HMN- Hello fellow hazmatters and welcome back to the Buzz Blog. I want to start of this edition by defining the word legacy. Legacy is:  something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past. One could apply this definition in many different ways to their lives. In fire service terms I believe it boils down to this: You’re only as good as what you leave for the next generation. In other words, leave it better than you found it!!! I find myself in a unique position at my job where I try to remember these words every day (in all facets of life too). My primary role in hazmat operations is to maintain training competencies for approximately 150 members over 4 shifts in 7 different companies. I have had many good influences on my career as a FF and Hazmat Tech. All of these influences knew the secret that I would one day learn. The secret was to LEAVE IT BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT!!!

They knew that passing on knowledge and sharing information was the key to a stronger fire service. In my early years, friends like Jimmy Ewing and Lloyd Beard started me on the path to learning the fire service lessons. After about 10 yrs. of just being a firefighter, I dove in to the world of hazmat. I had no idea I would be able to take the learning this far when I first started this adventure. I have to thank my brother Ray Ryan for facilitating this ride (yes i just did thank him lol). He, Larry Storke and George Hollenbaugh really got this ride started with Cecil County (MD) Hazmat. Little did I know that I would meet a legend that was leaving a legacy like no other. As a member of Cecil County (MD) Hazmat, we would train with members from the Harford County (MD) team. It was during this training that I first got to know Larry Mabe. Larry was serving as a Deputy Chief of the Harford County (MD) Hazmat Team.

He has served many roles to the citizens of Harford Co. including volunteer fire and ems as well as his full time Deputy Chief position. I got to know him even better once I joined his monthly golf group for a whole new set of adventures. You can learn a lot about a person by playing golf with him\her. Joining the golf group every month was one of the best things i ever did. The group is full of great people from many walks of life beyond the fire service. The one common thread between all of them is Larry and his passion for golf. More important than any of this is his love for family. Larry has been married for 38 years to his wife Lou. They have two children with several grandkids that Larry just can’t get enough of spending time with. All aspects of his life involve family. He treats his fire service and golf family as if they were his own. This is truly what his legacy is and I have not even discussed his achievements in the hazmat world.

I recently had the privilege to sit down with Larry to interview him for this blog. We were on the annual golf trip to the Shenvalee Golf Resort in New Market, VA. Larry detailed his career and family (his son Jeremy is also on this trip every year as well) for me. The one thing that stood out to me was the detail he provided me. He could give me specific dates, times and instances from early in his career. The attention to detail should surprise no one if you have had any contact with him at all. Larry started his fire service career in March of 1973 with the Level Vol. FD in MD. Oddly enough, his career began with an interest in the EMS side of the house. He witnessed an event that spurred his desire to join the EMS service. While on a fishing trip to the Susquehanna State Park at the mouth of the Deer Creek, a man had fallen from a log and suffered an MI. A large number of adults and a park ranger made no attempt to help the victim. His desire to never see that happen again got him to join the FD.

He joined on March 3rd, 1973 and passed CPR class the very next day. Completion of the First Aid course took place in October of that same year. It did not take him long to put his first aid training to use. He served as the Aide on 3 calls before noon the following day. Eventually, he found his way to the fire side of the house where he dove in even deeper. Larry only missed 1 fire call that he was available for in the first two years. The only call he missed was a chimney fire on New Year’s Day 1974. Finding more fulfillment, he served in every fire line position from Lieutenant to Fire Chief. Larry continued to find new ways to serve the community as he was hired by Harford Co. Emergency Operations Division. He worked his way up to the position of Deputy Chief. One of his major accomplishments was to serve as building project manager for the new EOC facility from 1994-1998.

The year 1986 saw the passage of SARA Title III. This new set of regulations brought change to Harford County in many ways. In response to SARA Title III and increased growth in the county, the decision was made to form a hazmat response team. A hazmat team was just the tip of the iceberg for the county. All aspects of the SARA Title III legislation were implemented including starting an LEPC, maintaining Tier II’s and enforcement for 100% compliance. Larry was one of the members tasked with a compliance plan as a result of the new legislation. Implementation of the plan was to be completed by Oct. 1987. Forming the new team became a part of this overall plan. The State Fire Marshal’s office handled chemical related hazmat responses pre-1987. Oil and petroleum related responses (especially in waterways) were mitigated by the Maryland Dept. of Environment (MDE). The county finally got control of the hazmat team during that year due to concerns on how these responses were handled by the other agencies. The county administrator and LEPC chairman met with the director of MDE to voice their concerns about hazmat responses in the county. As a result, a phone call was placed to Chief Jim Terrell directing him to start the county’s own hazmat team. The team was made up of 12 members. The members including Larry came from various county agencies and private industry.

Eventually this model did not function as planned for several reasons. Change in the overall agency also brought a change in the team model between 1989 and 1990. Chief Terrell was still in charge during this time and got 5 paid on call positions approved. The team was then shaped to look like the Washington Co. MD team. This proved to be a successful model when compared with the previous one. Larry was one of the key decision makers for the team during this time. Harford County Article 146(bill 90-83) rapidly increased the growth of the hazmat team. The law gave the team right of entry to investigate, monitor remediation and bill for services. Fines of up to $1000 were also able to be levied on responsible parties for noncompliance with reporting and mitigation of spills. By the early 90’s, the hazmat team was growing and prospering due to the efforts of everyone involved. It is no surprise to me that Larry was a large part of this. His attention to detail and anticipation of future needs is just one part of the legacy he has left for the team.

Stay tuned for Part II where I will go into Larry’s contributions to the hazmat community. I will also look at a method of training that he has created and changed the way hazmat teams train. Thanks for reading and see you for Part II.

Photo from left to right: Mitch Vocke, Kevin Ryan, Buddy Schweers and Larry Mabe at Eagles Landing Golf in Ocean City MD

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