Balto. Co. firehouse neighbor responded to 600 calls last year

American Legion honors Balto. Co. volunteer firefighter

  • Lt. Mike McKenna, the 2010 Volunteer Fire Fighter of the Year of the Lutherville Volunteer Fire Company.
Lt. Mike McKenna, the 2010 Volunteer Fire Fighter of the Year…
December 11, 2010|By Mary Gail Hare, The Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore County volunteer firefighter of the year was both surprised and humbled when he was awarded the honor last week by the American Legion's Towson Post.

After five years on the force, Michael McKenna is still a relative newcomer to the Lutherville Volunteer Fire Company, where generations of families have given their time since 1909. He said he has the time, energy and willingness to volunteer.

"I know there are many other draws in life, especially family and job," said McKenna, 29. "But I also see this as something I want to do for the rest of my life. I think I will always have time to volunteer."

He works long hours at a demanding job as a sales consultant for T. Rowe Price and often stops in at the station on Bellona Avenue on his way home from work. He has already logged more than 450 fire and emergency calls this year. In 2009, he responded to more than 600 calls, most of which occurred at night and on weekends.

In between fighting fires and rescuing accident victims, McKenna has completed all the rigorous training required of both volunteer and career firefighters. He's also assisted with fundraisers critical to volunteer efforts.

"This is a huge time commitment, particularly the training part, which is the same for all of us," he said.

He followed several family members into this field, he said. His uncles worked for the Baltimore City Fire Department. His brother and brother-in-law volunteer at the Lutherville station. So, when he graduated from Ohio State and moved into an apartment in the neighborhood, volunteering seemed a natural choice, he said.

"This is an opportunity to serve and to give back to my community," McKenna said. "The camaraderie is great here, too. I have made good friends for life."

Responding quickly became a little easier when he became a homeowner.

He chose a house fairly close to the station, which is close enough to the Beltway and Interstate 83 to assist at hundreds of accidents.

"He bought a house that adjoins our property," said John Gochnauer, president of the company, which includes 100 active members. "Maybe that is why he is one of our top five responders. He just can't get away from us."

McKenna added, "The location might have something to do with it."

The volunteer, who "never blows his own horn," has demonstrated leadership and an ability to work willingly with others. That makes him well deserving of the award, Gochnauer said.

"Mike McKenna does his job here well and then is back in the day room with the other volunteers, awaiting another call," he said. "He is the kind of volunteer who will continue with us for a long time to come."

Many rescues stand out in his mind for many different reasons, McKenna said. Once he helped put out a fire at a co-worker's home. He has seen far too many serious accidents, some with fatalities, but he feels he is helping to save lives.

"You try not to take any of this stuff home with you," he said. "But it all makes you value what you do have."

He has also encouraged others to volunteer.

"There really is no better way to give back," he said. "There is a great sense of accomplishment. You see right away the benefit you can be to others."

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