BARTON — A devoted volunteer firefighter, who served as chief of the Barton Volunteer Fire Rescue Company 19 for 33 years, was honored by Allegany County commissioners Thursday evening.
Wayne Robert Rounds served as chief from 1980-2012 and has been a member of the department since 1970.
Rounds is “one of the anchors” in the county’s volunteer fire service, said Richard L. DeVore, the county’s director of emergency services. “We’ve stood shoulder to shoulder in flooding events, coal accidents and lost ... a friend between us,” DeVore said. Commissioners asked Rounds to say a few words during the meeting.
“It’s been a learning experience,” Rounds said. At the time Rounds wanted to join the fire service, members had to be 21, so Rounds went into the Navy and learned about firefighting while in the service for four years. “I joined the fire department before I got a job,” Rounds said.
Companies everywhere need new members. “Volunteers are sorely needed,” Rounds said. While some incentives exist, the biggest one has nothing to do with tax deductions or money. “The biggest benefit I’ve received is that I’ve helped somebody,” Rounds said.
Rounds said the volunteer service will always be needed in counties like Allegany County.
“I don’t see how the county can pay ... it needs to be done through volunteers,” Rounds said. While the county does have some paid personnel, Rounds thinks the county’s finances wouldn’tallow for a full-time, paid, countywide staff.
“Thank you ... for being a role model,” said Allegany County Commission President Michael McKay.
Rounds is “well respected throughout the public safety community in this county and beyond,” said J. Robert Dick, the county’s public safety division chief.
Rounds helped prepare two generations of firefighters, including members of his own family.
Rounds was issued a citation, signed by all three Allegany County commissioners, to thank him for his service.
Allegany County Commissioners held their regular business meeting in Barton Thursday. The small Barton Town Hall was packed with well-wishers and Rounds’ family members, which include two sons serving in the Cumberland Police Department.
Because Barton is part of the Georges Creek Valley coal area, commisisoners invited Sen. George Edwards to discuss the importance of the coal industry to the area.
Edwards “fights to keep what’s important here in this valley,” said Commissioner Creade Brodie.
There are about 400 employees in the coal industry, Edwards said, but each of those jobs produces at least three related jobs, for a total of as many as 1,200 to 1,500 jobs in the region. “It’s a very important part of the economy,” Edwards said. Revenue from new mining operations are helping pay for a billion dollar cleanup of mines that existed before today’s environmental regulations, Edwards said, so there’s an environmental benefit as well. The high-quality coal produced here has good export value, Edwards said.
“We have a good market ... most of the new mining will be underground,” Edwards said, mentioning a recent classified ad seeking underground miners for a mine in Garrett County. “The wages are good; the benefits are good,” he said.
All Maryland coal production is in Allegany and Garrett counties.
Commisisoners also presented an Allegany County flag to the mayor of Barton, Daniel A. Colmer. Other members of the town government were also at the meeting.
Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.