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Franklin firefighters remember fallen member

LONGTIME REMINDER — Franklin firefighter Darin Pizer, front left, and Fire Chief Gerald McClain and Dawson Pizer, Darin’s son and fellow firefighter, stand beneath the nameplate that has served for many years as a reminder of fallen firefighter Duane Craft. Craft and Darin’s father, also named Duane, were among founding members of the Franklin Community Fire Department. -- Warren Scott

WELLSBURG — Members of the Franklin Community Fire Department have taken steps to ensure a late fellow firefighter is remembered for his service while also taking time to thank two natural gas workers for their assistance in containing a recent fire.

Duane Craft, a founding member of the department, will be added to the National Fallen Firefighter Memorial in Emmitsburg, Md., in October.

Fire Chief Gerald McClain said Craft was manning the radio at the fire station during a structure fire in Bethany on Jan. 22, 1978, when he suffered a heart attack.

McClain said though firefighters at the station attempted to revive him, he died while being transported to a local hospital.

Craft, who was 55 at the time of his death, is remembered for his dependability as a radio operator for the department and his hard work as a fundraiser.

Don Baker, another founding member of the department, said poor health later in life kept Craft from going on calls but he remained active manning the radio, maintaining communications among various departments and county officials.

Fred Hervey, a firefighter in the department at the time, said Craft was known for his steady demeanor.

“He handled pressure very well. He was totally calm when he worked the radio,” he said.

Hervey and Baker were among firefighters at the Bethany fire on the night Craft died.

“We were down there and got the fire out. They called us and said, ‘You’ve got to get back to the station’,” Baker recalled.

He added Don Martin, then the department’s chief, said he had a bad feeling about it.

Baker noted Craft had been a fixture at the department since it was founded in 1963. Craft, his brother, Paul; and their father had lived next door to the future fire station, which was built on property owned by Frank Chapman, and their home would later be used for training.

Hervey noted that in the days before the Brooke County fire levy, the department’s station, vehicles and gear were purchased through donations and fundraisers.

Baker noted it took at least three years to establish the station on state Route 27 that continues to serve the department.

In support of such efforts, Craft provided a large truck he and his brother used in their moving business, for a Christmas tree sale held by the department.

Firefighter Darin Pizer, Craft’s nephew, said fellow firefighter Ron Ostrosky administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation until an ambulance arrived but his maternal uncle died soon after.

Craft had established the volunteer department with Pizer’s father, also named Duane, and others

Pizer, who was 14 at the time of Craft’s death, said as his uncle aged, he went to fewer calls but often manned the radio and remained involved “in the business end of it” and could be seen regularly working at the chicken barbecues held by the departments to raise funds.

He noted Craft’s nameplate was hung above the door to the station’s meeting room as a reminder of his service.

“Gerald saw it and that’s how this got started,” said Pizer.

McClain said of Craft’s death while serving the department, “Everybody knew it happened, but it was never formally recognized.”

The fire chief went through years of department records in the station’s basement to find the one logged for the night of Craft’s death so it could be submitted for consideration for the National FallenFirefighter Memorial.

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