Cumberland Times-News

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July 15, 2014

Traffic control at the fair and beyond

Local fire police cover a variety of situations that range from brush fires to security duty.

CUMBERLAND — Make people happy and keep them safe.

While Dan Williams regularly practices that rule, this week he transformed the motto into a plan of action.

Williams is chief of Allegany County's fire police. The organization includes roughly 50 volunteers, he said.

Many of the group's members are working security duty at the Allegany County Fair.

They operate from an information center manned by a trained dispatcher who controls a series of communications devices including cameras posted across the fairgrounds.

"Our organization is in charge of safety and security inside the fence," he said of patrolling thousands of visitors at the fairgrounds. "We (also) find lost parents and reunite them with their kids."

Fire police applicants must be members of a fire department in the county and meet background check requirements.

"Our main job is to keep the firefighters and the ambulance people that are out on (emergency) calls safe," Williams said.

"That's what (firefighters) do," he said. "They step up no matter what and help each other."

In addition to security and traffic coverage, fire police -- which operate under the sheriff's office -- help with a variety of situations including rock slides and brush fires. They also often work closely with state, county and local police, Williams said.

Recently, two fire policemen had to leave their posts at the fair in order to help route traffic after a tractor trailer caught fire on Interstate 68.

"There's times when we go out for six to eight hours (at a time)," Williams said and added local businesses including restaurants are often generous, donate and deliver items including food to fire police at work. "(Cumberland's) Papa John's has been really good to us."

Gerard McGann and Robert Emerick worked as volunteer security officers at the fair on Tuesday.

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