Several RVFD members were honored by the Rockville Chamber of Commerce at their annual Public Safety Awards ceremony held on June 14, 2023 at Lakewood Country Club.
Past Chief and current Deputy Chief James Vagonis, First Deputy Chief Christopher Hinde, Captain James Shank, Master Firefighter John McGowan, Firefighter III Ben Chen and Firefighter Ameen Alhamdani were awarded the Meritorious Service Citation for their contributions to RVFD, the residents of Rockville and the surrounding community.
“The Meritorious Service Citation is presented to a member of a public safety organization…who deserves acknowledgement of a duty or task that falls above the normal scope of his or her job or that could easily have gone undone or unnoticed.”
Past Chief James Vagonis was recognized for his 33 years of service to RVFD and for his efforts during his recently concluded term as fire chief. During that time, he developed a cancer awareness program at RVFD, the impetus for which was his own cancer experience due to exposure to toxic chemicals while he was an active firefighter. Fortunately, Chief Vagonis is now cancer free. Among the challenges he faced while chief, which he handled very well, was the COVID-19 pandemic and its affect on fire/rescue service and the RVFD membership, the sudden deaths of RVFD members Capt. Sander Cohen and Deputy Chief Scott Emmons and Chief Vagonis’ good friend and mentor, Chief Alan Hinde.
In addition to his work at RVFD, Chief Vagonis is a district representative to the Board of Directors of the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, a peer evaluator for the yearly command competency evaluations of all Montgomery County fire command officers and a developer of the competency evaluations.
First Deputy Chief Christopher Hinde, a third generation member of RVFD, was recognized for his many responsibilities within RVFD. These include: RVFD logistics and liaison with the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Logistics section; RVFD-owned apparatus maintenance coordinator; new apparatus orientation and training coordinator; Apparatus Committee Chair; firefighter gear inspections and provisioning; RVFD-owned small tools manager; driver training; new officer development and as a member of the RVFD Board of Directors and the Monday night shift chief.
Captain James Shank was recognized for his service and as one of the RVFD members who routinely goes above and beyond to support the mission. As a Life Member, he is not bound by the 600 hours per year duty requirement of all RVFD members, however in 2022, he provided 1,196 duty hours at the station. He responded to requests for staffing multiple time per week. In addition to his duty service, Capt. Shank serves on the House Committee, where he helps coordinate and manage maintenance and repairs on the 57-year old fire station at 380 Hungerford Dr. He was also instrumental in the roll-out of a fire-related cancer screening program for RVFD members.
The minimum standby requirement for RVFD members is about 600 hours per year, served on weekly duty shifts and an every 6-week Saturday shift. Many RVFD members provide more than that time. In 2022, RVFD members provided 111,838 hours of standby staffing. This is in addition to the training requirements for all active members. The following members are recognized for having given the highest number of standby hours in 2022.
- Firefighter II Ameen Elhamdani provided 3,006 hours of standby staffing, in addition to attending the University of Maryland full-time.
- Firefighter III Ben Chen provided 2,864 hours of standby staffing, even though he was on military assignment in Kuwait for 4 months in 2022.
- Master Firefighter John McGowan provided 2,553 hours of staffing while still working full-time at his regular job.
Congratulations to all the awardees.