The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Danville News

January 20, 2014

Danville Fire Department honors firefighters

— DANVILLE — Residents of Danville don’t realize what they have in the volunteer Danville Fire Department, according to outgoing Fire Chief Don Lutz.

“There’s no thing as too much training,” he said during the second annual Danville Fire Department banquet Saturday night in the Washington (Washies) Fire Company.

He attributed firefighters’ training to saving homes which were extremely close to a home destroyed by fire Jan. 7 on Ash Street and a home gutted by flames Jan. 16 on Spruce Street.

Lutz, who served as chief for two years ending Dec. 31 and as fire chief 22 years ago, said the banquet was a small token for “everything you people do. I can remember birthday parties and Thanksgiving dinner, when the whistle blows, off we go,” he said.

He praised the firefighters for their “unselfish dedication apart from the rest,” responding when it’s 100 degrees, in rain or snow and at 5 degrees below zero.

Not only do firefighters battle blazes but after the fire, they clean up, clean the equipment and “get things back in service and then train the next night,” he said.

“The bottom line is training in everything we do in a safe and professional manner,” he told slightly more than 100 people, including fire police and ambulance personnel, attending.

“We are all professionals and damn good at what we do because of our training and we take it very seriously,” said Lutz, who described the borough chief “as the traffic cop on the corner.”

The department responded to 109 alarms last year, of which nearly one-third, or 31, were structure fires. Lutz said 40 percent or 3,001 of their hours were spent on training.

Montour County Commissioners Chairman Trevor Finn, a member of the Washies and one of the speakers, presented Lutz with a St. Christopher medal “to keep you safe at all times.”

Finn said the borough chief “puts in long hours and makes a decision in a split second to keep us all safe.”

Finn commended firefighters for their “countless hours and dedication to their craft. I am very fortunate to be among their brothers. We’ve had a rough few weeks and everybody performed admirably.”

Chris Dickinson, who assumed duties as borough chief Jan. 1, thanked firefighters “for making us look good” along with their families.

Surprise awards were presented to six people.

Continental Fire Company Lt. Brad Harvey presented the Recognition of Service Award to Harold “Butch” Davis. The award is given to one of the longest active members in the department. A firefighter for 45 years, Davis drives the department’s largest piece of apparatus — the ladder truck.

Alan “Lumpy” Kramer Awards were given to a member of each company for going above and beyond the call of duty, much as Kramer, who is deceased, did. Recipients were Wesley Vanbuskirk, of Friendship Fire Company; Colby Kessler,  of Washies; Michael Siats, of Continental; and Karen Wintersteen, of Goodwill Hose Company.

Deanna Force was presented with the Irons Award for serving as a vital tool in the department and a key to the department like irons are the key to a city, Harvey said. Having spent many hours representing the department, she was only the second woman in the 110-year history of the Six-County Firemen’s Convention to be elected president, has attended state firemen’s conventions and is currently a six-county convention vice president. She is public information officer and photographer of the Danville Fire Department and serves on the fire board, firemen’s relief board and fire prevention committee.

Harvey presented department T-shirts and certificates to junior firefighters. A former junior firefighter, Harvey commended them for their dedication to the community “on top of everything else they do,” including school, jobs and sports.

Finn, state Rep. Kurt Masser and Danville Mayor Bernie Swank administered the oath of office to lieutenants and captains who received certificates. They are Capt. Ed Burkland, Capt. Joe Stigerwalt, Capt. Joe Miller, Capt. Brian Barnes, Lt. Andrew Georges, Lt. Joe Brown, Lt. Steven Finn, Lt. Aaron Roberts, Lt. Brad Harvey, Lt. Zack Flanagan, Lt. Howdy Knapp and Lt. Tim Wintersteen.

Harvey recognized Jack Reilly, a former state firemen’s association member, and a Danville fire service volunteer of 65 years.

Georges, who served as banquet chairman, asked why firefighters would choose to battle a blaze “in the dark of night” or why they get on a rig when they could be home resting.

“They need to be a part of a greater good — to be part of a team that makes the world a better place for all of us,” he said. A firefighter’s field of vision is based on honor, loyalty and selflessness, he said.

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