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Cochranville Firefighter Honored for Rescue, Service - Indiana, PA
Thursday, December 22, 2011

"It was a "big deal" when a team of five student-volunteer firefighters with the Indiana (Pa.) Fire Association was able to save a sleeping man from a burning apartment building on Oct. 20, IFA President Bill Simmons said. "It was my first fire rescue," said Matthew Reynolds of Cochranville, who was one of the firefighters on the scene. On Dec. 16, the Council of Trustees at IUP honored Reynolds and the four other volunteer firefighters who responded to the fire in October and saved a man's life. "Normally, I'm sad to say, it's recovery instead of rescue that usually occurs when we arrive at a fire," Reynolds said. "The victims either make it out of the building on their own with burns or they don't make it." Reynolds, 21, is a senior criminology major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He began volunteering as a firefighter at Cochranville Fire Company during his sophomore year at Octorara High School. Currently in his third year of the "live-in" program at the fire department, Reynolds receives free housing at the fire station with five other volunteer firefighters. The student-volunteers in the program, who are required to have previous experience from volunteering at their local fire department, must be on-call five days a week from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. "Even more than just that one incident, just the fact that they've belonged to their own fire company and they're helping out here says a lot for them," Simmons said. "The other thing that they're doing, they're saving their parents the charge that they would have to pay to live in a dorm or an apartment by providing this service." To Reynolds, the fire rescue began as a routine call. "There's a decent amount of fires. We get close to 500 calls a year," Reynolds said of Indiana (Pa.). "We got the call at five in the morning and we were the first truck on the scene." First Assistant Chief Scott Schuller told the firefighters that there may still be someone inside because a car remained parked nearby. Reynolds and two other live-in members went inside the ground-floor apartment, which was engulfed in flames, and traveled to the apartment above it. "We searched and found the victim asleep," Reynolds said. "We had to get him up and he was disoriented because of the smoke in the building and then we got him out." "The rescue itself, speaks for itself," Simmons added. "They were saying, 'Oh, it wasn't that big of a deal,' but it really was. It was a big deal to the guy that they pulled out (of the building). One of the reasons the victim was able to survive was due to the firefighters' response time. "We get a firetruck out on the street in one or two minutes," Reynolds said. "Sometimes that can mean the difference between life and death." In addition to Reynolds' responsibilities for the IFA, which include mowing the lawn or cleaning the trucks, he also finds a way to balance his academic work. "Sometimes it's difficult. My grades actually started going up when I moved in the fire house," Reynolds said. "It does get stressful at times when I have homework and reports to write, but overall I think it has worked out." Simmons said the live-in program emphasizes that the student-volunteers' education comes first. "I know (Reynolds) is a criminology major and he's heading in the right direction to obtain his degree," Simmons said. "So he hasn't let the firefighting aspect of his daily obligation hinder his education and that's certainly what we strive for." Reynolds continues to volunteer at the Cochranville Fire Company during his summer and winter breaks. After graduation he would like to be a police officer in Chester County. "I'm going through applications for a few different counties," Reynolds said. "But I would like to be a police officer in Chester County being as it's where I grew up.""

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