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Donnie Yingling -
38 years of community service

(2/1) After 38 years, Donnie Yingling will be stepping down as Chief of the Harney Fire Department. Chief Yingling’s decision, which he admitted was a hard one, was in part due to health complications he has been experiencing over the past several months. On January 20, the Harney Volunteer Fire Company held its annual award banquet – but this year, it really was a celebration of Chief Yingling’s dedication not only to the Fire Company, but to the Harney community as a whole.

In his time as Chief, Yingling has made the Company one of the most respected in Maryland. Because of Yingling’s leadership, Harney’s Fire Company has long been considered one of the most reliable in Frederick, Carroll, and Adams Counties. The Harney Fire Company is known for their well-trained personnel as well as their top-notch equipment and apparatus. As he begins his retirement, Yingling will be sorely missed by many in the area, but everyone wishes him every success in his retirement.

Chief Yingling first became interested in the Harney Fire Company at a very young age. He grew up just a half mile away from the Harney Fire Hall and was very active in the community. Unfortunately, in his youth, his family’s place of business caught fire, and responding firemen ran out of water and, despite trying their best, were unable to contain the flames. Yingling commented that this experience sparked his interest in the fire company. He ultimately joined the department when he was just sixteen years old. "My father died when I was eleven," Yingling said, "I got some good direction from the people at the fire company." Yingling spent a few years as President before deciding to run for the position of Chief in the yearly elections.

When he was just seventeen years old, Yingling met his future wife at a roller skating event after a Sunday School class. Linda Yingling commented that she has always supported her husband and is proud of the dedication he has for the Harney Fire Company. It was his first love. She also added that her husband stays up to date on certifications and new requirements within the fire company, even taking online classes to ensure his knowledge is kept current.

As a result of his certifications, Yingling became the first EMT in Harney many years ago. Chief Yingling’s son, David Yingling, commented that everyone knows his dad as the "Old Man" and that wherever he goes, all know whom his father is. Ultimately, he said that he would not be the person he is today if it wasn’t for the guidance from his father. Despite all of his individual accomplishments, Yingling emphasized that it was a "we thing" and that "we did it, together."

Wayne Powell, former chief of the Emmitsburg Vigilant Hose Company, spoke highly of Chief Yingling and his service. "Chief Yingling was a consummate professional for his immediate community as well as to all neighboring fire departments," Powell commented. "His ability to anticipate things that could hinder operations or become a serious threat to the health and well-being of firefighters is legendary, plus his keen abilities have always been relied upon when the worst is unfolding."

Powell went on to say that Chief Yingling is loved, day in and day out, by those he serves and those that he commands. "Vigilant Hose Company fire officers and firefighters alike have always known that just by his presence ‘Chief 11’ brings about a ‘calm during the storm’ at emergency scenes day and night." Powell added, "While our VHC friendship with him will endure, his presence on the fire ground will be sorely missed. The men and women of the VHC wish his every success in retirement."

Brothers Lee and Leonard Bowers have been involved with the Harney Fire Department for over 30 years. Lee has been a trustee for 32 years, while Leonard has been the treasurer for 31 years. Both fondly recalled two highlights of Chief Yingling’s journey: when the fire company went to Baltimore to help protect the Pope during his visit to the United States in 1994, and another time in 1995 when Yingling’s team helped to haul water to the site of the West Virginia tire fire. They also commented that Yingling was an inventor, creating a Silo Probe to help with farm fires. His innovation made his company the "go to" for silo fires.

Yingling also served on many committees during his time as Chief and helped organize feeds and fundraisers. Lee commented that the Chief was a great people person, a good talker, and leader, always had good morale, and joked often. Leonard added that everyone joked when the Chief got a smart phone; they didn’t think he needed it because he was already smart. In the end, they both echoed that he would be missed dearly, but everyone hopes that the Chief will continue to stay involved.

Many others offered fond memories of Chief Yingling as well. Kendall Bowers, the youngest fireman in the company, shared a memory about a time when the company was on a call and were putting supplies back in the truck. The truck started to drive away without them, but Chief Yingling was able to get their attention and get them to come back. Louise Strickhouser, a 60-year member of the Ladies Auxiliary, added that he was an "outstanding member of the community."

Yingling was also praised by Charlie Blocher, Vice President for the past fourteen years and Bob Baughman, Recording Secretary, as a great leader. He is a "no nonsense, good leader who stays current on everything, is capable of making good decisions quickly, and always protects his guys," stated Blocher. Numerous people are amazed at the time commitment made by the Chief. Richard Yingling, the Chief’s cousin and the company’s secretary, believed that Yingling was very conscientious about his job, ensuring that if anything went wrong it was fixed.

At the award banquet Chief Yingling was honored with a plaque commemorating his service from Jim Waybright, who has served as the President of the company for 30 years. "Chief Yingling leads by example," Waybright commented, "he is a great guy who runs a great company and is the "go to" guy for improvements." Waybright added that Yingling’s favorite saying was "Let’s not make this emergency our emergency." While honored, Chief Yingling was quick to point out that he was only one of many in the Fire Company and its ongoing success belongs to them all.

Yingling also received a proclamation from Stephen Wantz, Carroll County Commissioner, honoring him for his many years of service. Wantz commended Yingling for how calm he always was, no matter how big the emergency may have been. He also mentioned that Chief Yingling was the most knowledgeable guy he knew about water supply and how to get water out of ponds and streams.

Wantz finished by saying that Yingling was a "great friend, great mentor, and great Chief." Yingling’s time and dedication to the Harney Fire Company will always be valued, respected and honored.

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