About 60 of his peers and their guests were on hand Saturday, Dec. 8, at the Holiday Inn, Fogelsville, to see 21-year-old Matt Hertz be named Firefighter of the Year by the Greenawalds Fire Company.
The award is given to a firefighter “who has gone above and beyond the normal training, shows interest in advancing themselves, responds to as many calls as possible, and is a person who can be counted on to do the tasks he is assigned.”
“I was hoping for it, but I really didn’t expect it,” said the 2009 Allen High School grad who now resides in South Whitehall. He humbly added, “A bunch of people said I was going to get it, but I was surprised.”
Prior to revealing the winner, Chief Mike Smith said, “This guy’s made just about every training session he could attend, and he got his Firefighter 1 certification this year. He’s someone you can count on when something needs to be done.”
Hertz joined the fire company when he was 18, having heard about firefighting from former high school classmate Joey Britt who, incidentally, was Greenawalds’ 2011 Firefighter of the Year.
In his short tenure, Hertz cites the fire at a home on Walbert Avenue earlier this year as his most memorable experience as a firefighter. Two brothers died in that blaze.
“I’ve never seen so many guys working as one being,” he said. “The situation wasn’t good. We heard someone say, ‘Hey, there’s people in here,’ and everyone snapped into action. There were firefighters from a lot of companies there, including Cetronia and Woodlawn. Everybody worked really well together,”
Hertz, who currently works as a driver, picker and receiver for a local warehouse, aspires to be a firefighter for the City of Allentown. For now, though, he’s happy serving in a volunteer capacity with Greenawalds, adding that his girlfriend Staci is proud of his accomplishment.
“I’ve never seen such a smile on her face [when I was named],” he said. “She took a bunch of pictures and posted them on Facebook right away.”
“But,” he said, “I can’t take all the credit for receiving the award. Our department has come far this year. Our officers pushed a little harder and everyone responded positively. The bonds of our brotherhood got a lot stronger…we’re really one big family.”
Other awards presented during the annual banquet included:
- Response Awards, to those members responding to the most calls during the year: Top firefighters Keith Cleaver, Matt Callihan and Hertz, and top officer Lt. Josh Green.
- Training Awards, to those members with most training hours for the year: Top firefighters Hertz, Garrett Hillenbrand and Jared Tellechea, and top officer Green.
- Life Members, to those members having more than 25 years of service: Firefighters Richard Frantz (62 years), Bob Hebel (35), Dave Torrey (33), John Frantz (31), Manly Offutt (30) and Chris Peischl (29); Fire Police Capt. Bill Reynolds (33), Assistant Chief George Sverha (32) and Chief Mike Smith (31).
- Service Awards: Hebel (35 years), Offutt (30), Capt. Andrew Garger and Lt. Adam Garger (15 each), Dave Schmidt (10), and Brian Quinn and Vinnie Quinn (5 each).
- Unit Citation: Presented to the group of firefighters involved in a response to the Walbert Avenue house fire Feb. 22 who showed effort above and beyond the call of duty to rescue the two victims: Assistant Chief George Sverha; Deputy Chief Shawn Kane; Capts. Andrew Garger and Matt Bertsch; Lts. Adam Garger and Mike Deprill, and firefighters Keith Cleaver, Matt Hertz, Matt Callihan, Joe Britt and Bryan Pfenning, along with members of the Woodlawn and Cetronia fire companies.
- Presidents Award: Presented by Company President Bill Sames, to members who devote numerous hours to help in the business portion of the fire station: Firefighters Vinnie Quinn and Mitch Geist.
- Jacket Presentations: Presented to members who reach one year of service with the company: Christina Smith and Michael Smith Jr.