For Samantha Bennett, fire service a family affair
SHAFT (TNS) — Samantha Bennett has no problem staying busy.
But that’s the way she likes it.
As a full-time graduate student at Frostburg State University, the 22-year-old Shaft resident is pursing a master’s degree in computer science.
She is also employed part time by Allegany County as a geographic information systems associate.
But the daughter of Roger and Lois Regina “Reggie” Bennett finds more enjoyment in her role as a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician with the Shaft Volunteer Fire Department.
In addition to her assignment as a captain in the operational side of the Shaft VFD, Samantha Bennett is also the head trustee.
It was 2011 when she joined the fire department and completed the Firefighter 1 class.
She is also enrolled in a hazardous material technician class at the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute.
“The class started in Oc- tober and will finish in midJanuary. I plan to apply for the Allegany County Special Operations Team that responds to hazardous materials incidents,” she said.
For Bennett, her mom and dad and sister Andrea Bennett, volunteer service is a way of life.
“I remember always being at the fire station with my dad when I was little,” she said.
Roger Bennett, who is the deputy director of operations at the Allegany County Department of Emergency Services, completed a 24year stint in the U.S. Navy in 2006. That year, he returned with his family to his hometown of Shaft, a tiny Georges Creek community south of Frostburg that a 2010 census reported as having less than 300 residents.
Upon returning home, Roger Bennett resumed his volunteer service with the Shaft Volunteer Fire Department. It began at age 12 when he became a junior firefighter.
“We had about 15 junior firemen at Shaft at that time. It was a very success- ful program and that’s what everyone was doing back then — joining the fire company,” said Roger Bennett, who began his Navy career after graduating from Beall High School in 1983.
He serves as the president of the Shaft Volunteer Fire Department and as an assistant chief. Daughter Andrea is the department’s recording secretary and holds the rank of lieutenant. Reggie Bennett, a seven-year Navy corpsman, helps with fundraising and other activities.
“It makes me very proud to have our whole family involved. The opportunity to give back to the community is huge and to me it’s a must,” Roger Bennett said. “I think everyone should be involved in anything to give back to the community. It doesn’t have to necessarily be in fire service.”
So when the fire alarm sounds in the middle of the night, it’s all hands on deck at the Bennett residence in Frostburg.
“We all have to be in dad’s truck when he’s ready to pull out or we miss the call,” laughed Samantha Bennett.
Any measure of reluctance to jump out of their warm beds in the dead of night is routinely overtaken by their self-sacrificing spirit in answering the call.
“I get so much fulfillment being a volunteer firefighter because you are always helping people,” Samantha Bennett said. “It’s very humbling to be with or around someone who is having possibly the worst day of their life.
“With our department, we are all one big family. We talk to one another and we talk through the traumatic calls,” she said. “We are in a small community and people know each other and it’s much more personal. So it’s not usual for people to come back to the station at some point and thank us for helping them.”
In addition to answering 250 to 300 calls for service annually, Samantha Bennett and family take part in all the department activities, just like the other three dozen fellow members of the department.
“We work bingo every Wednesday night,” she said. “It’s our major fundraiser, and we hold two Cash Bash events annually at the Memory Hall that is attached to the fire station.
“Without the fundraisers, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do,” she said. “It gets harder to run calls and do fundraisers with fewer people these days.”
And more volunteers are needed.
“We need all sorts of people,” she said. “We need people who can be there all the time and people who can only be there part of the time.
“And you don’t have to become a firefighter to volunteer. There are many things that one can do to assist on the administrative side to support the fire department.”
Shaft Fire Chief Scott A. Yates appreciates all of the fellow members of the department.
“Sam is absolutely a valuable member of our department,” he said. “She spends countless hours in fundraisers and fire activities in addition to her work and school.
“And she is furthering her education in the fire department. She always wants to improve herself to better serve the community.
“She’s following in her dad’s footsteps,” said Yates, who has served as Shaft’s fire chief for the last 18 years. “It’s definitely a pleasure to have all of the family active in the fire service.”