COAL TOWNSHIP, NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY — Less than 48 hours after local firefighters battled a massive wildfire they returned back to the scene, but this time, with a much different purpose.
This story is a testament to all the good things that happen in local communities every day.
It highlights the critical work of first responders and their dedication to helping others.
Flames tore through more than 20 acres of land in Coal Township, Northumberland County. The wildfire spread into the Springfield Cemetery and red fire retardant was sprayed from above.
“A lot of those drops ended up being breezed over onto the tombstones, and if they sit too long it stains them,” said Captain Matt Lauro ofForest Hills Fire Company.
Crews returned to the scene to lend a hand and clean up the cemetery. They tackled the St. Michael’s section on Sunday and came back in full force to clean St. Edward’s on Friday.
“We are a resource in our community and when people have concerns they call us, this is no different. so, we decided to take it upon ourselves to bring our firetruck up here,” added Captain Lauro.
“The parish actually had a concern how they were gonna clean the tombstones off because a lot of the parish are elderly and they don’t have the resources to actually come out and do this,” said Captain Mike Deitz of Coal Township Rescue Squad.
About 20 volunteers from the Gembic Community Service Program helped with the effort. Instead of paying fines for crimes, teens and young adults who have committed summary offenses complete community service projects.
“We have a program where they can work throughout the community doing programs like this at the cemeteries and, or, cutting elderly’s grass,” said John Gembic, Northumberland County Magisterial District Judge.
Fourth-grade Shamokin elementary student Jaeleeani Montalban placed new flags on veterans’ graves.
“My teacher told me about it like it’s a good thing to do, but I’m trying to be productive by helping others and doing the right thing,” says Montalban.
More than 300 flags were donated by the Veterans Association in support of the project.