Allentown Fire Fighter Wadih “Woody” Atiyeh is being honored as the 2018 Allentown Fire Fighter of the Year. Fire Fighter Atiyeh was recognized at the Allentown Fire Department’s annual memorial and awards service held this morning at Scottish Rite Cathedral as Fire Prevention Month draws to a close.
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, a Chief’s Award, Certificates of Heroism, Bravery and Merit and Years of Service awards and Unit Citations.
Mayor Ray O’Connell told those in attendance, “Mindful of the events of the last month in this city, I don’t have to tell you how grateful we are for the work done by our first responders. The effort to contain the Franklin Street warehouse fire was remarkable. We have heard and read the accounts of neighbors whose memories are seared with the horror of the Turner Street car explosion. I am sure that many of you share similar memories, but you were unable to turn away. You had a job to do and you did it well. You have my personal thanks.”
Fire Fighter Atiyeh was born and raised in the city and is a graduate of William Allen High School. He graduated from the Allentown Fire Academy in 2001 and has served the citizens of Allentown for the last 17 years. For the past 11 years he has served as the driver for the Battalion Chief.
According to Chief James Wehr, “Fire Fighter Atiyeh was nominated for the award by multiple members of the department. In each submission, he was recognized for his passion for the job as well as for being an outstanding leader for other firefighters both at fire scenes and around the firehouse. He is totally committed to the department which is evidenced by his taking on the responsibility for the flower fund for funeral services and the Central Fire Station house fund.”
The Alfred W. Fischl Fire Service Award was presented to Assistant Chief of Training Christopher Kiskeravage 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.
Assistant Chief Kiskeravage has been with the department since 1996. He served as a Firefighter and Fire Specialist prior to his current appointment.
The Assistant Chief of Training is responsible for overseeing and providing training in fire prevention, firefighting, rescue operations and emergency medical service techniques to all personnel within the fire department.
Assistant Chief Kiskeravage serves on multiple special teams, such as Dive, HazMat, and Tech Rescue. Not only is he certified in multiple disciplines within emergency services, but he is also a certified state instructor which allows him to teach at Bucks County Community College on his own time.
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 retired Chief Lee Laubach and his wife, Missy.
“Through their combined efforts, Lee and Missy Laubach have done more to promote the image of the Allentown Fire Department than anyone before them,” said Chief Wehr.
Chief Laubach was instrumental in obtaining a State Farm Arson Dog Scholarship bringing Judge, the first arson K9 to the department. Chief Laubach and Judge assisted in fire investigators uncovering evidence that has led to multiple criminal arrests. Chief Laubach also developed a pilot program using Judge to teach the life safety message to autistic children. He conducted numerous fire safety programs and demonstrations to watch groups, elementary and high school students, Boy Scout programs, and many more. The majority of these educational programs were conducted on his own time.
Missy Laubach has been the driving force behind the marketing and promotions needed to support not only the Allentown Fire Department but also the Hero Dog of the Year. From organizing fundraising events to managing various social media accounts, Missy has helped support the Allentown Fire Department by making Judge a household name.
“The results of her hard work and dedication have created a greater connection between our department and the community we serve,” Chief Wehr said.
A 25 year service award was presented to retired Chief Laubach and a 20 year service award was presented to Lieutenant Robert Xander.
Lieutenant David Arner was cited for heroism and Firefighter Todd Weisel was cited for bravery for their role in rescuing a city firefighter whose foot was trapped as the second floor was giving way in a burning building on October 1, 2017.
Firefighters were dispatched for what became a three-alarm house fire at 333, 335 and 337 N 3rd St. The early morning fire had a one hour head start before crews were called to the scene. Arner and Weisel pulled firefighter Rodney Bolton to safety.
Fifty-two firefighters were awarded unit citations for their work in battling the fire. Citations were awarded to Chiefs Laubach and Wehr; Deputy Chief Efrain Agosto; Assistant Chiefs Kiskeravage and Michael Barron; Battalion Chief Jeffery Hess; Captains Sean O’Neill and Bryce Thompsen; Lieutenants Arner, Xander, James Boyle, Jack Bryant Jr., Christopher Gerencher, Christopher Groller, Paul Heckenberger, Peter Lenig, Jamie Miranda, Michael Pychinka III, Jeremy Warmkessel and William Warren; and Firefighters Atiyeh, Bolton, Weisel, Leroy Bachert Jr., Jeremy Bellois, Robert Brett, Kirk Cressley, Theodore Dale, Paul Dannecker, Austin Deutsch, Steven Foulke, William Gauntner, Kevin Jefferson, Mark Kennedy, Nicholas Koedyker, Michael Kostick, Chad Long, Michael Milkovitz, Jody Mongilutz, Steven Munsch, Jeremy Nyemseck, Adam Perrault, Keith Pierce, Aaron Pychinka, Eric Sommers, Jason Tatum, Paul Taus, Daniel Werkheiser, Christopher Williams and Michael Zellin. Air One was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation for the same incident.
Twenty-three members of the department were awarded a Unit Citation for their work in battling a house fire and rescuing more than a dozen pets on October 14, 2017 at 1905 Delaware Street. Citations were awarded to: Battalion Chief Phillip Atiyeh; Captains O’Neill and Thompsen; Lieutenants Lenig, Xander, William Henry II, James Saylor Jr. and Mark Trumbore; and Firefighters Deutsch, Koedyker, Nyemseck, Perrault, Tatum, Williams, Michael Achey, Chris Dutko, Chad Ege, Kevin Hodgskin, Joseph Kemmerer, Randy Krause, Roger Scheirer, Samuel Vassalo and James Wescoe Jr. A Certificate of Appreciation for the same incident was awarded to Allentown Paramedics Philip Banks, Scott Brokaw, Gina Hausman, Christopher Schierloh and Patrick Stankovic and Lehigh Valley C.A.R.T.
