December 1, 2013

Green named Whitfield Career Firefighter of Year at annual banquet

By Mitch Talley Whitfield County director of communications

— Engineer Dennis Green is the 2013 Whitfield County Career Firefighter of the Year.

Green, who has been battling a brain tumor this year, received the award from Assistant Chief Randy Kittle during the 36th annual Whitfield County Firefighters Appreciation Banquet held at the Dalton Golf & Country Club on Nov. 12.

“This subject was faced with adversity,” Kittle said before presenting the award, “and he did what a firefighter does — he never gave up, he kept working, he kept going and he never gave up. I’m so proud of him. It was a unanimous decision that our Firefighter of the Year this year is Dennis Green.”

After receiving a standing ovation from his fellow firefighters, Green said, “I don’t even know how I could ever thank all of y’all enough. I had a rough summer, but I’m on the way somewhat back to normal I hope. Everybody’s stepped up and had to fill my spot for me, and I appreciate it and I love every one of you. Anything I can do, just let me know. Thank you.”

Samantha Splawn, representing Station 9, was selected Volunteer Firefighter of the Year. Other nominees were Lee Coker of Station 1, Branden Pewitt of Station 2, Austin Ridley of Station 3, Jason Dial of Station 4, Darren Howard of Station 5, Jerome Holcomb of Station 6, Andrew Beavers of Station 7, Eric Jenkins of Station 8 and Ricky Hott of Station 10.

Cody Kendrick of Station 1 won Rookie Firefighter of the Year honors. Also nominated were Christopher Adams of Station 2, Jordan Brown of Station 8 and Justin Smith of Station 10.

Service awards were presented to the following:

• 35 years: Randy Kittle, Vernon Ray and Russell Wilson.

• 30 years: Lewis Barefoot and Tim Stephens.

• 25 years: Chris Beavers, Allan Kendrick, J.D. Manly, Tim Suits and Jack Townsend.

• 15 years: Jerome Holcomb and Matt Lowery.

• 10 years: Jesse Bond, Robert Jones, Ranon Lane and Mac MacFadden.

• 5 years: Buddy Chastain, Brandon Cloer, Kevin Coleman, Blake Cook, Sam Hammontree, Richard Hott, Will Mann and Scotty Tate.

Engineer Nathan Saylors received the Hamilton EMS First Responder of the Year award, presented by Rick Cobb.

“This year I’m proud to present the award to a firefighter who has been acknowledged for his professionalism, teamwork, enthusiasm, respectfulness and always initiating patient care interventions impacting the patient’s life properly and resulting in several cardiac arrest saves,” Cobb said, noting that nine other firefighters were also nominated for the award.

“We work closely together (with the fire department), and I believe we have a better working relationship than we’ve ever had,” Cobb said, “and definitely more than most departments in other communities. And it’s because of you that we don’t have turf battles and we’re not on the scene trying to have any kind of squabbles. Most times you’re the first ones to get there and you initiate patient care … and I do appreciate that.”

In his annual remarks, Fire Chief Carl Collins expressed thanks for a team effort that kept the department running smoothly.

“First I want to thank all of our members for all your contributions and dedication, which have made our department a success over the last 36 years,” he said. “Without each and every one of  you and your contributions, we could not have accomplished everything we’ve accomplished over these 36 years. And it will take all of your continued contributions and dedication for this department to continue to grow and be successful.”

The families of the firefighters also earned thanks from the chief.

“I know for a fact without all the families’ support and help at different times, you couldn’t do this job,” Collins said. “I thank y’all very, very much for all you do even if I don’t say it often enough as I should probably.”

The chief also singled out the county commissioners for their support.

“The commissioners have allowed us to make some changes within the department this year that have been really good for the department,” Collins said. “We purchased a new pumper engine, and we’ve got to hire back the three positions that have been frozen for two or three years. We were able to get three new battalion chief positions and a captain of training position, two thermal imaging cameras and numerous other items.

“Operation of this department takes a huge sum of money, and without the knowledge and support of the commissioners, we couldn’t do any of this. They hold the purse strings, and they have been very supportive and as helpful as they could be.”

County Administrator Mark Gibson also drew praise from the chief.

“He has been a real supporter ever since he’s come on board,” Collins said, “and Mark has been a super liaison between us and the board of commissioners. He has worked with us learning what we needed, what we just have to have, what we might could do without until tomorrow, and he has been excellent at taking that back and explaining it to the commissioners and helping us be able to get the money to do these things with.”

Collins thanked assistant chiefs Randy Kittle and Danny Roach for their “daily contributions to the operations and training of our department,” as well as new battalion chiefs Garner Hall, Terry Warnix and John Chester “for taking on their new responsibilities and giving us chief officers out there every shift, every day to improve communications from headquarters down to the station level and give those folks someone to talk to and help solve problems or answer questions.”

The chief also thanked administrative assistant Kim Richards, praised for her efforts to keep the office “running smoothly and efficiently” on a daily basis.

“I want to thank my wife, Brenda, for her support and help for these 36 years of my career. Just like y’all know, if it hadn’t been for her support, I couldn’t have done this job,” Collins said. “It puts a lot of stress at times on families, and if you’ve got a good strong partner and a good strong family that understands, you’re very, very lucky.”

Collins also expressed appreciation for the cooperation of the many agencies the fire department works with on a daily basis, including the Sheriff’s Office, EMS, Road Department, 911, EMA, Dalton Fire, Coroner’s Office and Georgia Forestry.

“I don’t think I have to tell y’all this, but the community should be very thankful for the cooperation between all the local emergency agencies in this county and this area, not only on a daily basis working back and forth but also when a major disaster happens. I’ve been around and dealt with other communities planning, and I can tell you that not all communities are as fortunate as we are. A lot of communities have turf wars, but it’s not that way here. And that’s a good thing for the people we serve, a really good thing, and I’m proud of that.”

The chief also noted that the department has gone through many changes since it began in 1977.

“You kids that have come in in the last 10, 15 years will never fight as much fire as we fought those first years as a department,” Collins said. “Back then when they called and you had a house fire, better put your turnout gear on because you had a house fire when you got there. It wasn’t ‘Oh, grease on the stove, oh, trash can, oh, smoke alarm,’ no, you had a fire and we had a lot of hands-on experience those first years. It’s good that things have improved, building materials, technology — it’s good that y’all won’t probably see as much fire as we have … and it’s bad that you won’t see as much as we have. There’s nothing like that experience to take with you.”

As a department, Collins said the firefighters should expect to continue to see even more changes in the future “and use the change for the growth and improvement and success” of the department.

“Our turnout gear today is no comparison better than what we started with,” he said, “and technology in our trucks is so much better than what we started with. If you were there in the beginning, if you stop and think where we’re at now, it kind of blows your mind to think about, ‘Wow, has all that happened during our time period here?’ And I can’t even imagine, I can’t even begin to imagine what changes the next 36 years will bring. But regardless of what they are, use them to the best of your advantage and the department’s advantage.”

Lastly, Collins repeated a statement  he’s made for years. “Y’all are this department, every one of you, from the newest ones on up to the ones that’s going to get 25, 30-year pins tonight, y’all are this department,” he said. “I can’t run this department by myself. I could walk out that door tonight and the department will continue. That’s the confidence I have, and the faith I have, in y’all. Y’all make the department what it is, but I challenge all of you to continue being the best and never, ever give up. Again, thanks so much to all of you — you’ve made my job as chief a successful and enjoyable one and it’s a privilege to serve with y’all. I look forward to continuing to serve with y’all in good times to come.”