Allentown firefighter Jonathon Hammel is being honored as the 2020 Allentown Fire Fighter of the Year. He was recognized this morning at the Allentown Fire Department’s annual memorial and awards service at Mack South Fire Station.
Hammel joined the Allentown Fire Department in 2010 after having served eight years with Allentown EMS.
According to Allentown Fire Chief Jim Wehr, Hammel has excelled as a member of the Technical Rescue Team. “When he took over as the training officer for the Technical Rescue team, he made vast improvements to the team’s monthly training events and led the efforts to get all team members certified at the Pro board level in rope rescue. He has taken upon himself to conduct numerous training evolutions for the members of his platoon ensuring that they have the latest knowledge in using and implementing new equipment and techniques. Firefighter Hammel has proven himself as an effective advisor on technical rescue events to assure the best possible outcome.”
The Alfred W. Fischl Fire Service Award was presented to Firefighter Philip Lathrop for his consistent and dedicated work ethic throughout his career. This award is presented to a fire department individual who has served at least 20 years and has exemplified himself with consistent and dedicated work habits.
Lathrop began his career in 1997 as a reserve on the 1st platoon. He served as a battalion chief driver and pipeman of trucks 1&2. He has been a member of the Scott and the Technical Rescue teams, where his mechanical knowledge is a great asset. Lathrop willingly assists with training new firefighters about the city, apparatus, tools and even Fire Dept history and tradition.
During Fire Prevention Week, the department recognizes firefighters for their actions over the past 12 months. In addition to Firefighter of the Year and the Alfred W. Fischl Award; Certificates of Heroism, Bravery and Merit, a Chief’s Award, Years of Service awards and Unit Citations are presented.
Mayor Ray O’Connell told those in attendance, “Without hesitation, you put on your gear and enter burning buildings to protect lives and property. Everyone else is running out! You are running in! We are fortunate to have tremendously well-trained, talented and dedicated firefighters here in Allentown.”
The Chief’s Award, which goes to individuals who go above and beyond in fostering the department’s image through activities and events they attend and facilitate outside their normal working hours, was presented to Lieutenant Robert Xander.
Lieutenant Xander has been an integral part of the success of the Fire House Friday program with ensuring that the paperwork and snacks are ready for the community children that visit the fire station after school on Fridays. In addition, he has donated his time at the Syrian Arab American Cultural Association of Allentown often serving as the point of contact helping organize manpower to pack and distribute food boxes to families in Allentown.
A 35-year service award was presented to Fire Marshal Michael Taylor. A 30-year service award was presented to Firefighter James F Wescoe Jr. Twenty-five-year service awards were presented to Assistant Chief Michael Barron, battalion chiefs Philip Atiyeh and Jeffrey Hess, Fire Marshal Michael Zellin, and firefighters Robert Brett and Christopher Mokris. Twenty-year service awards were bestowed upon Captain Sean O’Neill, Lieutenant Michael Smith, and firefighters Leroy R Bachert Jr and Jody Mongilutz.
Seven firefighters, lieutenants Paul Heckenberger III and Mark Trumbore and firefighters Jeremy Bellois, Theodore Dale, Kevin Jefferson, Adam Perreault and Daniel Werkheiser were cited for heroism for their role in February 2020 fire at 19 Sycamore Street.
Firefighters arrived to find the structure fully involved. There were electrical wires down with heavy fire impinging multiple electric lines. The closest fire hydrant was directly in from of the fire building and flames had to be forced back for access to the hydrant. Holes on the second floor made movement very difficult.
Unit Citations were awarded to the seven, plus Assistant Chief Matthew Eharth; battalion chiefs Hess and William Held; captains John Christopher, Mark Kresge Sr and Bryce Thompsen; lieutenants Jack E Bryant Jr, Christopher Groller, Charles Haydt Jr, William Henry II, Peter Lenig, Jaime Miranda, Keith Pierce and Jeremy Warmkessel; fire marshals Taylor, Zellin and Jeffrey Tomczak; and firefighters Mokris, Mongilutz, Andrew Bausher, Steven Costa, Austin Deutsch, Andrew Drake, William Gauntner, Nicholas Koedyker, Michael Kostick, Michael Matchette, Michael Milkovitz, Jonathon Steed, Jason Tatum, Paul Taus and Samuel Vassallo.
