Service reflects gratitude for volunteer firefighters

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Hughesville Volunteer Fire Department members Nathan Kilgus, left, rings the bell as Brandon Woodside, center, and Aaron Woodside, right, place flags representing deceased members during the 125th Central District Volunteer Fireman's Association Memorial Service Program at the Evangelical Friends Church in Hughesville on Friday morning.

HUGHESVILLE — Volunteer firefighters who rush to burning blazes, extricate people from wrecks, control accident scenes and calm nerves during natural disasters and medical emergencies were memorialized Friday.

The service, at Friends Church, welcomed visiting firefighters as part of the 125th Central District Volunteer Firemen’s Association.

In his call to order, Robert Hanner, president of the Central District, welcomed the visiting fire departments and companies here for the service and the two days of activities at the Lycoming County Fairgrounds. Weather was holding out Friday morning as what took four years of planning got underway.

Ed Mann, past state fire commissioner, gave tribute to the 56 firefighters who passed this year and honored the Hughesville Volunteer Fire Department, which celebrates its 125th anniversary serving the borough and surrounding community.

Over his 14 years as fire commissioner, Mann said he came to know personally at least eight of the departed firefighters on the list.

“It’s more important to celebrate the way they lived,” Mann said inside the packed sanctuary.

Hughesville Volunteer Fire Department Chief Steve Stiger was grateful for the showing and thanked the church, the citizens for their continued financial gifts and support in other ways, and the members and families who have lost loved ones along the way.

Neil Winder, borough fire department president, encouraged the association visitors to stop by the businesses, enjoy the eateries, visit the East Lycoming Historical Society on Main Street and take in the beauty of the borough in eastern Lycoming County.

Pastor of Picture Rocks Baptist Church, Jerry Uppling observed how the Lord made man in his own image and he encouraged the firefighters still living by reminding them the absence of courage is not fear and the absence of fear isn’t courage but rather volunteers in the fire services get up because “they are called to service.”

“Continue to stand in the gap,” declared Pastor Tom Brokaw, of Hughesville Baptist Church. The community needs individuals who jump in times of danger for people who won’t or can’t do so, he explained.

“You are the people standing in the gap, protecting homes and other places from fires and the flood (as it occurred in 2011),” he said.

“We as a community don’t say ‘thank you’ enough,” he said.

Gerald Corbin, secretary of the district, read a roll call of deceased members. simultaneously, a bell ringer from Christ United Methodist Bell Choir rang a chime and Ryan Shaver performed “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes.

Taps also was performed by the high school marching band and there was a reading of the nationally-known Firemen’s Prayer and closing prayers and remarks.

The day continued with firefighters registering, selecting delegates and issuing ribbons and medallions. Teams of volunteers engaging in wet but fun events such as the battle of the barrel competition, Winder said.