Com­mis­sion­ers laud county’s ‘eyes and ears.’

Ron Bren­ne­man and Dave Moore rec­og­nized for quick re­sponse to elec­tri­cal fire

The Phoenix - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael P. Rel­la­han mrel­la­han@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Ch­escoCourtNews on Twit­ter To con­tact staff writer Michael P. Rel­la­han call 610-696-1544.

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.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

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.

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