Pa. Burn Survivor Thanks Emergency Workers

Aug. 28--Dinnell Clarke strode into the York City Hall chambers on Thursday, a smile stretched across her face, and the packed room cracked with applause.

Her smile made you forget she was a survivor of a brutal fire -- overshadowing the deep and wide scars on her arms, hands and neck.

Clarke, 25, of York, had come to the City of York Department of Fire/Rescue Services' Annual Awards/Promotion Ceremony on Thursday to thank the dispatchers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians who helped her on July 6, 2013.

She wanted to look them in the eyes, hug them, give them their commendations.

"If they wouldn't have done their job or came any later, I would've died," she said after the ceremony.

Chief David Michaels said that some time after the fire, Clarke visited him at the fire department and told him of her recovery.

"I quickly realized the 'Chain of Survival' remained strong that day." Michaels said, referring to the swift and efficient teamwork between emergency workers to ensure a life is saved.

About 4:38 p.m. on July 6, 2013, firefighters responded on the 100 block of West Cottage Place for a grease fire, and found Clarke there. Clarke said she suffered second- and third-degree burns on 40 percent of her body.

"I have my days -- up and down," she said. "I think about it and I cry."

Clarke, a warehouse worker and jewelry designer, said she continues to undergo therapy and has upcoming surgeries planned. Still, she hopes to help the department in making the public aware of the dangers of cooking fires. Michaels then announced that Clarke was an honorary member of the department and gave her an official shirt.

Also at the ceremony, Will Collins, a 17-year department veteran, received the 2013 Firefighter of the Year award. Prior to that, Collins served in the U.S. Marines and worked for the U.S. Postal Service.

"I'm honored, very honored," he said.

Collins said his motivation for firefighting stems from his desire to help others, and the variety the job provides.

"The fact that when we come to work, we never know what to expect," he said. "You never know what opportunities are going to come up to serve."

Chad Deardorff, who has served with the department for more than 19 years, was the lone promotion on the docket, and it was a big one -- he moved from captain to assistant chief, the department's second-highest rank.

"It's overwhelming," he said after the ceremony.

Deardorff said he will now be in charge of a platoon of 11 firefighters and will continue to work out of the fire department's headquarters at South Duke and East King streets.

Three firefighters -- Terry Newcomer, Jason Rhoades and Gordon Myers, who started on the same day in 1993 -- retired earlier this year, a first of the department, Michaels said.

"I think it's pretty appropriate," Newcomer said. "Going through HACC together, putting in 20-plus years, and going out together -- it's fitting."

Assistant Chief Larry Shroyer also retired earlier this year, after 34 years of service with the department.

Michaels mentioned that earlier this year, volunteer firefighter Albert Shaffer was recognized by the York County Firefighters' Association as Firefighter of the Year. Shaffer could not make it to Thursday's ceremony, Michaels said.

"We're very proud of him," Michaels said of Shaffer, who has been a volunteer for 60 years. "He has no indications of slowing down."

York Fire Chief David Michaels speaks:

Capt. Chad Deardorff is promoted to assistant chief:

Chief Michaels talks about a burn victim and she arrives In mid-sentence:

A woman burned in a cooking fire in York thanks those who helped:

Woman who was burned thanks dispatchers, firefighters:

She's now an honorary member of the fire department:

Will Collins is awarded 2013 Firefighter of the Year:

Copyright 2014 - York Daily Record, Pa.

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