Friday, July 13, 2018

Junior camps benefit junior firefighters

Some days, for many reasons, I wish I had joined my fire company when I was young enough to be a junior member. Maybe it’s an ironic thought because many junior members can’t wait until they turn 18. In their minds they believe they would be able to do more. They say that because at that age they can train to become interior firefighters.

It’s common for firefighters to join the fire company following in the footsteps of their father, or maybe a brother, while others like me, literally walk in off the street and apply. Some people grow up around the firehouse and start to learn about the equipment and the tactics from a young age. I have interviewed several firefighters who describe growing up in the fire service by riding along in the command vehicle with their relative, who was the fire chief.

I recently reported on the week-long Junior Public Safety Camp, which was held at the Chester County Emergency Services Training Center. The junior members operate a hose line and they learn about the equipment. These camps are a great resource because the young firefighters can gain more knowledge about how to use water appliances and other equipment on their apparatus. It’s also a chance to learn what other companies carry.

Photo by Ginger Rae Dunbar - Twin Valley firefighter Michaela Brooks, 17, operates the hoseline as instructor Dennis Gallagher oversees at the Junior Public Safety Camp held at the Chester County Emergency Services Training Center. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Springfield honors fallen firefighter Matthew LeTourneau

Prior to the start of the annual Fourth of July parade, Springfield Township officials honored fallen firefighter Matthew LeTourneau, who began his passion for firefighting as a volunteer in the township.

His name is placed on a plaque on the “volunteer memorial” wall nearby the firehouse along with hundreds of volunteers who have been honored for serving in the town. Former Springfield Commissioner Jeff Rudolph presented the honor of “exemplary volunteer” to the LeTourneau family in memory Matthew LeTourneau. His mother, Janice LeTourneau, accepted the certificate in his honor. 

Photo by Mark Sherwood - Sherwood Photography
Former Springfield Commissioner Jeff Rudolph presents a certificate to Janice LeTourneau on behalf of her late son, Matthew LeTourneau, who died in the line of duty in Philadelphia in January. 

LeTourneau, who served as a lieutenant with the Philadelphia Fire Department Engine 45/ Platoon A, became trapped during a structural collapse while battling a rowhome fire in a North Philadelphia on Jan. 6. After the firefighters freed him, he was transported to the hospital where he was pounced dead. He was 42.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Graduation roses

As a journalist, I get to know people that I have never met and will never meet because they have passed away.

While 367 Downingtown West High School students walked to get their high school diploma, two roses were placed on two chairs that would have remained empty otherwise. One rose was for Charlotte Hannagan and one was for Cameron Evans. The school honored them with roses to remember their classmates who were there in spirit. 

Photo by Pete Bannan - Daily Local New - A rose is placed on the seat in memory of late Cameron Evans, who would have graduated with the class of 2016.  A rose was placed on another seat in memory of late Charlotte Hannagan, another Downingtown 2016 classmate. 

I never met either of them, but I felt like I knew them when I interviewed their family members, friends, classmates and teachers. I wanted the reader to get a sense of who they were because everyone told me how these two inspired people. They have a lasting legacy as their family and friends work toward causes in their loving memory.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Be aware of AED locations

It must be tough to teach 1,000 kids at a time how to perform CPR, but it’s great that it’s doable.

June 1 – 7 is national CPR and AED awareness week, which is a reminder that anyone has the ability to help save a life by knowing how to perform CPR and use an AED (Automated External Defibrillator).

Each year 1,000 Downingtown students at the Marsh Creek Sixth Grade Center learn hands-only CPR. The program is hosted by Steve and Christy Silva, founders of Aidan’s Heart Foundation. Their son Aidan, a Downingtown elementary school student, died of sudden cardiac arrest in 2010. After he passed away at the age of 7, his family created the foundation to raise funds for heart screenings and to donate AEDs to local organizations. 

Submitted photo - Marsh Creek Sixth Grade Center students learn hands-only CPR during a program at the Downingtown school hosted by Aidan's Heart Foundation. 

As part of a school-wide project, Marsh Creek students had a contest to take pictures of AEDs and name the location to inform others about it. There is an AED placed outside of the main office in their school. Including the graduating class, more than 3,000 Marsh Creek students have been trained in hands-only CPR to date. 

