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Monday, June 8, 2009

Volunteers Conclude Successful Year of State Leadership

The reigning President’s of the Maryland State Fireman’s Association (MSFA) and Ladies Auxiliary to the MSFA (LAMSFA), are celebrating their last week in this leadership role. Frank Underwood and Lois Hetz are both volunteer members within the Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department. Frank Underwood is a member of Branchville Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad, Inc. in College Park and Lois is a member of the Beltsville Volunteer Fire Departments Ladies Auxiliary.

Having been elected into these leadership roles at last years MSFA Convention in Ocean City, MD, Frank and Lois have represented Prince George’s County and their respective volunteer departments extremely well. Their 1-year term will end with the election of new officers at this year’s MSFA Convention held in Ocean City, MD, starting Sunday, June 13, 2009. Numerous volunteer and career members of the Fire/EMS Department will travel to the Eastern Shore for this week that will include, among other festivities, training, meetings, displays, parades and to congratulate our very own Frank Underwood and Lois Hetz for a job well done.

Both Frank and Lois have similar perspectives about their time spent as the leader of their respective memberships. When asked about his time as the President of the MSFA, Frank Underwood stated, “I most enjoyed traveling around the state meeting people from all facets of the fire service. I made many new friends as I attended banquets, dedications, retirements, parades, meetings and conferences. I also thoroughly enjoyed working hand-in-hand with our partners in Annapolis.” Lois Hetz reflected on her year by saying, “Traveling across our great State and meeting the many dedicated people who support their communities through local fire departments and auxiliaries. As I've traveled, it's been exciting for the Ladies Auxiliaries to the Maryland State Firemen's Association to have been afforded the opportunity to recognize and honor auxiliaries and auxiliary members that have achieved milestone in their commandments to their communities. There are auxiliaries that have 50, 60, 70 and 80 years of service, with members of similar tenure: this shows the true commitment of our auxiliary members to their departments and their communities. These auxiliaries have raised significant amounts of moneys contributing to the purchase of buildings, equipment and apparatus for their respective fire departments.”

As far as accomplishments while serving as President each shared these thoughts; Underwood stated, “My biggest accomplishment this year was rallying the troops to defeat the bills in Annapolis that would have abolished the excellent Fire and EMS system that we have today.” While Lois Hetz felt her biggest accomplishment was, “Expansion of our membership with thee new auxiliaries added to our rolls; increased support from our Bessie Marshall Benefit Fund for non-line of duty injuries and disabilities of fire and emergency services personnel; and providing administrative and lobbing support for the MSFA's Legislative activities in Annapolis, part of which resulted in the funding for three new MSP helicopters.”

After this year both Frank and Lois will have time to reflect on their time in office and offered their thoughts on their legacy within the organization. Lois Hetz feels, “The LAMSFA for me is a family commitment. My mother, Elda Schell, was LAMSFA President in 1955-56 and my sister, Peggy Zembower, was LAMSFA President in 1986-87. My mother represented LaVale Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary in Allegany County, and Peggy and I both represent the Beltsville Auxiliary in Prince George's County. I believe, I leave behind a strong auxiliary association that works cohesively with the MSFA to support state-wide, the interests and missions of the fire service and its auxiliaries. Frank Underwood stated, “My legacy will be that I put my whole heart into my presidency. Every move that I made this year was for the good of the MSFA and reflected my deep love and commitment to the organization. I put the needs of the MSFA above my own.”

As far as their continued participation at the State and County Level both Lois and Frank will continue to participate to some degree with the MSFA and LAMSFA. Frank will chair two committees while serving as the immediate past-president and Lois will continue to be active by attending conferences and conventions, as well as participating in committees and activities. As far as their volunteer activities back in Prince George’s County; Frank will continue to be an active member and the Treasurer at Branchville. Lois, the thirteen years process of stepping through the State Auxiliary offices to become President, she has never failed to support both the Beltsville Auxiliary and the Ladies Auxiliary to the Prince George's County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association. She currently hold the office of Chaplain and Fire Prevention Chairperson in the Beltsville Auxiliary, and the office Color Bearer in the County Auxiliary as well as supporting the auxiliary's fire prevention and other activities. In addition, she is the Secretary for the Pierce M. Damewood Memorial Chapter, Prince George's County Maryland Fellowship of Christian Firefighters.

