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Monday, May 23, 2011

PGFD PROFILE - Employees Soar to New Heights

Media Contact: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930

Employees Soar to New Heights

While our shifts are spent side-by-side with co-workers, many times we are not familiar with what our comrades do off-duty. Some of the stories we have chronicled previously include stories of Cheesecake Johnny, Award Winning Gardening, Life of a Bomb Tech, Ascending Mount Rainer, Wounded Warrior Efforts, and a wounded veteran returning to the Fire/EMS service. Now we introduce you to a pair of employees whose hobby takes them to new heights. Paul Gomez, 38 years of age, and Dale Ednock, 43 years of age, are both well on their way to obtaining their private pilot licenses to fly helicopters. A hobby that each has long thought about and have finally taken the steps to fulfill their aspirations of flying.

Paul and Dale are both currently assigned to the Office of the Fire Marshal. In addition to being Fire Investigators and handling day-to-day incidents, they each have other roles and responsibilities as well. Gomez is the Acting Battalion Chief and Ednock is the Bomb Squad Commander. Being assigned to the Office of the Fire Marshal requires an array of additional training. Just some of the training includes; Fire/Arson Investigation, Police Academy and Hazardous Devices School. Both are veteran members of the Fire/EMS Department, Dale with 21 years and Paul with 16 years and each took similar paths to reaching their current assignments, doing their time in the field and eventually selected as Fire Investigators.

Paul Gomez (with firefighter gear on) discusses a Beltsville house fire
with Fire Fighter Hector Areizaga from the Office of the Fire Marshal.
Gomez started his fire service as a volunteer member at College Park and Hyattsville. After graduating from Career Recruit School he did his rookie at time at Glenn Dale Fire/EMS Station and then as a shift work firefighter at Seat Pleasant then a Lieutenant at Tuxedo-Cheverly before being tapped for fire investigations. Throughout his fire service career, both as a volunteer and paid, Paul was constantly being tapped for his skills and expertise. As a volunteer he provided video and audio support for projects with the Public Affairs and Community Outreach offices. His career path landed him in assignments within the Management Services Command for the Stadium Project, as an aide to Special Operations Command and subsequently to his current assignment in the Fire Marshal’s Office.

Dale Ednock confers with the Incident Commander
at the scene of a warehouse fire.
Ednock graduated from the Fire/EMS Training Academy in 1990 and was assigned West Lanham Hills Fire/EMS Station #828. He completed his “rookie book” and remained there until the middle of 1992. He was then assigned to the Special Tactical Unit (STU) at Tuxedo-Cheverly #822. Dale remained on the STU Unit until selected to go the Fire Investigations Unit in 1995 as a Fire Investigator/ Bomb Tech/EOD and K9 Handler.

The pair had always had more than a casual interest in flying. Dale described his interest in flying helicopters, “I have always had a fascination with helicopters. When I was younger, before I come to the Fire Department, I went back and forth on going into the military to become a pilot. For whatever reasons, at the time, I never made the leap. Flying is an incredible feeling. It is even more intense in a helicopter because, of the things you can do and places you can go that a regular fixed wing aircraft can’t.”

Paul stated, “I have always been interested in flying and learning to fly. I had the opportunity to fly in a helicopter several times for the stadium project. I was approached by Jimmy White, from Public Safety Communications, who said he was going to go on an introductory flight with Dale Ednock. I suddenly realized that I could now afford to take the lessons and decided to go along.”

They are working now towards the Federal Aviation Administration’s private pilot’s license. Paul and Dale each stated the time commitment which includes school, flight time and commute to and from the airpark in Saint Mary’s County is time consuming from Calvert and Anne Arundel Counties (respectively) where they live, but it is all worth the time and effort. Gomez said. “There are a complete list of skills that must be accomplished to include a minimum of 40 hours of flight time and a medical physical. Part of the process involves solo flight without an instructor present. There are also cross-country requirements, a written exam (ground school) and oral examination.” When asked about his current status, he stated, “I currently have roughly 50 hours of flight time. For each hour of flight, it involves an hour ride to the airport, a pre-flight check, discussions with the instructor, and an hour return trip and refueling. It has been well over a year since I started the process”.

Ednock described a similar commitment of time by saying, “Quite a few hours. This is taking into consideration the drive time to and from the airport in Saint Mary’s County, MD and pre-flight check and the flight it-self. Absolutely all worthwhile!!!”

As far as their future plans with flying; Ednock said, “I still love my job. I think I have one of, if not the best position in the department. However, time and money permitting, I would like to turn flying into a second career. I guess the best thing is the future is wide open.” Gomez said his future plans include looking into purchasing his own aircraft. He said,”I have been looking to purchase my own aircraft – perhaps fixed wing due to the price of helicopters. Looking forward to retirement and potentially instructing others to fly.”

For the time being each has no intention of leaving the Fire/EMS Department anytime soon and enjoys their time both on and off-duty. Their soaring hobby seems to match their job at work which requires attention to detail and you never know where you will go throughout the course of your shift.

Fire Captain Dale Ednock prepares to search for the cause of a fire in Forestville.

Acting Battalion Chief Gomez (on the left) at the scene of a fatal fire in Temple Hills.

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