November 24, 2012

Whitfield County honors firefighters at annual banquet

Kendrick named career firefighter of year

By Mitch Talley Whitfield County director of communications

— Allan Kendrick, a 24-year veteran with Station 1, was named Career Firefighter of the Year by the Whitfield County Fire Department.

Kendrick was among the dozens of firefighters honored during the 35th Annual Firefighter’s Appreciation Banquet held Nov. 13 at the Dalton Golf and Country Club.

“(Kendrick) has endlessly been there to help, volunteer, didn’t matter, from becoming a Georgia Fire Academy fire instructor to NPQ (National Professional Qualifications) evaluator to teaching part of the recruit class to helping with anything else,” Assistant Fire Chief Danny Roach said before presenting the award. “He’s the type person that I never had to call and ask; he would call me and ask what he could do.”

Evan Souther of Station 3 was named Rookie Firefighter of the Year, from a field that included Jacob Stanley of Station 2, Caleb Redmond of Station 5 and Ismael Corral of Station 7.

Taylor White of Station 6 was chosen Volunteer Firefighter of the Year. Other nominees were Lee Coker of Station 1, Stacy Newby of Station 2, Jake Warnix of Station 3, Jason Dial of Station 4, Jamie Howard of Station 5, Sam Laney of Station 9 and Ricky Hott of Station 10.

Also singled out for recognition were the seven firefighters who have served the entire 35- year existence of the Whitfield County Fire Department — Huey Talley, Carl Collins, Scott Denson, Maurice Moody, Ron Ownby, Ernie Verhine and Wayne Saylors.

Service awards also were presented to:

• 30 years – Mike Cannon.

• 25 years – LaDon West and Gary Smith.

• 20 years – Jeremy Kittle and Harold West.

• 15 years – Shawn Holmes and Brett Miller.

• 5 years – Jamie Franks, Jamie Howard, Robbie Sewell,  Keith Gray, Tucker Roach, Jantzen Chance and Stacy Newby.

Alan Panter and Christie Tankersley of Hamilton EMS presented the First Responder of the Year award to Jack Townsend.

“You’ve got one of the finest departments, finest first responder networks in the area,” Panter said. “You’ve done well. Our job is much easier with y’all out there. You’re our eyes, our ears, keep us safe and help us through the trials. You help us in a lot of different ways, and if it was up to us, we’d give each of you an award. But we can’t do that. So what we have done is print a ballot out and the employees are the ones that picked this. They’ve put their comments in, and management only tallies the vote. It was good to see and hear those kinds of comments.”

Roach, who serves as training chief, gave a recap of the year’s activities, going back to last November and December when the department put together a search and rescue class, a one-of-a-kind effort that was approved by the Georgia Firefighters Standards and Training Council to be taught here, just like the class at the Fire Academy.

“There were several of our fellow firefighters that endured that class here,” Roach said. “I have to commend each one of them because I’m going to tell you something, if you weren’t there and you weren’t actually experiencing part of what they were enduring, it’s hard to imagine” how tough it was.

Roach said the driver operator training he and Chief Carl Collins have worked on for years has finally begun, with the pilot class for the entire state under way. The 20 driver operator skill sheets developed in Whitfield County were approved as the NPQ skill sheets that are used to test firefighters for driver operators throughout the state, he said.

“We currently have completed this year’s mandated training through the Georgia Firefighters Standards and Training Council,” Roach said. “We do have training that we have to do, but unfortunately a lot of people think all we do is sit around and watch TV and play checkers. Well, that first group that was in my search and rescue class, when we get finished tonight, go around and talk to them and see how their checker game went those nights, and they will be glad to express that to you.”

Roach said the county firefighters have completed all mandatory training with a 98 percent completion rate, “which is great when you have a combination fire department.”

He also said a recruit class with 17 candidates is under way, with all making good progress toward graduation early next year.

“We’ll continue to move forward in the search for fire service excellence,” Roach said. “That’s my goal. I have a passion, and my passion is the fire service. I’m proud to stand before you tonight. My father was the first generation firefighter, I’m a second generation, and both my boys are here, the third generation.”

Roach said the most common injuries in the fire service are hurt feelings. “Too often it is not even the act of hurting feelings but the fear that something could hurt feelings that delays a program, a decision, or an action,” he said. “You must temper yourself, your reactions to critics and criticism if you expect others to respond objectively in the name of progress.”

Roach said he is “really proud” of all Whitfield County firefighters. “They risk their lives daily to protect others, but we need to protect our protectors with the best equipment, training and resources,” he said. “Firefighters are essential to the safety and security of our local communities. We owe it to the men and women to provide them with better training and equipment so that they can do their jobs effectively and safely.”

County Commission Chairman Mike Babb talked to the firefighters during the banquet, saying that he wanted them to know that the board and the community appreciate what they do every day for local citizens.