Sullivan County Democrat
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Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell

CELEBRATING: Neversink Volunteer Fire Department Chief George Pennell, left, congratulates Robert Magie, Jr. of the Loch Sheldrake FD on his being awarded the “Firefighter of the Year” Award from the Sullivan County Volunteer Firefighters’ Association.

Firefighters Honor Their Own at Annual Dinner

By Ted Waddell
ROCK HILL — June 13, 2000 -- The Sullivan County Volunteer Firefighters’ Association (SCVFA) was organized in 1926. Since then, its members have worked together to coordinate firefighting efforts in the rural county and keep up on safety and training.
On Saturday, they held their 41st Annual Past Presidents’ Dinner at Bernie’s Holiday Restaurant in Rock Hill. About 150 people attended the event.
Robert J. Magie, Jr. was honored as the SCVFA “Firefighter of the Year” for rescuing a severely burned 72-year old man from a smoke-filled apartment on January 4, 1999. Magie serves with the Loch Sheldrake Volunteer Fire Department.
At the annual dinner, officers exchanged badges – a traditional rite of passage in the SCVFA – to formally induct new officers into the organization.
Current SCVFA officers include James Searl (president), Debbie Forsblom (1st vice-president), Paul Durland (2nd vice-president), John Hickey (3rd vice-president), Paul Hemmer (recording secretary), Carl W. Fredd (financial secretary), Joseph Nosek (treasurer), Albert Whittaker (trustee), John Hauschild (trustee), Dennis Bernitt (trustee), William Buckmaster III (Sgt. at Arms) and Isaac “Yits” Kantrowitz (chaplain).
Outgoing president Oliver “Kojak” Hutson could not attend due to a serious illness. He was awarded an honorary membership in the Saratoga County Volunteer Firefighters’ Association by Michael Cesare, a director of the fellow organization.
The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Judge Frank LaBuda, who served as president of the SCVFA in 1987. Isaac “Yits” Kantrowitz (1996) presented the invocation and benediction and presided over the installation of the officers for 2000-2001.
Andrew L. Dickinson, a fire protection specialist with the NYS Office of Fire Prevention & Control (NYSOFPC) was the featured guest speaker. He addressed the assemblage on the importance of training in the fire services, stressing the number “957” in his opening remarks.
According to Dickinson, local volunteer firefighters logged 957 hours of fire services-related training last year.
“That shows a lot of commitment,” he said.
Dickinson also briefly described the new NYSOFPC “FAST” program. The Firefighters Assist Search Team training is designed to “help save their brothers.”
“Training is critical in the fire service because it saves lives in case something goes bad,” he added.
During the dinner, Sullivan County Fire Coordinator Harold Kronenberg presented special awards to Peter Lilholt, commissioner of the Department of Public Works (DPW) and Jim Gray, superintendent of DPW’s buildings and grounds operations, for their efforts in creating new fire services classrooms at the emergency control center facility in White Lake.
“Nothing is more important in the county than firematics,” said Sullivan County Clerk George L. Cooke II. His grandfather, George L. Cooke (district attorney and county judge) served with the Monticello Fire Department near the turn of the century, while his father Lawrence A. Cooke, former NYS Chief Judge, was a long-standing and active member of the local department. And Cooke’s brother Edward serves as attorney for the Fire Association of New York.
In closing, “The Sullivan County Volunteer Firefighters’ Association helps keep the whole county together,” said newly installed president James Searl.
By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE — Robert J. Magie, a 28-year-old firefighter and past chief of the Loch Sheldrake Volunteer Fire Department, was honored Saturday night as “Firefighter of the Year” during the Sullivan County Volunteer Firefighters’ Associa-tion’s (SCVFA) 41st Annual Past Presidents’ Dinner.
On January 4, 1999, “Robbie” Magie was serving as chief of the local volunteer fire department. At about 12:10 p.m., the department was dispatched to a possible structure fire at the Lucky Star Bungalows on Rt. 52.
Magie was the first firefighter to arrive at the scene and saw smoke pouring from the eaves and windows of the single-story bungalow that had been converted into a year-round apartment. After requesting a second alarm, Magie was informed by neighbors that 72-year-old resident Robert Kachelrieff was probably still inside the burning building.
Despite the fact that no other firefighting personnel or equipment had yet arrived at the scene, Chief Magie entered the smoke-filled structure without the aid of protective gear or an air pack in an effort to locate the occupant.
After several minutes of searching, he noticed Kachelrieff’s hand reaching out toward the air from alongside a bed. The elderly man’s body was partially hidden from view because he was wrapped up in blankets. Chief Magie picked up Kachelrieff and carried him outside where he started to administer first aid to the victim, who had sustained burns to his back, arms and hands.
“If Chief Magie had not acted as quickly as he did, how long could a 72-year-old man remain alive in a smoke [filled] condition while suffering the pain of burns?” said Michael Ward, past chief of the Loch Sheldrake Fire Department, in his letter nominating Magie for the prestigious award.
Magie joined the local volunteer fire department ten years ago. He follows in the bootsteps of his grandfather, Jim Magie, Sr., and father, Robert, who served with distinction before him. Members of the firefighting family also include his aunt and uncle. Joining the department after him were Magie’s sister Angie and his brother Frank.
“It’s been a family thing,” said Magie after receiving the award. “It’s the whole nine yards.”
Magie was so overcome with emotion at the surprise announcement – he was told that another firefighter was going to be honored – that he was flanked by 1st Assistant Chief Mike Renzulli and 2nd Assistant Chief Shawn Edwards on the way to the podium.
“We’re very proud and honored,” said Renzulli. “He’s like a little brother to me.”
According to Edwards – who received the SCVFA “Firefighter of the Year” in the early 1990s for saving the life of a 17-year-old victim of a near fatal car accident – Magie is very dedicated to the department and his family.
“He’s a great guy,” said Edwards.
“I’ve been with the guys who put me in for this award since I started with the department,” said Magie. “They brought me up to this, and it’s a big success for them to see that I’ve come through and done what everybody wanted me to do. It feels good.”


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