A Bay District firefighter and former chief was recognized for an outstanding fire professional award from his university.

Shawn Downs, who has been serving in the Bay District Volunteer Fire Department for almost 20 years, and was the chief of the department from 2011 until 2013, was the runner-up to Columbia Southern University’s Outstanding Fire Professional Award, which recognizes university fire service students and graduates for their commitment to the industry.

Downs has been attending the online university, where obtained his associate degree in fire science, since 2012. He said he is working on a bachelor’s degree in fire administration as well as a master’s in emergency management at the university.

While he lives in Leonardtown and is still a member of Bay District, Downs is also currently serving as a fire battalion chief for D.C. Fire and EMS in the city. He was tasked with developing the district’s first cancer prevention and reduction plan for firefighters.

“Over the last 10 years or so, we’ve discovered that cancer is killing firefighters more than anything else,” Downs said, adding that he started working on cancer prevention after watching his friends suffer.

“There’s nothing we can do to completely get rid of the risk of cancer for firefighters. It’s always going to be a risk of the job,” Downs said. “But we can take preventative steps.”

Downs said those steps include donning breathing apparatus earlier, changing gear more often, taking regular showers and cleaning byproducts of combustion off equipment.

“I always say, if you were working a shooting or a stabbing, you would clean the blood off of yourself right away. It’s the same with working fires. You want to clean everything off,” Downs said.

Downs said that he has brought his research home to Bay District and across the St. Mary’s County, with departments providing firefighters with a second set of gear and providing gear washing machines at firehouses.

The Distinguished Fire Professional award ultimately went to Casey Jones of Little Rock, Ark., a CSU graduate who developed a training program focused on mitigating the risks associated with firefighter contamination from smoke.

Heritage group gives seed grant to county museums

The Southern Maryland Heritage Consortium has granted a $3,400 seed grant to the Friends of St. Clement’s Island and Piney Point Lighthouse Museums, the nonprofit which supports the two museums, for the Black Diamond Disaster Commemoration Weekend in April, according to a release from the county government.

The Black Diamond was a barge sent to the lower Potomac River following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in April of 1865 in order to keep John Wilkes Booth from crossing the Potomac River. The barge was hit by the Massachusetts, which was headed for Fort Monroe out of Alexandria, Va., that night; 87 lives were lost that night due to the accident.

The St. Clement’s Island Museum will host the commemoration weekend on April 25th and 26th next year, and money from the seed grant will fund a concert by the Federal City Brass Band, a band which performs in period dress, on Civil War-era instruments and with period songbooks, according to the release.

Filmmaker to show Watergate film at college next week

Sherry Jones, writer of the 2003 Emmy-winning PBS documentary “Watergate Plus 30: Shadow of History” will be hosting a showing of the film at St. Mary’s College of Maryland as well as a discussion with William Galston of the Brookings Institution.

The screening will begin at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 19, in Cole Cinema. The event is sponsored by the college’s Center for the Study of Democracy.

Historical society to host open house

St. Mary’s County Historical Society will have an open house on Saturday, Nov. 16, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 41680 Tudor Place in Leonardtown. Join the Unified Committee for Afro-American Contributions to tour the historical society’s headquarters and learn about the collections and resources available to assist in tracing family roots. For more, visit www.UCAConline.org.

Amateur boxing bouts scheduled for Saturday at SMCM

A live, 12-bout boxing exhibition will be held at the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center at St. Mary’s College of Maryland this Saturday afternoon.

Great Mills-based Knowledge Boxing will be hosting the afternoon of amateur boxing at 3 p.m. on Saturday. Advance tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children 10 and under, door tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for children. Doors open at 2 p.m. For more information, call Knowledge Boxing at 301-481-2978 or by email at knowledgeboxing@hotmail.com.

County museums kick in winter hours

The two museums operated by the St. Mary’s County Museum Division, St. Clement’s Island Museum in Colton’s Point and Piney Point Lighthouse Museum & Historic Park in Piney Point, are now operating on winter hours. Through March 24, 2020, the museums will be open daily from noon to 4 p.m.

For more information regarding programs, events, admission prices and more, visit the St. Mary’s County Museum Division’s social media pages at Facebook.com/SCIMuseum or Facebook.com/1836Light.

County parks offer some reduced rates

The St. Mary’s County Museum Division recently announced that it has joined Museums for All, a signature access program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, to encourage people of all backgrounds to visit museums regularly and build lifelong museum-going habits.

The program supports those receiving food assistance, or SNAP benefits, visiting the museums overseen by the St. Mary’s government for $3 per person for the museum and the water taxi (or free admission if just visiting the museum) at St. Clement’s museum and $3 per person at Piney Point museum, up to four people, with the presentation of a SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer card.

Similar free and reduced-price admission is available to eligible members of the public at more than 250 museums across the country and St. Mary’s, including Historic St. Mary’s City and the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum. For more information, visit www.Museums4All.org.

Seniors can learn about Lyme disease

The St. Mary’s County Department of Aging and Human Services’ Northern Senior Activity Center last month was recognized with a Program of Excellence Award: Honorable Mention in the Nutrition and Health Promotions Category from the Maryland Association of Senior Centers for Lyme Action Tool Kits.

The kits were developed to fill a public education and outreach niche for the complex issue of tick-borne disease.

Tool kits are available free of charge to those 50 and older, one per person. For more information, visit www.stmarysmd.com/aging or call 301-475-4200, ext. 71050.