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Quick Response Gets Quick Kudos From Businessman

The Herald
By Bethany Hofstetter
Staff Writer
July 3, 2008
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Eight fire departments and emergency responders were thanked for their quick response and success in putting out the June 20 fire at the Royston-Chase Corp. in Blawnox.

Gregg Pelagio, vice president and general manager of Chase Corp., presented each of the eight fire departments who responded to the fire, and the Blawnox police, with an "Unsung Hero Award."

"As a country we all look up to the football players, the hockey players, the movie stars," Pelagio said, "but the firefighters, they're the real stars of this world, they're really the heroes."

The company presented about 100 firefighters from Blawnox, Aspinwall, Guyasuta, Sharpsburg, Harmar, Fox Chapel, Millvale, and Pleasant Valley and the Blawnox police department with medals, plaques, T-shirts, hats and a reception on June 24.

Blawnox Fire Chief George McBriar said the fire had the potential to be especially dangerous because of the chemicals that the company uses. However, the fire departments had the flames under control in about 20 minutes and were able to extinguish the blaze in an hour.

Pelagio said as he watched the firefighters take off their gear he saw that many were wearing shorts, or business clothes under their fire fighting suits.

"I saw them taking off their gear, and I said "'Wow, they must have just come from cutting the grass,'" Pelagio said.

"They just drop what they're doing."

The quick response of the fire departments saved much of the building, Pelagio said, and parts of the affected building are back up and running.

McBriar said he was surprised by the celebration. Although McBriar admits he doesn't feel like an "unsung hero," he is grateful for the recognition for all of the hard work the volunteer firefighters put into the job everyday.

"We just go in and do our job, but this guy gave us so much consideration," McBriar said.

"He went to a lot of effort, and I think I felt better that the recognition was there for the all the departments."

Blawnox Attracts Dedicated Firefighters

The Herald
By Misty Chybrzynski
Staff Writer
June 19, 2008
Story Link

Luckily for borough residents, Blawnox Volunteer Fire Company boasts a high volunteer turn-out rate.

That good fortune extends to the surrounding areas, as well as anybody utilizing the region's waterways because the fire company also is state-accredited as a swift water rescue operation.

George McBriar, fire chief, says his department is the lucky one -- to have so many volunteers is unusual for the area.

"We're fortunate to have a lot of members," McBriar says, noting that it also has a costly side effect. "But the more members you have, the more you have to outfit, so it does cost some money."

The equipment is costly, with the self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBAs) costing about $7,000 each and a set of firefighting pants and jacket costing more than $1,000 each. The department also outfits its members with water gear.

The department receives some money from the borough, which budgets a certain amount per year and "takes care of us when we need anything," McBriar says. "The borough is always very good to us."

Firefighters also sell raffle tickets, host a Cash Bash along with Aspinwall Volunteer Fire Department, organize a golf outing and mail a solicitation letter to the community. The letters generate about $12,500, McBriar estimates.

But the money still is tight, with the cost of equipment continually increasing.

One of the ways local departments ease the impact of equipment cost is by sharing amongst each other. Departments often respond to the same calls along with Blawnox VFC.

The department received state accreditation for swift water rescue last year, and is currently working on receiving its second level of certification.

It responded to about a dozen water rescue calls last year.

Last year, the department responded to 267 calls. It responded to about 115 already this year.

Two Blawnox Firefighter's Honored With Proclamation

On December 20, 2007 Blawnox Mayor Tom Smith presented Blawnox Captain Ed Benaglio and Firefighter Bryan Krause with a proclamation from Sen. Jim Ferlo. On December 29, 2006 Captain Benaglio and Firefighter Krause rescued a 16-year-old girl suffering from cerebral palsy from her burning house in O'Hara.

 

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