Photo by Ginger Rae Dunbar - This is the AED located in Marsh Creek Sixth Grade Center, of the Downingtown Area School District. 

“We wanted to make sure no other parents went through what we did, losing a child,” Silva said to the students at a recent school assembly. “You as a group are changing lives and literally saving lives.”

Friday, May 25, 2018

Saving yourself time in the newsroom and on fire ground

One of the common factors in journalism and firefighting is learning how to do things to save oneself time.

One of my late editors taught us how to create a skeleton of our Election Day stories to save us time when the results are announced hours after the polls close. He called it a bulldog, a term used in one of his prior newsrooms that stuck. I had my bulldog ready for my supervisors’ race with only needing to add the name of the winner, who they defeated and how many votes each candidate received.

Firefighters have different ways of storing their gear in their lockers to allow them to quickly get dressed and pack up on the apparatus if needed. My company recently took a training class and we were reminded to find ways to adjust our helmets to put on our face pieces in a way that could save us 30 seconds, such time that is important and will count on the fire ground. 

Photo by Ginger Rae Dunbar - Firefighters assist a student putting on protective gear during a fire prevention event. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Serving in Puerto Rico as a family

I slept at the firehouse overnight during a snowstorm and spent part of my day at my house and the gym without any power before going on a week-long mission trip to Puerto Rico. Our power outage lasted two days and theirs has lasted six months in some areas. One area we served in had its power restored two weeks before our trip.

Five youths at Bethany Evangelism Presbyterian Church initiated the mission trip because they wanted to assist with the hurricane relief efforts. It finished with 38 people helping with repairs at a camp, a rehab center, the American School and visiting residents at the Elderly Center. We had signed up by January and we later learned that we were an answer to their prayers. Many of the owners and directors became emotional when they told us that they did not have the money for the necessary repairs, the materials needed or the labor to fix it. They had prayed faithfully, asking God for help. They were amazed at what strangers did for them. We each had our reasons for giving up a week of vacation time from work or a school spring break; it was a calling to serve.

The owners worked alongside of us as the restoration began. Some cried when they saw the amount of work that we had completed in a few days. The electricians and carpenters among our group said the workload could have taken up to 10 days. We learned that the camp, which will house future groups like ours to serve in other areas, was on the verge of being shut down. The owner had little money and no help to restore the buildings and replace the roofs. We were touched by his emotional reaction to seeing the restored camp because we had not expected to receive such gratitude from someone who was incredibly thankful for us.

Photo by Ginger Rae Dunbar - Pictured is the camp site after the church members helped restore the roofs of the buildings and clear the debris from the yard. 

The church services had been relocated to the school because our sister church was damaged by Hurricane Maria. We attended the outdoor Palm Sunday service with a beautiful view of a palm tree. We helped restore the auditorium in the school where the Holy Thursday service was held, the first indoor service since the hurricane. It was nice to attend that service where we could see our finished work of replacing tiles in the ceiling and the floor. We didn’t feel like workers, we felt like we were a part of their community because they welcomed us in like family.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Honoring fallen firefighter Dave Good

I wanted to see the memorial set up for David J. Good at Lionville Fire Company in his gear locker. Despite how often I drive past the firehouse on the job, I had never stopped. I saw it on the 20-year anniversary of his line of duty death.

Photo by Ginger Rae Dunbar - Daily Local News
A memorial for fallen firefighter David J. Good is set-up in his  gear locker at Lionville Fire Company. 

I reported on the plaque dedication and memorial service in the area overlooking the Pennsylvania Turnpike where a tractor trailer lost control, struck and killed him and injured nine other first-responders who were assisting at a vehicle accident on March 9, 1998.

“This memorial plaque will help remind us and help educate younger generations of what a real sacrifice is. Being a firefighter has inherent dangers,” Lionville Fire Chief William Minahan said. “Until 1998 we weren’t really aware of the dangers on the highways. We had no idea this could happen, and to have 10 guys get run over, (including) one guy killed, it was just horrific.”

Photo by Ginger Rae Dunbar
A plaque honoring fallen Lionville firefighter David J. Good was dedicated on the 20-year anniversary on March 9, 2018. 

While I was there on the anniversary as a journalist, I felt like I was there for so much more than that to honor him because of his sacrifice and because of the pain that followed. When first-responders go out to help, we want to go home too.