What will the two immediate past-presidents do with extra time on their hands after next weeks convention; Frank is looking forward to spending more time with his family, Frank proclaimed, “Particularly with my beautiful little Granddaughter.” Lois plans to keep her schedule open to be available to assure a smooth transition and lend support where needed with the new LAMSFA officers.

Prince George’s County Acting Fire Chief Eugene A. Jones stated, “Frank Underwood and Lois Hetz are extremely hard working and dedicated individuals that do everything they do, without compensation, as volunteers. Their actions are based on the love of the job, tradition and the assistance that they generate for the citizens and residents of this County and State.” He concluded by saying, “While they had successful year as leaders of the State Fireman’s Association and Ladies Auxiliary, I am truly blessed to have them back in Prince George’s County. They are true examples of volunteerism and their actions are held within the highest regard of the Fire/EMS Department.”

College Park House Fire Displaces Four Students

At around 9:10 AM, Monday, June 8, 2009, a fire erupted in the basement of a 2-story Cape Cod single family home in College Park. Contract workers were using a hand-held blow torch fueled by a small acetylene tank to remove old adhesive material from the basement floor. The heat from the torch ignited combustible materials and the fire rapidly spread throughout the basement. The privately owned house is rented out to four students that attend the University of Maryland-College Park; two students were at work and two students were at home when the fire started. A combination of the contractors warning of “fire”, a neighbor banging on doors and windows and the activation of smoke alarms alerted the two male occupants to exit the house. They did so safely prior to the Fire Departments arrival.

Fire/EMS units arrived at the house at 7507 Hopkins Avenue and encountered heavy smoke coming from all levels of the house and fire showing from the rear basement windows. The fire was advancing to the upper floors by way of the interior walls as a well coordinated and managed aggressive interior attack on the fire was initiated. The fire was contained and extinguished within 15 to 20 minutes after the arrival of firefighters.

Residents of the home will be displaced and are making their own arrangements for housing. A preliminary fire loss is estimated at $200,000 and the cause is listed as accidental – caused by the work being performed in the basement. There were no injuries.

Fire/EMS Station and Administrative Offices Locked Down During Police Activity in Area

A Fire/EMS Station and a Department administrative office building were closed down for a short period of time this morning as police searched for suspects in the area. The Landover Hills Fire/EMS Station #830 and the Cranford-Graves Fire Services Building (FSB) were locked down just before 7:30 AM, Monday, June 08, 2009. The police had been involved in a chase of 4 robbery suspects in a vehicle. The chase ended up with a crash at 68th Avenue and Annapolis Road and the suspects fled on foot into the community with police officers close behind. Fire/EMS Station #830 is located at the same intersection as the crash and was a convergence point for a large number of police vehicles and officers and as the situation developed, a prudent decision was made to keep firefighters and paramedics inside the station. Within the short period of time they were locked down Paramedic Unit 830 did not respond on one incident that they normally would have in the Tuxedo area. Another Paramedic Unit, Bunker Hill #855, immediately replaced them and responded to the incident which ended up not needing advanced life support intervention and handled by a basic life support ambulance.

The Cranford-Graves Fire Service Building, 6820 Webster Street, located 1 block away from the Fire/EMS Station, was also locked down as police activity moved in that direction. Due to the early hour, only a handful of employees were affected.

Fire/EMS Station #830 resumed normal dispatch operations about 10 minutes after the lock down while personnel from the station and the FSB remained inside their facilities while the police search continued.