Commissioners laud county’s ‘eyes and ears.’
Ron Brenneman and Dave Moore recognized for quick response to electrical fire
WEST CHESTER » Quitting time was in sight last Wednesday for Ron Brenneman and Dave Moore, two longtime members of the Chester County Department of Facilities and Parks, assigned to the county Justice Center. A few minutes of unloading some equipment along Courthouse Alley and the pair could call it a day and head south toward home.
But then the men saw smoke coming out of a manhole on North Darlington Street, smelled the odor of an electrical fire, and recognized that what was happening before their eyes was more important than getting a jump on traffic out of West Chester.
The pair — with a combined 60 years of experience on the facilities staff between them — called 911, and set in motion an operation that brought downtown West Chester to a halt, but which ultimately helped minimize what damage could have occurred had they not acted in haste.
The underground electrical transformer fire along North Darlington and West Gay streets was put under control swiftly by units from the West Chester Fire Department, although several firefighters were overcome by car- bon monoxide that was pushed through the underground tunnels and five had to be temporarily hospitalized. On Tuesday, the county commissioners recognize the important role that Brenneman and Moore played in reacting to the situation.
“Often times, people forget that in the day-today business of the county some important things that our employees do is be the eyes and ears of the citizens,” Commissioners’ Chairwoman Michelle Kichline said in introducing Brenneman, of Oxford, and Moore, of Penn, to a packed meeting room at the commissioners’ Sunshine Meeting work session.
Describing the events that left the firefighters overcome, Kichline said that the underground fire, “could have been a significant incident, or disaster … that could have impacted our employees and the residents of West Chester,” were it not for the pair’s alertness. She noted that Brenneman and Moore had “not wanted to be here” because they felt they were “just doing their job” by calling in the emergency.
“But sometimes ‘just doing your job’ can have a real impact on people’s lives,” she said.
In letters sent to both men, the commissioners — joined by county President Judge Jacqueline Carroll Cody— acknowledged their “professional conduct and conscientious behavior.”
“Your recognition of the potential hazards of smoke coming from a manhole cover … and more importantly, your swift decision to call 911, led to the containment and eventual successful conclusion of the incident,” the commissioners and Cody wrote. Department head Steve Fromnick thanked the commissioners and Cody on behalf of the two men, who were given letters of recognition and plaques.
The officials also paid tribute to the county’s emergency center staff, and the “heroic efforts of the firefighters to identify and contain the fire, including those who were affected by the spread of carbon monoxide gas.”
Also leveling praise on the volunteer emergency community for the work done last week was John Haynes, deputy director of the county’s Department of Emergency Services. He said the incident “is a reminder of the men and women who make up the fire and emergency services. We often forget it is a very dangerous situation to be in. And they do it for free.”
Haynes said that the county’s emergency training had paid off in the response to the underground transformer fire. “The planning and procedures we have put in place to react to situations like this worked very, very well,” he said. “I think it is a great example of what we do to keep citizens safe.”
At 3:13 p.m. Aug. 9, Fame Fire Company was dispatched to North Darlington Street at the corner of West Gay Street for a report of an odor of smoke. Fire crews arrived to find an active house fire. After firefighters entered the building, a distress call was sent out because Assistant Chief Mark Scanlon had collapsed and lost consciousness due towhat is believed to be carbonmonoxide (CO) poisoning.
Multiple fire companies responded to the call, and about 15 firetrucks eventually could be observed at the scene. The Justice Cen- ter was evacuated around 4:15 p.m.
Fame Fire Chief Mike McDonald said that day that the electrical fire started underground when a transformer beneath the Darlington Commons building caught on fire, and then the fire spread to a panel box. He said the fire pushed carbon monoxide throughout the area, and the CO levels were very high around the street. However, there were no gas leaks nor explosions reported in the building that caught on fire. McDonald said there was one business and one residence impacted by the fire.
From left: County Commissioner Terence Farrell; Steve Fromnick, director, Chester County Facilities and Parks; President Judge Jacqueline Carroll Cody; Ron Brenneman; Dave Moore; County Commissioner Michelle Kichline; and County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone pose for a photo while recognizing Brenneman and Moore for their quick response in alerting authorities to a recent underground electrical fire.