QUEEN ANNE — Every seat was taken Saturday evening, Feb. 8, for the annual Queen Anne-Hillsboro Volunteer Fire Company awards banquet, held at the firehouse in Queen Anne.
Chief Eric Voorhees said the fire company made a lot of strides in 2019.
He said it put an ambulance in service and replaced an engine, which he said was expected to arrive on Feb. 26.
The fire company also gained 13 new members. The recruitment and retention committee put together dinners and get-togethers to boost enthusiasm for firefighting. Other efforts included 1,606 hours of fundraising.
“This is our 75th anniversary,” Voorhees said. “And we are planning a very big party May 2.”
Voorhees said there were 13 people who got together in 1945 and started the fire department. In 1970, there were 38 members; in 1995, there were 61 members; and now the department has 88 members.
Two membership awards were given, one to Jackie Chaires for 55 years and one to Matt Green for five years.
Representatives from the state awarded several fire department members. They included Julie Chaires, five years; Barbie Utz, five years; Dawn Lange, six years; Ashley Harris, 20 years; Eric Voorhees, 20 years; Stacey Voorhees, 20 years; Joe Mimms, 30 years; and John Chapula, 35 years.
The citations came from the Maryland Senate, House of Delegates and Governor’s Office, and were presented by Sen. Addie Eckardt, R-37-Mid-Shore; Del. Johnny Mautz R-37B-Talbot; Del. Jeff Ghrist, R-37B-Caroline; and Mike Arntz from the office of U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-1st-Md. Kudos from Maryland’s 36th District legislators were included.
There also were certificates from U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both D-Md.
Jeff Ghrist announced that, after a year of effort, a section of state Route 404 is going to be named after fallen firefighter Danny Lister, who died in the line of duty at an accident scene on Sept. 1, 2018.
Ghrist said they were hoping to bring the governor in for a special dedication, possibly May 2 when the fire company has its 75th anniversary party.
“This has been a great year for Queen Anne-Hillsboro,” Chief Eric Voorhees said. “As a group, we trained over 3,700 hours this year. We had seven members that completed EMT.”
In addition, one member completed paramedic training.
“We had the largest field fire in the state this year,” Voorhees said. “Sixty-seven acres. We also had it under control in two hours. Almost unheard of.”
He said they were now at 25 firefighters with active status and eight active EMS providers.
“Which is the highest numbers we’ve had as long as I’ve been here,” he said.
Voorhees said they answered 346 total calls in 2019, 77 of which were fires; 47 were motor vehicle collisions; 158 were medical or medical assists; 10 were automatic fire alarms; and 50 local sirens. Overall, an increase from last year, Voorhees said.
The top 10 responders were Stefhan Dassoulas with 52 calls; Chad Chaires, 55 calls; Joe Mimms, 68 calls; Brenda Murphy, 69 calls; tied for fifth, Craig McNeal and Justin Tyson; Tory Sylvester, 72 calls; tied for second place, Eric Voorhees and Kenny Hope; and the top responder was Bobby Utz with 152 calls.
The 2019 Rookie of the Year was Buddy Reynolds. Voorhees said Reynolds joined the department in 2018, has taken class after class and has been an enthusiastic firefighter. He said Reynolds joined the department after a fire in Reynolds’ own home.
The 2019 Line Officer of the Year was Kenny Hope. Voorhees said Hope was always there when needed and got things done.
Firefighter of the Year runner-up Bobby Utz made the most calls and drove the most times.
Firefighter of the Year Justin Tyson came to the department already trained, and Voorhees said the award was “well-deserved.”
“He has made a request that he be stationed here forever, even though the army might not let him,” Voorhees said.
Rookie William Townsend received a Chief’s Award.
“He grew up in this firehouse,” Voorhees said. “Spent time here when he was just tall enough to reach over a wheel.”
He said Townsend left the area for a while, then came home, bought a house here, joined the fire company and is studying to be an EMT.
Voorhees also gave a Chief’s Award to Nick Lange.
“Literally my right-hand man,” Voorhees said.
Barbie Utz talked about the company’s new ambulance, made possible through the work of the ambulance committee. The new ambulance went into service June 2019. In January, it was upgraded to be an ALS Unit.
The ambulance committee included Ashley Harris, Eric Voorhees, Bobby Utz, Brandon Bonner, Brandon Harris and Barbie Utz.
EMT of the Year was awarded to Brenda Murphy.
The 2019 Administrative Award was given to Linda Chalupa.
President Phil Starkey gave a President’s Award to EMS Capt. Barbie Utz for dedicated service.
Justin Tyson also received a President’s Award.
Awards were given to the top three new recruits who are training as an incentive measure to boost recruitment and retention. Brandon Bonner, Megan Reynolds and Buddy Reynolds received a certificate and a gift card.
Bruce Secrist was awarded for his photography and videography, recording some of the department’s bravest moments at fire scenes and more.
New officers and board of directors members were sworn in.
They included Chief Eric Voorhees; Deputy Chief Kenny Hope; Assistant Chief Craig McNeal; Fire Capt. Bobby Utz; 1st Fire Lt. Chad Chaires; 2nd Fire Lt. Nick Baker; 3rd Fire Lt. Justin Tyson; Chief Engineer David Chaires; 1st Assistant Engineer Mike Watson; 2nd Assistant Engineer Joe Mimms; EMS Capt. Barbie Utz; EMS Lt. Brenda Murphy; President Phil Starkey; Vice President Brandon Harris; Secretary Dawn Lange; and Board of Directors members Nancy Baker, Nick Baker, Linda Chalupa, Joe Mimms and Dennis Starkey.
Life members were recognized, including Joe Shortall, 58 years; Jackie Chaires, 55 years; Jack Gibson, 53 years; Jim Arrington, 52 years; Paul Blades, 51 years; David Chaires, 49 years; L.T. Blades, 42 years; John Chalupa, 35 years; Phil Starkey, 34 years; Eddie Humpleby, 33 years; Charlie Wilson, 33 years; Linda Chalupa, 32 years; Billy Cooper, 32 years; Lynn Humpleby, 32 years; Vernon Coultas, 31 years; Tommy Unruh, 31 years; Joe Mimms, 30 years; Darla Coultas, 29 years; Craig McNeal, 29 years; David McNeal, 29 years; Rick Schaake, 27 years; Steve Palmatary, 23 years; and Mary Rogers, 22 years.
Also of note was a specially-made “fire engine” QAFVC podium, a gift of David and Ginger Chaires. It was built by the same company that is building the new QAVFC engine.
The crowd enjoyed a sumptuous meal prepared by Helen Todd’s team of caterers, then danced the night away to music provided by deejay K. C. Darling.
The Ridgely Volunteer Fire Department stood by for QAHVFC so firefighters could enjoy the evening.