Enquirer Herald

Firefighter of Year takes extra steps to help community

HICKORY GROVE -- The same heavy rain that canceled the tractor show and yard sales in Hickory Grove on Saturday kept Matt Gilfillan out most of Friday night on emergency calls.

But that didn't keep him from helping out selling hash and barbecue later Saturday morning.

The 29-year-old was there looking for ways to help because he knows being a fire fighter is about more than battling blazes; it's about helping your community.

Gilfillan has spent his life involved with fire department activities. In addition to fighting fires, he's helped organize the annual Christmas parades and participated in fundraising activities, including events like the hash and barbecue sale.

"We try to give a lot back to the community," Gilfillan said. "They support us in other ways."

Gilfillan was named York County fireman of the year for 2007 because of his dedication and service in Hickory Grove.

One event that showed his versatility was when he was called to Affordable Cuts Salon because a woman was having a heart attack.

Using his emergency medical services skills and an Automated External Defibrillator, he was able to revive the woman.

Saving people and property is something that's always been an interest to Gilfillan, even as a child.

While most babies are kept in a silent room protected from disturbans, Gilfillan was raised with a emergency radio always going in his ear, his mother Anne Gilfillan said.

She remembers once when he was 10 he called his grandmother home from work so she could take him to the scene of a fire.

"He got there and the fire trucks had just gotten there," she said. "The firemen, a couple of them that was on the new trucks, they didn't know how to get the thing to pump the water and there was Matt, about 10 years old, and he did it all for them. He honestly showed them how to pump the water, get the truck primed up, to pump and everything."

When he was 12, Matt Gilfillan officially joined the fire department as a junior member and helped roll hose and change air packs for the older fire fighters.

He's never been able to stop helping at the department and in his community.

"I guess once you get used to going and doing and being able to help, you get really involved in it and you just want to carry on out and do the best you can," he said.

With the heritage of fire fighting in his family, it would have been hard for Gilfillan not to have an interest, though.

His grandfather, Leon Bratton, started the department more than 50 years ago. The volunteer department was housed out of his service station, said Anne Gilfillan of her dad.

If the congregation ever heard the church door open on Sunday, they knew that there must be a fire somewhere and Bratton was needed to help.

"He ruined several suits going and fighting fires from church on Sunday," Anne Gilfillan said.

Now his father, Kenny Gilfillan, is chief of the department.

One of the things Matt Gilfillan said he enjoys is just spending time with the other firefighters, whether it be weed-eating around the fire hydrants or washing down a truck.

"You interact with the people in your community and they see that you're trying to help them in certain ways and do for them," he said. "I think it's good to help your community, because if you don't help the community then when it comes time for us to need some help they're not going to help you."