Allentown Fire Department Firefighter Michael J. Matchette is being honored as the 2015 City of Allentown Fire Fighter of the Year. Matchette was recognized at the Allentown Fire Department’s annual memorial and awards service held this morning in City Council Chambers as part of Fire Prevention Month.
The department recognizes firefighters for their actions over the past 12 months. In addition to Firefighter of the Year, the department presents the Alfred W. Fischl Award, Bravery and Years of Service awards and Unit Citations.
Firefighter Matchette is the driver on Engine 9 in the second battalion. Mike is a former paramedic with Allentown EMS. He is a decorated firefighter who commands the department’s Haz-Mat Team and serves on the Tech Rescue and Infectious Control teams. He is also a member of the Fire Academy staff. He possesses an outstanding work ethic. His paramedic training comes in handy in assisting with on-scene awareness. Senior command regularly relies on Mike for advice.
According to Fire Chief Lee Laubach, “Mike Matchette makes the entire fire department better just by showing-up to work. Mike can be seen counseling our newest members in the finer points of firefighting. He has a great desire to succeed but all while making sure the “Team” succeeds.”
Mayor Ed Pawlowski told the firefighters in attendance, “Words don’t exist to describe the feelings of those you have saved from death or serious injury over who’s property you preserved from ruin. We feel enormous respect and gratitude toward the courage you show by entering burning buildings to protect lives and property.”
The Alfred W. Fischl Fire Service Award was presented to Fire Marshal Michael J. Barron 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. Fire Marshal Barron spent his first 15 years with the department as a firefighter and worked in the Fire Prevention Office. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2012 and became fire marshal in 2012. He has performed hundreds of inspections and fire investigations.
Twenty year service awards were presented to Battalion chiefs Philip Atiyeh and Scott Henrick; Captain Jeffrey Hess; fire marshals Michael Zellin and Michael Barron and firefighters Paul Taus, Christopher Mokris, Robert Brett and Randy Krause. Firefighter James Wescoe was recognized for 25 years of service and Fire Marshal Michael Taylor received recognition for 30 years of service.
Firefighter Chad Ege was honored with a Meritorious Award for Heroism for rescuing a 93-year-old woman in distress from a burning home. Firefighter Ege entered the home and proceeded to the second floor where he picked-up the woman, carried her down the stairs and out the door.
Unit citations for the same operation were presented to Battalion Chief James Wehr; Captain Christian Williams; Lieutenants James Kutz, Peter Lenig and Theodore Maguire and firefighters Ege, Krause, Jeffrey Tomczak, Kevin Cannon, Roger Scheirer, Steven Costa, Ronald Conway, Vincent Kidd, Matthew Eharth, Kevin Jefferson and Jeremy Nyemscek.
Firefighters Peter McAllister and Kidd received a Meritorious Award for Heroism. Firefighters McAllister and Kidd were honored for their actions for rescuing two men from the Lehigh River near Canal Park. Firefighter McAllister continued on to an island where two women were stranded.
Unit citations for the same operation were awarded to Battalion Chief Atiyeh, Lieutenant Michael Smith, Lieutenant Craig McGinnis and firefighters McAllister, Kidd, Dustin Grow, Dennis Walton and Onix Reyes.
Lieutenant Kevin Baer received a Meritorius Award for Bravery for his actions in rescuing a woman from a burning home on East Tioga Street on May 16. Before other units were on the scene, Lt. Baer entered the home and climbed stairs to a room directly above the fire. Lt. Baer got the woman down the stairs and outside the home where she was treated by Allentown EMS paramedics Scott Brokaw and Jason Kistler. Brokaw and Kistler received unit citations.
Six members of the department were awarded Certificates of Merit for their role in battling a June fire that destroyed a building at Harry’s-U-Pull-It at 1213 Plymouth Street. They are Lieutenant Paul Heckenberger and firefighters Andrew Bausher, Adam Arndt, Jeremy Bellois, Theodore Dale and Paul Dannecker.
Thirty-four firefighters were honored with a Unit Citation. Citations were presented to Battalion chiefs Wehr, Atiyeh and William Held; Captain Mark Kresge; Lieutenants Heckenberger, Jeremy Warmkessel, Jason Custer, Michael Pychinka, Christopher Gerencher, Jaime Miranda, Trevor Beers, Thomas Rychnovsky, Mark Trumbore, Robert Xander, Craig McGinnis, Christopher Groller and David Arner; fire marshal Zellin; and firefighters Bausher, Kidd, Taus, Brett, McAllister, Arndt, Dale, Bellois, Dannecker, Jody Mongilutz, William Gauntner, Chad Long, Leroy Bachert, Daniel Werkheiser, Adam Perreault, and Nicholas Koedyker.
Unit citations for the same incident were also awarded to Michael Elias and Robert Thomas of the Allentown Streets Department. Their work kept oil from the property from emptying into the Lehigh River.
Thirteen firefighters and six paramedics were honored with Unit Citations for an April 16 incident at Firely Pediatric Services. The building was evacuated and some occupants were transported to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest. Unit citations were awarded to Battalion Chief Atiyeh, Lieutenants Baer, Kutz and James Saylor; and firefighters Ege, Scheirer, Cannon, Walton, William Warren, Adam Banotai, Michael Humes, Michael Evans and Jason Campanella. Allentown EMS paramedics Matthew Brett, Philip Banks, William Carver, Stacy Vibbert, Joshua Houck and Jeffrey Hoch were also honored.
A fixed-wing, single engine experimental aircraft crashed into Little Lehigh Creek in the city on August 14. Nineteen firefighters and a paramedic received unit citations for their role in the extraction and treatment of the injured pilot. Receiving citations were: Battalion Chief Atiyeh; Lieutenants Lenig, Saylor, Beers Jack Bryant and Sean O’Neill; firefighters Eharth, Warren, Humes, Krause, Bachert, Evans, Wescoe, Kidd, Campanella, Tomczak, Ronald Conway, Ian Lenig and Arthur Scott and paramedic Brokaw.
A Civilian Meritorious Award was presented to youngsters Angel Arroyo and Yaniel Santos. The then 15-year-old Santos ran to a second floor hallway, retrieved a fire extinguisher and put out a fire on a stove top in an apartment unit at Hillside Garden Apartments at 2919 Klein Street. Meanwhile, the 8-year-old Arroyo spotted the fire and alerted everyone in the building to evacuate.
A Certificate of Merit was awarded to firefighters Ege and Lloyd Evans for their work to outfit the department’s bomb vehicle with shelving and cabinetry.
Chief Lee Laubach presented two special Chief Awards. Firefighter Gautner was honored for his work with Team Rubicon, which unites the skills and experiences of military veterans and first responders to deploy response teams to areas both home and abroad after a crisis situation. Lieutenant Custer was recognized for his work with the MDA’s “Fill the Boot” campaign. His efforts have raised more than $20,000 for the organization.
Certificates of Appreciation were presented to local businesses. Home Depot was honored for donations of materials time and labor for projects at Mack South Fire Station and with the Technical Rescue Team. Stanley Vidmar was recognized for donating pre-configured storage cabinets to the Technical Rescue Team and Wegmans was praised for donating bottled water for firefighter rehabilitation at fire scenes.