Marlinton Fire and Rescue honors three of its own
Marlinton Fire and Rescue held its annual dinner last weekend at the Marlinton Municipal Building. Firefighters and rescue workers enjoyed the meal with their families and heard a presentation from Chief Herby Barlow, honoring three retiring squad members.
Barlow said they try to have the annual dinner at the beginning of the year so they can go over calls from the previous year, share a good meal with family and friends, and thank squad members for their dedication. Barlow said the fire department answered 102 calls for service last year, and the rescue squad responded to 390 calls.
“I can't thank you guys enough for what you do for your department and the community that we serve,” Barlow told squad members. “I know there's things along the way that we want to grump at, that we don't want to do, but I believe wholeheartedly that we're headed in the right direction. You have people out in the community saying good things about the department.”
Thomas Barniski offered a prayer before the attendees enjoyed a partially-catered, partially-potluck dinner. The steak, mashed potatoes and rolls were provided by Rayetta's Lunchbox, while squad members and their families brought the sides and desserts.
“I don't think we ever go wrong the way we do our dinners. If you go away hungry — it's your own fault,” joked Barlow.
After dinner, Barlow talked about three retiring squad members who have dedicated most of their lives in service to the community — Tommy Dunbrack, John Burns and Shawn Dunbrack.
“All three were very active members,” Barlow said. “If there was a call, they were on them. I apologize for not getting together the hours, or the number of calls, these guys went on — but it's impossible.”
Barlow bid an emotional farewell to the three, presented each of them with a beautiful wooden shadowbox, and offered an open invitation to hang out at the firehouse anytime.
Barlow said that not only did Tommy Dunbrack serve his community, but he also served his country. He said Dunbrack was always around to help.
“Anytime you needed to learn to tie a knot — call Tommy,” Barlow said. “He was always there. He was always out on calls. I can't say enough about him.”
Dunbrack was asked to say a few words.
“I joined in March of 1967 — after the '67 flood. I started helping out pumping basements before I was even involved with the department. Fred [Burns] Jr., said if you're gonna work for us you might as well join. I said 'okay.'”
“Next thing I know, they said 'you got voted in.' No application — I just got drafted,” laughed Dunbrack.
“After 45 years and four or five months, I miss it — but not on these cold nights,” joked Dunbrack. “I sure appreciate what you guys have done for me. If there is ever anything I can still help you do — give me a call.”
Barlow said John Burns started when his father, Fred Burns Jr., was chief.
“John started as I did, as a junior member, in 1980,” Barlow said. “John came up through the ranks and rose to the rank of deputy chief. If you needed something, you looked to John. He would take care of it. John — and his family — put in countless hours. To do it as many years as John has done it, and to run a business, and raise a family on top of that, is just amazing.”
“This is really nice,” Burns said. “This organization has been like a family to me for many, many years. I just want to thank everybody, and Marlinton Fire and Rescue for putting this on. The food was wonderful, the fellowship is always wonderful. Thanks again.”
Barlow said Shawn Dunbrack was kind of forced into the department.
“He didn't have a choice,” Barlow said. “If you wanted to hang out with dad — you had to go to the firehouse. Shawn joined the department in 1984. At that time, the fire department rescue squad was together, sort of like it is now. He ran with both for awhile. When the squads separated — Shawn had always enjoyed the rescue-side more, so his path led strictly to rescue. However he was always there to help us out. Shawn knows enough about firefighting that he could help out at any scene we had.”
Shawn is now the director of Pocahontas County Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
“There are some new faces here, but I still consider you all family,” Dunbrack said. “Marlinton Fire and Rescue has always been in my heart, and on my mind. Our paths will continue to cross with my new job. I'll still always be there to help Marlinton and any of the other departments — I'm going to be there.”
“Shawn moved up through the ranks and eventually became the rescue captain,” Barlow said. “We lost Shawn by way of him getting a new position, which I think has only helped the county move forward in all aspects of 911, fire, law enforcement and EMS.”
Barlow said there is someone that is always overlooked when the squads go out on a call, and presented the wives of the three squad members with bouquets of flowers.
“When we go out on a call and the tones drop, we jump up, we're out the door, but there's always that spouse, or that son or daughter back at the house,” he said.
Barlow said it's important, especially for the younger guys, to have an evening to acknowledge their service. As an example of their quick response, the dinner was interrupted when a call came through and several squad members rushed out the door.
“For the most part it's a thankless job. It's fun sometimes, it's hard sometimes. We're not in it for the praise, but this is a small thank you from the department that we try to do every year. Let's look toward the future. Keep doing what's right. Keep serving our community. Maybe one of these days, maybe we'll get one of these,” Barlow said pointing to the shadowboxes.
Barlow also presented each of the squad members with a decorative license plate with their unit number, made by Don's Signs in Marlinton.
“We try to do T-shirts and that sort of thing, but a couple of the officers got together and decided to get license plates for everybody instead,” Barlow explained.
“The shadow boxes were done by Jeff Shaw and Cleva Friel [owners of Sawdust Dreams in Edray],” Barlow said. “They do such an amazing job. We just take the stuff up, drop it off, and they design it themselves.”
Barlow said there's no way to thank the retiring squad members and their families for what they've given to the community.
“Tommy's been going at it since 1967,” Barlow said. “John since 1980 and Shawn since 1984. The amazing thing about those guys is, you've got Tommy and Shawn — father and son, Fred Burns Jr., and John Burns, his son. I like the fact that we have a lot of father-son, husband-wife members because we are a family. We — as a family — protect other families.”