By Heather Darata
CLEARFIELD, Pa.—Marc Hatten and Todd Howe are what you might call full-service emergency responders. They are dispatchers at Clearfield County Emergency Services and active members of the local volunteer fire department.
This past August, they had the opportunity to put the combination to work in response to one call.
The two men were leaving their consoles for the evening shift change Aug. 3, when an incoming call alerted the center to a small blaze at 900 Leonard St. in Lawrence Township. They gave a quick hand-off of their headsets to the night crew, checked the image from the security camera on top of the radio tower behind the center, zoomed in on the blaze and saw, sure enough, that the fire was burning along the office of Magisterial District Judge Richard Ireland located about 100 yards from the call center.
They ran out of the center with one of the center’s handheld fire extinguishers and with no plan other than, “Let’s go see what we can do.”
Hatten and Howe extinguished the blaze before firefighters from Lawrence Township arrived on scene. The fire, which started in the mulch landscaping near the building, would have certainly been well on its way into the building’s wooden structure had the two not responded so quickly, Jeremy Ruffner, dispatch manager and quality assurance coordinator for Clearfield County Emergency Services, told The Journal in August.
“Things would have turned out much worse had they not been so quick to respond,” Ruffner said.
The fire department just had a few hot spots to mop up when they arrived. Other engines that had been dispatched were called off en route.
Because the men rushed to the scene, the incident was much shorter and obviously had a far less damaging outcome, Ruffner said.
“It’s always appreciated when dispatchers go above and beyond during an incident,” Ruffner said. “This was a prime example of that and then some.”
The call center serves about 82,000 residents in the central Pennsylvania region, which lies about two hours northeast of Pittsburg almost exactly in the center of the state. It handles all police, fire, and medical calls in Clearfield County except those for the Pennsylvania State Police.
Ruffner said more than half of the call center staff is also either active or listed on the volunteer fire department rosters.