For Sa­man­tha Ben­nett, fire ser­vice a fam­ily af­fair

The Star Democrat - - LOCAL -

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.”

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