Thursday, October 6, 2016

Rescuers Honored During Fire Prevention Month

Photos by Evan Brandt

From left, Norco Fire Chief Joel McMillan, Capt. Matthew Burfete, Battalion Commander Mark Gibson, driver Russell Layre and Battalion Chief Chad Quinter, were recognized Wednesday night for the rescue of a PennDOT bridge inspector who was trapped in mud under the South Hanover Street bridge over the Schuylkill River in June.

October is, among other things, fire prevention month, so it was appropriate for Pottstown to honor some of their own for firefighting and rescue efforts in the past year.

Ironically, the first award went to someone who is not a firefighter.

As recounted by Pottstown Fire Chief Richard Lengel, in the late evening of May 20, a fire was discovered in the attic and roof of a group home for physically handicapped residents in the 1000 block of Logan Street.

Billy Wayne Hill was the supervising caretaker and was recognized for his successful evacuation of all residents and staff before firefighters event arrived.

"As a result, we did not have to expend any resources on search and rescue and we were able to attack the fire immediately," said Lengel.

Next to be recognized were four Pottstown firefighters, a North Coventry fire chief and a paramedic for the June 9 rescue of a PennDOT bridge inspector who became trapped in the mud along the Schuylkill River at the South Hanover Street bridge.

Lengel explained that the situation was more dire than it might seem, both because like quicksand, the more you struggle, the most you can sucked in to the mud. Rescuers also stand a risk of being caught.

And there is even a risk of hypothermia "even in the middle of summer time," Lengel said.

Paramedic Richard Sweeney was in the hospital and could not attend the ceremony, Lengel said. His award is pictured above.

Lengel then offered up some intimidating statistics about the danger of fires, including a disturbing rise in the number of arsons.

Here is some video of his comments, along with video of Mayor Sharon Thomas reading proclamations thanking all four fire companies -- Empire, Goodwill, North End and Phillies -- for their efforts all year long.

Thomas added to Lengel's warnings that there is a danger of fire when charging cell phones in bed and that, like smoking in bed, should be avoided.

"We applaud your diligence, professionalism and courage in assuming your posts and responding to local and regional fire emergencies," Thomas read from the proclamation.

From left, Pottstown Chief Richard Lengel, Empire Chief Brian
Sierocinski, North End Chief Dave Ondik, Goodwill Chief Kevin
Yerger and Phillies Chief Joe Groff.
The mayor also talked about the importance of being aware of domestic violence, and ways to prevent and deal with it, October also being Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

This was followed by a presentation on re-financing the more than $3 million remaining on the bank loan taken out to pay for the new public works facility, and converting it to a bond to save between $175,000 and $200,000.

That money would welcome in helping to close the looming $300,000 gap between projected revenues and expenses in the draft 2017 budget. But you can read all about that on the front page of The Mercury today.

Finally, Assistant Borough Manager Justin Keller updated council on the fact that nine firms have applied for the job of writing a new master plan for Pollock Park on Pottstown's south side.

And if that dandy little summary wasn't enough for you, here are the Tweets and live video. It will be like you were really there ....

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