Twenty-six firefighters were awarded Unit Citations for their work in extinguishing a two-alarm May 5, 2018 warehouse fire on Franklin Street where buckets marked hazardous materials were found to have melted and began leaking into the water runoff from the attack line. Firefighters used buckets and a nearby pile of gravel and dirt to dam up the runoff and prevent it from entering the storm drain while others worked on the product itself determining what it was, then confirming and handling the product with the owner. The citations were awarded to Battalion Chief Atiyeh; Lieutenants Boyle, Bryant Jr., Groller, Warren, Xander, Theodore Maguire and Craig McGinnis; and Firefighters Bellois, Brett, Dale, Dannecker, Gauntner, Hodgskin, Jefferson, Long, Mongilutz, Munsch, Perrault, Tatum, Werkheiser, Williams, Zellin, Andrew Bausher, Michael Brosky and Robert Conway. Air One was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation for the same incident.
Sometimes a baby won’t wait, and Allentown firefighters are being acknowledged for their assistance in two deliveries in the last year. Captain O’Neill and Firefighters Mark Kresge Jr. and Peter Zondlo earned Unit Citations for an October 13, 2017 birth that occurred in the back of an ambulance and Lieutenant Saylor and Firefighters Vassalo and John Eddleman earned Unit Citations for a delivery in a city home last Christmas Day. In both instances, firefighters drove the responding Allentown EMS vehicle to the hospital, so all crew members could attend to the infant and mother. Allentown Paramedics Brokaw, Brian Fritz and Stacy Vibbert received Certificates of Appreciation for the October birth.
Seven firefighters were honored for heroism in recovering the body of a contract employee who died in a printing press accident at The Morning Call on May 29, 2018. An investigation of current conditions and specialized equipment was required to affect the extraction of the deceased. Assistant Chief Kiskeravage; Lieutenants Lenig and Vincent Kidd; and Firefighters Pychinka, Jonathan Hammel, Michael Matchette and Zachary Shepard were honored for heroism. Unit Citations were bestowed upon Captain Kresge; Lieutenants Bryant Jr., Henry II, Kidd and Lenig; and Firefighters Achey, Deutsch, Hammel, Kennedy, Matchette, Sommers, Tatum, Weisel, Michael Bryant and John Burkhart.
Thirteen firefighters were awarded a Unit Citation for their response to a head-on motor vehicle accident with entrapment on June 12, 2018 at Bradford Street and Emaus Avenue. They worked with members of Eastern Salisbury Fire Department to safely remove the occupants. The Unit Citation recipients are: Captain James Kutz; Lieutenants Bryant Jr., McGinnis, Trumbore and Trevor Beers and Firefighters Ege, Nyemseck, Scheirer, Tatum, Wescoe Jr., Jason Campanella, Michael Evans and Dennis Walton. Certificates of Appreciation were awarded to Allentown Paramedics Banks, Vibbert, Ronald Gunns, Jeff Hoch and Mike Reitnour for the same accident.
Six firefighters received Certificates of Merit and 16 were given Unit Citations for their response to a motor vehicle accident with entrapment on July 15, 2018 on Hanover Avenue. The victim was removed from the destroyed vehicle by using several rams, a reciprocating saw, the cutter and spreader tools. Certificates of Merit were presented to Lieutenants Kidd and Saylor Jr.; and Firefighters Ege, Matchette, Perrault and Jonathan Flissar. Unit Citations were awarded to Lieutenants Groller, Heckenberger, Henry II, Warren, Xander and Michael Smith; and Firefighters Burkhart, Bykerk, Foulke, Hammel, Jefferson, Mongilutz, Perrault, Weisel, Zondlo and Kevin Cannon. Certificates of Appreciation for the same incident were awarded to Allentown Paramedics Reitnour, Mehmet Barzev, Matthew Brett, David Ober and Bill Sames.
Firefighters have to be ready to tackle almost any situation, but in what is believed to be a first for the department this past May, crews had to free a 3-year-old child who had crawled through the flip down door of a laundromat “claw game,” and was unable get back out. Firefighter Weisel removed the door to the game and extricated the child without injury. Unit Citations were awarded to Battalion Chief Hess; Captain Thompsen; Lieutenants Bryant Jr. and Xander; and Firefighters Achey, Burkhart, Bykerk, Kemmerer, Weisel, Williams and Thomas King.
Six firefighters were honored for their roles in conversion of the department’s dive truck. Chief Wehr, Battalion Chief Christian Williams; Lieutenant Saylor Jr. and firefighters Cressley, Foulke and Mongilutz were presented with Certificates of Merit for remodeling the inside of the old bomb truck and turning it into workable space for all the team’s dive gear.
The department also presented Certificates of Appreciation to Scottish Rite Cathedral, site of department ceremonies; the cathedral’s Gary Schaedel, Allentown Fire Police, Peters Marine Services, Cummings Veterinary Hospital, Animal Therapy Center, McDonald’s at 1321 Union Boulevard and Wegman’s.
Fourth and fifth grade students participating in the NFPA’s 2018 "Look, Listen, Learn Be Aware Fire Can Happen Anywhere!" Poster Contest were honored with certificates.