Chilcote named Mapleton's outstanding member

Photo by Adam Watson

Members of the Mapleton Volunteer Fire Company were honored during the fire company's annual banquet Saturday night. Seated, from the left, are, Jeremy Chilcote, recipient of the Most Outstanding Member of the Year Award and the company's Presidential Award, and Jeff Bilger, Fire Chief's Award; standing, fire company president Brad Glover, fire chief Mike Corbin holding a plaque presented to his brother William Corbin for establishing an Internet website for the fire company, and guest speaker Robert McCaa.

Daily News Staff Writer

  Jeremy Chilcote, 21, a corrections officer, was chosen as recipient of the Mapleton Volunteer Fire Company's Most Outstanding Member Award during the fire company's annual banquet Saturday night.
  A member of the fire company since 1994, Chilcote is a firefighter and holds the rank of lieutenant. He is a 1998 graduate of Mount Union Area High School and is a specialist and a tank driver in the U.S. Army National Guard.
  Chilcote received the award from past recipient Brad Glover, who credited Chilcote for his initiative, for being a good line officer and driver of all the fire company's apparatus.
    Following the banquet, Chilcote said it was an honor to receive the award and their are many others in the fire company more deserving of it. "There are a lot of good people in the fire company, and in my opinion," added Chilcote, "everyone in the department is an outstanding member."
  Chilcote was also the recipient of the fire company's Presidential Award presented to him by outgoing fire company president Chris Corbin. He presented Chilcote with a fire company job shirt for the amount of care and general effort shown at the fire station.
  Other recognitions presented were:
  • Special Award, by Chris Corbin to William Corbin. Brother praised brother for creating and purchasing an Internet website for the fire company and for introducing it to the outside world.
  • Fire Chief's Award, by fire chief Mike Corbin to Jeff Bilger. Corbin said he had to narrow his awardee choice from three candidates. He credited Bilger for being one of the fire company's newest members who is willing to work well with others.
  Representative Larry 0. Sather stated he is always proud to participate in fire company activities when asked. Sather recalled his own past involvement in the fire service as a member, firefighter and officer with the McConnellstown Volunteer Fire Company.
  A charter member of his company, Sather said his father and others who formed the fire company took personal pride and an active interest in their community. "When first starting out, they just did things without being asked to or without question. You continue to do what you do out of self-protection," added Sather, "and carry on traditions that would make your predecessors proud." The 81st District legislator urged emergency personnel to always be protective and safety conscious of themselves.
  "Please always be aware of the fact that fire is a beast and can win. I want all of you to come home to your families and be able to go out once again," continued Sather. He told volunteers there are too many demands being placed on today's volunteer firefighters and not enough incentives to attract new members. Legislators, he said, are astutely aware that retention is hard in today's fire service and are still trying to do all they can for small town volunteer fire companies.
  The guest speaker was Robert McCaa, Lewistown Borough fire chief and staff instructor at the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy at Lewistown. McCaa is also a member of Pennsylvania's Task Force One, one of 26 federal search and rescue teams, organized in 1992.
  The team was primarily formed when the need for an earthquake squad on the East Coast was needed. Urban search and rescue, he said is a very methodical process performed after a disastrous incident such as an earthquake or building collapse occurs.
  The team, added McCaa, is comprised of 180 members from all over the state who are trained in several different areas of expertise. Team members rotate by groups of three every 30 days on a selected list, but must be available to deploy to any chosen site when activated.
  Teams members, continued McCaa, are not all emergency services personnel, but are doctors, paramedics, engineers, hazardous materials specialists and veterinarians. The group maintains 13 tons of equipment that is permanently stored at the Harrisburg Airport.

  McCaa recalled his team was at the bottom of the list Sept. 11 and had all its equipment disassembled in a hanger at the Harrisburg Airport. On that fateful day, McCaa said he was preparing to teach a class at the fire academy when he learned of events that unfolded at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Somerset County.
  McCaa said the Pennsylvania team was activated and told to report to New York City. McCaa arrived in Harrisburg about 3 p.m. Sept. 11. He traveled to Philadelphia to rendezvous with other team members, and at 6 p.m., a number of vehicles were loaded with supplies and two search and rescue dogs. The group and supplies arrived in New York City just before midnight and began to set up for what would become a long and tedious operation.
  Arriving at the remains of the World Trade Center complex or 'ground zero' and the 'pile,' as the debris has been referred to, McCaa said he saw so many horrible things not shown on television. He recalled there was dirt and debris everywhere and it was then that it hit him that the familiar twin towers were gone.
  The team was later diverted to Two Finance Center near a park where its equipment was placed. Since it was necessary to keep the equipment clean and free from blowing dirt and debris, it was moved inside the finance center complex.
  Recalling some of the sights, McCaa said the scene was so devastating, one couldn't tell what had been there. 'The buildings came straight down and drove the lower floors into the ground,'' he said.
Four levels of the lower floors of the 1,100-ft. high, 110-story buildings, he said, were forced underwater under the weight of eight floors of the building that compacted on top of them. "The magnitude of the devastation was hard to see and the relief effort was so strong and almost unmanageable."
  McCaa outlined the many problems encountered during the initial operation that included too many
individuals offering to help at the scene, a more than overabundance of food and the lack of coordination of the many search and rescue teams that arrived to help. Work teams, added McCaa, worked from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for eight days.
  Although his team was told to get its equipment cleaned up and return to the site in five days, the order was later canceled. The team returned to Pennsylvania the following day.
'I was proud to be a part of it," remarked McCaa, "but I am not looking forward to ever doing something like that again. A lot of people learned many things from the experience, things I hope we never have use again."
  Fire company member Brenda Coder presented company president Brad Glover with a lithograph of a New York City firefighter the fire company received from the Peter O'Neill gallery in Saint Augustine, FL. Proceeds from the sale of the artwork are being donated to the New York City Fire Department.
A number of guests were introduced, including municipal, neighboring fire company and area forestry officials and area business leaders.
  Also recognized was 2001 Little Miss Princess Sabrina Smith and 2001 Fire Queen Jessica Rowe who were both presented with tokens of appreciation from the fire company for their participation. A letter was read from Rowe who said it was an honor and pleasure to serve the fire company and thanked its members for assistance provided to her during her reign as fire queen.
  The meal was held at the Mapleton American Legion Post and catered by Donna's Restaurant of Huntingdon.