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May 11, 2023

Lonaconing’s Good Will works to buy new tanker

Credit: Cumberland Times News

LONACONING — A volunteer firefighter’s work often continues well after flames are extinguished or accident debris is cleared from a roadway.

Volunteers, many of whom have full-time jobs and families, also help run fundraisers to pay for fire department needs.

That can be an onerous undertaking as prices for necessities including fire trucks have skyrocketed in past years.

“It’s next to impossible,” Bobby Ritchie, chief of Good Will Fire Company No. 1 of Lonaconing, said of the constant need to raise money. “It’s like filling a bucket with no bottom.”

Good Will is trying to raise roughly a quarter-million dollars, which is nearly a fourth of the price for a new tanker to replace the company’s 33-year-old failing unit.

The effort aims to cover Good Will’s anticipated 25% share of a grant for $975,000.

The fire company averages about $3,000 from each of its fundraisers that include lottery raffles, chicken barbecues, and events with live music.

If not for funding grants, “we would never be able to do it,” Ritchie said of buying the new engine.

“Every day is a challenge,” he said of costs to operate the fire company, which in addition to Allegany County responds to emergency calls in Garrett County, and Mineral County, West Virginia.

“Their funding efforts never stop,” Lonaconing Mayor Jack Coburn said of Good Will volunteers. “Everyone is working hard to raise this money and it’s difficult.”

Andrew Droll is a firefighter and paramedic for Good Will.

In addition to enhanced firefighting capabilities, the new tanker could carry more personnel to an emergency scene, he said.

“It’s greatly needed,” he said.

“The community, they look to the fire department for more than just emergencies,” Droll said. “They’re very good to us. They deserve the best.”

Chuck Ternent is Cumberland’s chief of police, as well as a captain at the Good Will department.

“We need the tools to do the job,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re here for the community.”

He encouraged more folks to help the department, and said a volunteer fire company membership can lead to careers.

“If you join a volunteer fire or EMS agency, they will train you for free and it’s a very marketable skill,” he said.

In a March letter to the House Appropriations Committee chairwoman and ranking member, U.S. Rep. David Trone requested $975,000 for Good Will to replace its tanker.

The funding would be in the fiscal 2024 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration & Related Agencies Appropriations Bill.

“If awarded, this funding would be used to replace their current tanker, which was built prior to the safety standards established in the 1991 edition of (National Fire Protection Association) 1901,” the letter stated.

Specifically, the funds would build an engine-tanker with 1,500 gallons of water with a 1,500 gallon-per-minute pump, with eight riding positions to transport firefighters to the scene, all of the required emergency lighting, scene lights to provide a safe operating area around the fire ground, and the ability to dump water from either side as well as the rear of the truck.

“This is an appropriate use of taxpayer funds because replacement of the tanker is necessary to maintain public safety and fire-response services in the community,” the letter stated.

The proposal could involve a match that would require the fire department to pay for 25% of the tanker.

“It’s certainly possible they could get the full allotment, but we won’t know until the committee releases its list of projects, which is late June/early July,” Trone’s office said via email. “We’re still early in the process.”

If added to the committee’s lists of projects, the request for Good Will must be voted through the House and Senate attached to the omnibus and signed into law.

“So far, Congressman Trone has been able to get all 25 of his requested projects fully funded and passed into law, but with the new Republican majority and their focus on spending cuts, we aren’t sure how the chips will fall this round,” Trone’s office said.

Trone got involved after the fire company talked to his office and applied for the funding.

“During the appropriations cycle, the congressman and our team vet hundreds of (community project funding) requests to determine which projects have the greatest impact on the community and do the most good for Marylanders,” Trone’s office said. “That’s always priority number one.”