Front lines | ‘The community admires him’: New Summerhill fire chief introduced to emergency services during 1977 flood | Local News

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SUMMERHILL — Larry Pentazer’s baptism into the fire service came when tragedy struck on July 19, 1977. A thunderstorm hit the Johnstown area, dumping nearly 12 inches of rain in 24 hours.

Her older brother, Dan, was a firefighter at the time.

“I was 10 when the 1977 flood hit,” Pentazer said. “The Army National Guard was coming in with their water buffaloes. My older brother told me and a friend of mine to help with clean water.

“They had a hose on the hydrant here and one of us was climbing on the water buffalo with a nozzle and the other was opening the hydrant. They brought the water where they needed it,” he said. “That’s how it all started for me with something as simple as filling water buffaloes.”

Pentazer was elected fire chief for the Summerhill Borough Volunteer Fire Company in January after Bob Burkett retired.

A 1985 graduate of Forest Hills High School, he served five years in the United States Navy and is currently a Cambria County 911 supervisor.

Pentazer joined the fire department at 16 and has been a volunteer firefighter for 39 years.

During this time, Pentazer held all senior officer positions, including Deputy Fire Chief for 17 years and Deputy Fire Chief for three years.

The roots of family heritage run deep in the fire service.

Pentazer’s cousins, Jeff and Ray, are Summerhill volunteers. His sons Matt and Brandon are also volunteer firefighters.

“It’s one of those things where we just grew up in the fire department,” Brandon Pentazer said. “My brother and I were here before we could even walk.

“At 14, I was making calls and training,” he said. “We were here washing trucks and helping with fundraisers. It’s like a second family.

For the fire chief, the community of Summerhill is an extended family. Responding to emergency calls can be difficult when you know those affected, he said.

“I saw all kinds of scenes,” Pentazer said. “I think I’m pretty tough where it doesn’t bother men unless there are kids involved or you know the family.

“It’s a wake-up call,” he said. “My two children come with me in the truck. It could happen at any time.

Pentazer will retire in about two years from the Cambria County 911 center, where he has worked for 23 years. It’s a job he loves.

“They always say if you love your job, you never work a day in your life,” he said. “I really like my job.”

He has no plans to retire from the fire department, which has 23 active members and responds to about 100 calls a year.

The community supports the fire company by participating in fundraisers such as the New Germany Festival of Arts and Crafts and by posting positive messages on the company’s Facebook page, Pentazer said.

“He’s a role model for the department,” Brandon Pentazer said, “and the community looks up to him.”

Patrick Buchnowski is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @PatBuchnowskiTD.

Patrick Buchnowski is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5061. Follow him on Twitter @PatBuchnowskiTD.

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