Lieutenants Warmkessel and Vincent Kidd and firefighter Ronald W Conway Jr, Thomas King, Zachary Shepard and Todd Weisel were recognized for bravery and given unit citations in a July 2020 deadly three alarm fire in the 700 block of N. Fair Street. The firefighters worked bravely on different floors to reach two victims from the fire, but tragically neither survived.
Shepard was also awarded a merit citation.
Unit citations were also bestowed upon assistant chiefs Barron and Eharth; battalion chiefs Atiyeh and Hess; captains O’Neill and Thompsen; lieutenants Groller, Haydt Jr, Heckenberger III, Henry II, Pierce, David Arner and James W Saylor Jr; fire marshals Taylor and Tomczak; and firefighters Bachert Jr, Dale, Gauntner, Milkovitz, Mokris, Smith, Tatum, Wescoe Jr, Wadih Atiyeh, Trevor Beers, Sean Boland, Timothy Bruce, John Burkhart, Jake Bykerk, Ryder Clemmo, Henry Cochran, Paul Dannecker, Matthew Dunfee, Steven Foulke, Joseph Kemmerer, Chad Krause, Tyler Mastria, Christopher McAbee, James McGuire, Robert Petrusky, Anthony Rosanio, Eric Sommers, Brandon Wentz, Michael Wilbert and Christopher Williams.
Seventeen-year-old Amari Thornton, who suffered burns in the fire, rescued two of his younger sisters from the burning home and jumped from a second-floor window breaking both of his legs. He has been honored with a Civilian Certificate of Commendation and a Civilian Meritorious Award.
Firefighters Shepard and Weisel were awarded certificates of heroism and unit citations for a July 30 three alarm fire in the 900 block of Washington Street. The fire displaced more than 40 persons. Three homes were damaged in the fire and three more sustained smoke and water damage.
Assistant chiefs Barron and Eharth; battalion chiefs Atiyeh, Hess and Christian Williams; Captain O’Neill; lieutenants Arner, Bryant Jr, Heckenberger III, Henry II, Craig A McGinnis, Michael Pychinka III and William W Warren Jr; fire marshals Taylor and Michael Achey; and firefighters Atiyeh, Beers, Bruce, Burkhart, Conway Jr, Costa, Dale, Dannecker, Drake, Jefferson, King, Koedyker, Kostick, Mokris, Smith, Sommers, Tatum, Williams, Kevin Hodgskin, Jason Janis, Chad Long, Steven Munsch, Nicholas Murray and Roger Scheirer received unit citations.
Firefighters Steed and Chad Ege were awarded certificates of heroism and unit citations for their rescue of an occupant of a second-floor bedroom from a fire at 219 N Cloud Street last February.
Unit citations were award to Captain Kevin Baer, lieutenants Groller, Pierce and Pychinka III; Fire Marshal Tomczak; and firefighters Costa, Drake, Scheirer, Michael Evans, Dustin Grow, Nathan Krajcirik, Arthur Scott, James Soccodato and Dennis Walton.
Thirty-four firefighters received a unit citation for battling an October 2019 fire that destroyed ten row homes in the 700 block of Fountain Street. They are: Retired Assistant Chief Christopher Kiskeravage; battalion chiefs Atiyeh and Held; captains Baer, Kresge Sr and Thompsen; lieutenants Groller, Lenig, McGinnis, Trumbore, Warmkessel, Christopher Gerencher and Theodore Maguire, fire marshal Taylor and firefighters Backert Jr, Bellois, Beers, Conway Jr, Ege, Jefferson, Krause, Matchette, Mokris, Munsch, Perreault, Scheirer, Soccodato, Tatum, Rodney Bolton, Kevin Cannon, Robert Dobrick, David Fuica, Brennen Harding and Jeremy Nyemscek.
