The annual Huntingdon County Fire & Rescue Supper was held Saturday night at the McConnellstown Fire Hall. Members ranging from the newest and youngest to those with decades of service gathered with special guests to reflect on the past year and honor some of their own with honors.
Welcoming everyone to the event, HRFR president Jim Swope recognized some of those in attendance including state Senator Judy Ward, State Representative Rich Irvin, County Commissioner of Huntingdon, and elected officials from the major municipalities the department serves.
“We appreciate the support and help from all of those people,” Swope said, especially thanking local elected officials. “A lot of what we can do is because of the support we received from the municipality and we are very grateful to them for that.”
He then announced the recipient of the 2022 Presidents Award, Patrick Clapper. Swope said Clapper was a dedicated member of the department, assisting with many administrative and firefighting duties as well as serving as chaplain.
Despite not being able to attend, Swope acknowledged Glenda Bell had achieved life member status in the fire department.
Treasurer Preston Raffensberger presents the Good Neighbor Award to Jackie Confer of Kish Bank.
“Jackie has been a huge help to me as treasurer,” says Raffensberger, “and when we are working out the final details for the purchase of a new truck, she is always available and makes the process so much easier.”
Deputy Chief Tim Furlong replaced fire chief Gary Garner at the event. Furlong provided a report on past years’ statistics that included 387 calls, 268 of which were in the “due first” HRFR area of Huntingdon Borough, all of the townships of Oneida and Walker, and parts of Henderson Township.
Eighty calls were for motor vehicle accidents, 47 were for building fires with 21 of those being actual “work” fires when volunteers pulled the hose to put out the fire. Furlong points out the average number of firefighters on each call is 14 people.
“I want to tell you about what I believe is the most important achievement,” continued Furlong. “It is a fact that 100% of calls are answered. That means every time someone calls 911 for help, we respond. No matter the day, no matter the time of day, when someone has an emergency, HRFR volunteers come to their aid.”
Furlong reminded the audience that it takes a lot to keep a firefighting operation going.
“Our members put together 3,900 hours in fundraising, nearly 700 hours in training, and hundreds more hours in assignments to keep vehicles and stations running,” Furlong explains. “These are the best estimates we’ve monitored, and we believe there are many more hours yet to be counted.”
Furlong said last year’s highlight was the delivery of a new ladder truck with a $1.2 million price tag.
“This is the first new ladder truck for the department since the mid-1960s, and it took a lot of work to make it happen,” he said, praising all the members who put hours into the project and thanking the district again for their support. “We also appreciate the community that supports us through our various fundraisers throughout the year.”
He goes on to tell the audience that while the purchase of this new vehicle is over, another one is starting, with the next goal to see a new troop truck for the McConnellstown station.
Wes Clapper was honored by Furlong with the 2022 Chief’s Award.
“Wes is a great example of what our members do,” said Furlong while presenting the award. “He has always helped wherever needed and brought his son into the organization to carry on the tradition of pride, honor and determination.”
In emotional remarks while receiving the honor, Clapper said he only wished his father had been there to witness the moment.
“I am the second generation of volunteer firefighters,” he said. “My son Patrick is the third and I hope his son, my grandson, can be the fourth generation of our family who is in the fire service.”
Furlong also announced Billy Maillet as the recipient of the 2022 Junior Firefighter of the Year Award.
The prestigious Firefighter of the Year award goes to Hugh Garry.
“To be honest it’s really hard to respect one person,” Furlong began. “This year’s recipients joined a few years ago and are rapidly advancing through training, mentoring junior members and top responders for 2022 while working and maintaining a full lecture load in class.”
After a video showing a serious and hilarious HRFR moment last year, several members gifted the fire department a large-framed color image of a new ladder truck.
Furlong thanked the crew on standby for the event from Reedsville/Chief Logan Fire so HRFR could relax with family and friends and enjoy the banquet, mutual aid fire company that assists HRFR volunteers on call and expressed appreciation to the Allenport Lions Club for preparing delicious food for banquet.