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Doctor impressed by volunteer firefighters in action

April 2, 2018

DUBOIS, Pa. (AP) — Five minutes. That’s how long it took for Sandy Township Fire Chief Steve Dunlap to arrive at the scene of Monday night’s blaze that destroyed a family’s home on Walls Road after it was called in to 911 by neighbor Dr. Mike Wingate.

“That’s amazing to me,” said Wingate. “The fire truck was here in 6 1/2 minutes. A minute after them, the second fire truck was here. There were at least 40 firefighters here within 15 minutes. This is an all-volunteer fire department. They finished working all day long probably, just sitting down to dinner and they get called.”

New to the area, Wingate, a general surgeon at Penn Highlands DuBois, just moved into a home on Walls Road nine months ago, across the street from the home where flames were raging and black smoke was rising.

“I’ve worked in trauma surgery for 18 years,” said Wingate, who most recently lived in Erie. “I look at it on paper, but I have never been on this end of it. I was here to see it all in action.”

After he was sure nobody was in the home and his doctoring skills couldn’t be employed, Wingate said he went behind the scenes and watched in awe the firefighters in action.

“I’m not used to a rural environment and an all-volunteer force,” he said.

Sandy Township, as well as Sykesville firefighters, worked together to extinguish the fire.

“It was seamless. Everyone knew what to do. They set up two 2,000 gallon water pools going into action. It was amazing for a rural area,” Wingate said. “There was nobody yelling to give orders. They kind of knew each other but they don’t. They work in unison. That’s what amazes me.”

“When we decided to move here, I looked at crime, I looked at drugs, I looked at everything,” Wingate said. “I really didn’t look at the fire department. You just assume it’s good. I took a job at the hospital. I thought it was a healthy job and a healthy place to raise two small children. I wanted something away from the hospital but not too far away.”

Wingate said he doesn’t think people realize how lucky they are to have them.

“Each firefighter’s outfit must be around $5,000 and the fire trucks probably more than $100,000 a piece,” Wingate said. In reality, Dunlap said firefighter’s gear is about $3,500 but a fire truck can cost anywhere from $300,000 to $850,000 and is paid for through some grant money, fundraisers and some tax money.

“I never realized this before. These guys volunteer their time,” Wingate said.

More astounding to Wingate is that they risk their lives. Not only for people, but for animals.

“They risked their lives for dogs,” said Wingate, noting he saw firefighters run back into the home for three of them. The biggest is the size of a Great Dane while the smallest is a toy dog, he said.

“Two of them were lifeless when they were brought out of the house,” Wingate said. “They started to resuscitate them. All of a sudden, I’ve never seen this before, this firefighter put his mouth on the dog’s mouth and started giving him CPR. I have never seen that before. I didn’t think that was possible. Those dogs are alive right now and doing well.”

Wingate said one of the firefighter’s mask was melted when he came out of the engulfed home.

“I’m sure they have fear, but they are brave. I’m not that brave. I’m dedicated. When I’m in the emergency room, I’m not risking my life. I’ve never seen bravery in action,” an emotional Wingate said.

“I’m super-duper impressed. I’m a very critical person, but I don’t have a single complaint by what I saw yesterday,” Wingate said. “How do you improve on perfection?”

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2H3IlCE

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Information from: The Courier-Express, http://www.thecourierexpress.com

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