Everyone had a common goal that day, and that was to save our town," Warner said. "And that's exactly what we did."

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