Barbara Lawlor, Nederland. Wildfires didn’t stand a chance this year. Local fire districts were all over every smoke report, every abandoned campfire, putting out small fires all over the mountains, never giving a single ember the opportunity to blow up.
On Sunday evening, the Nederland Fire Protection District celebrated the pro-active training and maintenance of equipment that occurred in the past year.
Awards were presented to the firefighters who put in the extra effort; the personnel who were always at the scene of an emergency situation.
Although a prize for the jazziest, most outrageous holiday outfit or the ugliest Christmas sweater did not exist, Mike Smith, Charlie Schmidtman and Conor Moran would have won the jackpot. Bretlynn Schmidtman would have won the prize for the Christmas outfit with the most class. They all wore the colors with suave nonchalance and goofy grins.
NFPD chief Rick Dirr donned his chief suit, combed out his white, almost Santa-like beard and put a knot in his tie as he greeted firefighters and their families and friends at the Kathmandu Restaurant for the annual awards dinner.
As guests enjoyed their appetizers, he presented the annual slide show, a visual record of 2017 through the department’s eyes: the accidents, the EMTs tending to patients, the firefighters hoisting hoses in their attacks of the couple of structure fires and the halting of a fairly significant wild land fire on West Magnolia; a cat rescue, a dog rescue, the welcoming of a St. Bernard mascot, local children getting a close-up view of a fire engine, parade trucks and photos of the faces that make up the team that keeps Nederland safe and fire free.
As the appetizer plates were cleared, chief Dirr finished the picture show and began distributing awards.
First, Laurelyn Sayah was given an award for her 15 years of service to the district; Eric Abramson for his 20 years of service. Abramson thanked everyone for the work they do and expressed his pride in the rookies coming up behind him as he approaches the end of his NFPD career. Dirr gave him a cool multi-faceted tool. Ryan Roberts was recognized for reaching his 1000th response in the past year and Bill Baumgartner for showing up at his 1,500th call.
Every time a firefighter responds to a call, his presence is recorded. This year Iain Irwin-Powell attended 56 percent of the calls, 230 of them; Andrew Joslin responded to 34 percent, 139; and Eric Abramson showed up at 31 percent or 128 calls. Each firefighter received $2 per call.
Perennial training is one of the most significant time consumers as firefighters have to be up to date on equipment, technique, medical expertise, teamwork and protocol. Ned firefighters spent many Saturday mornings learning the steps involved in every type of emergency. Rookies got to experience hands on training.
Those who attended the most training sessions are: Jim Harrison, 49; Iain Irwin-Powell, 47 and Ken Kehoe, 46.
The most Volunteer Standby Shift hours awards went to George Newell, 425; Kent Coghill, 291 and Anthony Desalvo, 175.
Those graduating from the Fire Academy included: Anthony Desalvo, Andrew Joslin, Bobby Swanson, Lindsey Sweeney and Jack Giecold.
Those who participated in the Emergency Medical Responder Class and became registered nationally are Larissa Briscombe and Andrew Joslin. Soon to be registered Nationally are: Eric Abramson, Ken Kehoe and Lindsey Sweeney.
The 4 by 4 Award is always a dubious honor. It began in 1997 when a man who was involved in a traffic stop shot himself in the head. As first responders came on the scene they called for someone to bring a four by four, a bandage used to contain bleeding. Rookie firefighter Rob Ramey heard the call and showed up with four pieces of lumber; an act that inspired the award, which is never really sought.
This year’s award went to Lindsey Sweeney who had the misfortune of having a flat tire on the way to one of the Magnolia Road fires. She walked to the site and said, “who do I tell about a flat tire?” Chief Dirr described the tire as a half-eaten bagel.
The Chief’s Award went to Conor Moran for organizing and conducting the EMR class.
When the final piece of chocolate cake was handed out, Chief Dirr directed the group of dedicated firefighters to enjoy themselves.
(Originally published in the December 14, 2017 print edition of The Mountain-Ear.)