The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

October 20, 2013

Person of the Week: Burning desire: Richland firefighter reconstructs salute to Old Glory

Frank Sojak

JOHNSTOWN — A broken flagpole at the Richland Township Fire Department once again is proudly flying the American flag thanks to one of the department’s firefighters.

Dennis Rager, a 54-year-veteran of the department, completed a project this summer to reinstall the flagpole.

The flagpole, located beside the fire hall, was knocked down two years ago by a vehicle that was backing up.

The department has plans to build another bay at the site of the flagpole but the project is on hold until funding becomes available, he said.

The project also would include the installation of a flag plaza in front of the building, Rager said. The plaza would contain three flagpoles, one for the American flag, one for the state flag and one for the firefighter flag.

“If you go up and down the street (Scalp Avenue), you see numerous flags flying, and ours wasn’t there,” he said.

“So I took matters into my own hands, and there she flies.”

Rager said as soon as he started to dig a hole for the flagpole, a number of other firefighters came to help.

“We dug a hole, got the cement and put a pipe into the ground,” he said. “A couple of days later, we slid the flagpole into the pipe.”

Rager said they were able to use the broken flagpole by merely cutting off the damaged section.

A township resident then donated a new flag for the flagpole, he said.

The retired truck driver enjoys serving with the fire department.

“I just love helping people in need,” said Rager, who has been responding to emergencies for 54 years. “When people need help, we are there to serve them.”

All the men and women at the fire department are dedicated, he said.

For his efforts at the fire department, Rager is the Person of the Week.

Dave Barker, a former assistant chief of the department, is glad Old Glory is flying again at the fire station.

“I work near the fire station,” he said. “With the flag being gone for a couple of years, there was a hole.

“I’m just grateful and proud knowing that the man who stepped up to the plate saw the need to get the job done.”

Barker said he joined the department in 1969 and that Rager already had been there for several years.

“Back in those days, he was one of the men I admired, looked up to, and patterned myself after while learning to become a firefighter,” he said.

“I put in a number of years as a firefighter and then stepped aside. But Rager was there before me and is still going long after I left.

“You can’t say enough about a man who has put that many years into the fire department.”

Wes Meyers, Richland deputy fire chief, said Rager did a fine job on the project.

The American flag means a lot to the fire department, he said. The department had been wanting to reinstall the flagpole, but one thing or another always held up the project, he said.

“Denny decided to tackle the project and get the flag flying again,” he said.

He also said that Rager has always been a fine firefighter.

“He’s conscientious and always wants to help in any way that he can,” he said.

Frank Sojak is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at

Tribune-Democrat editors select a Person of the Week from nominations made by readers. To nominate someone, call 532-5058, 24 hours a day.