Forty-two firefighters were awarded unit citations for their attack on the June 2020 three alarm fire at Sacred Heart School. They are: assistant chiefs Barron and Eharth; battalion chiefs Atiyeh and Hess; captains Kresge Sr and Thompsen; lieutenants Bryant Jr, Gerencher, Groller, Haydt Jr, Heckenberger III, Henry II, Kidd, Lenig, Pierce, Saylor Jr and Jason Custer; fire marshals Achey and Zellin; and firefighters Bausher, Bellois, Bolton, Brett, Dannecker, Deutsch, Dunfee, Foulke, Gauntner, Hammel, Hodgskin, Jefferson, Kemmerer, Milkovitz, Mokris, Munsch, Perreault, Soccodato, Tatum, Werkheiser, Williams, Adam Arndt and Mark Kennedy.
Forty-five members of the department were awarded unit citations for a September 2020 blaze that damaged three out of four homes in a row in the 400 block of Harrison Street. In all, firefighters spent seven hours on the scene to contain and extinguish the blaze. Unit citations went to assistant chiefs Barron and Eharth; battalion chiefs Atiyeh, Held and Williams; captains O’Neill and Thompsen; lieutenants Groller, Heckenberger III, Henry II, Kidd, Lenig; McGinnis, Pierce, Warren Jr and Jonas Gostonyi; fire marshals Achey and Taylor; and firefighters Beers, Bellois, Bruce, Clemmo, Cochran, Conway Jr, Costa, Deutsch, Dunfee, Hammel, Kemmerer, Kostick, Lathrop, Mastria, Matchette, Mokris, Shepard, Tatum, Vassallo, Wentz, James Alpha, Christopher Dutko, Devin Grow, Todd Heffner, Peter McAllister, Aaron Pychinka and Joseph Zimmerman Jr.
The department presented 23 certificates of appreciation to members of other fire departments for their assistance at the Harrison Street fire.
Members of the department’s Bomb Squad; Assistant Chief Eharth and firefighters Beers, Ege, McAllister and Lloyd W Evans II received certificates of merit for assisting with an investigation following a deadly fireworks explosion in Lower Milford Township, Lehigh County.
The department also recognized citizens for helping-out the department in emergencies.
Nine-year-old Gabriel Eduardo Rodriguez was awarded a Civilian Certificate of Appreciation for calling 911 for a family member with a medical episode. Gabriel gave detailed information to the 911 operator and assisted AFD in locating the fall victim. He also took care of two other children in the home while AEMS and AFD assisted the patient.
Michael R Humes Jr received a certificate for assisting the department during a motor vehicle accident at 19th & Allen streets. Henry Wilt was recognized for extinguishing a microwave fire at Phoebe Home and Erik Monk and Roger Haas were honored for assisting in putting out a fire in the 1500 block of Sage Street both prior to the department’s arrival.
The department awarded certificates of merit to Lieutenant Pierce for acquiring PPE supplies during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and to Firefighter Matchette for his dedication and advancement of the Haz-Mat Team.
The following members of the department received Good Samaritan Awards for their selfless work at Syrian Arab American Charity Association during Covid-19: lieutenants Custer, Groller, Heckenberger III, Pierce and Xander; and firefighters Bachert Jr, Bruce, Gauntner, Hammel, Tatum and Peter Zondlo.
Appreciation was also extended to those people and organizations who graciously donated hand sanitizer and PPE to the department, including Eight Oaks Distillery, War Dogs Distillery, Whitehall Pharmacy, Valley Discount Pharmacy, the Labor Council, Home Depot, Mallory Henry and Mask Force Sewing Committee.
Wegman’s, Weis Market, Coca-Cola, Josh Early Candies, King & Spry LLC, Front Line Appreciation Group, Retreat Behavioral Health and Suzann Young and Glenn Henritzy donated food, water and other beverages to the department.
The department also credited Horwith Quarry, where the dive unit trains; Edward Costa, who created an AFD photo collage; and the Syrian Arab American Charity Association for its assistance to the department and the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.