First fire crews on scene of July 4 Waupelani Drive fire honored

jvanderk@centredaily.comJuly 23, 2013 

— A red-orange glow in the attic of the Waupelani Heights building devastated by fire July 4 was visible in a helmet camera clip from Alpha Fire Company Lt. Matt Johnson.

Though Centre Region Council of Governments officials couldn’t hear it as they viewed the clip during Monday night’s monthly General Forum, Johnson turned following a crash that Fire Director Steve Bair said signaled the roof collapsing as fire crews performed a primary search of the building.

Bair read a citation Monday for Alpha ladder truck 516 and quint 527, the first two on the scene that night, praising their services during a severe situation. Those included rescuing a woman and child from a second-floor balcony, below where the fire started.

“This was a team effort with a very good outcome,” Bair said, noting that recognizing the two crews did not minimize the response of the many other trucks and departments at the scene that night. “It’s easy to be brave when you know a really good department has your back.”

Bair said citations are warranted when, for example, crews show exceptional courage or save a life.

The roof collapse was seconds after crews were called out of the building due to dangerous conditions. The building, 470 Waupelani Drive, was a complete loss, but no injuries were reported.

Though Bair said Monday wasn’t the time to discuss details, he said crews were able to save two-thirds of the property and residents’ belongings.

Recognized on quint 527 — a combination engine and ladder truck — were Lt. Chris Martin and firefighters Tim Knisely, Barrett Smith and John Smoyer. Recognized on truck 516 were Capt. Randy Clouser and firefighters Andrew Prestia and Zeljko Raic. Bair and Alpha Chief Keith Yocum signed the citations and presented them Monday.

“I know most of ‘em,” said COG and Ferguson Township Chairman George Pytel as the men lined up to receive the honors. “Now I’ll worry about ‘em.”

Also Monday, officials approved ratifying a local emergency declaration from the June 27 storm that caused flooding, a tornado in Harris Township and damage across the county.

While Emergency Management Coordinator Shawn Kauffman said “it was a very eventful Thursday in June,” officials didn’t think they would receive a disaster declaration from the state, so they didn’t declare a local emergency at the time.

However, after learning that Liberty Township was seeking assistance for damages to a railroad line, Kauffman said local officials went back and formalized a disaster declaration for the Centre Region.

“Whether we are going to receive any funding, that’s still unknown,” he said.

Municipalities with damages submitted them to Kauffman. College Township Manager Adam Brumbaugh and Ferguson Township Manager Mark Kunkle said neither made submissions because there wasn’t damage bad enough to report.

“We had a few sink holes,” Kunkle said. “It was kind of routine.”

Brumbaugh added that College didn’t see damage that could be assigned “dollars and cents.”

Jessica VanderKolk can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @jVanReporter.

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