Kilgore and Sabine firefighters have been recognized for going above and beyond the call of duty.
At an awards ceremony Dec. 8, nominees who had been selected by their co-workers in the fire department were singled out for recognition.
Tyler Wallace was named Firefighter of the Year. Assistant Fire Chief Mark Henderson said Wallace was recognized for excellence in public relations, among other qualities.
“He's very good with events and and public relations. We've had many people in the department take notice of that,” Henderson said.
Driver of the Year was awarded to Josh Haynes who took on additional responsibility at the department in the past year and exceeded expectations.
“We had a captain that had to have surgery on his knee,” Henderson said. “Josh was asked to step up to captain for over a year. He really went above and beyond in that position.”
Henderson said Wallace and Haynes received their awards by virtue of popular vote from within the department.
“We sent out an email to the department with who they thought should be nominated. Those were the two that received the most nominations.”
Kilgore Dispatch Supervisor Rachel Rowe was named Communications Specialist of the Year.
“She has been a dispatcher over communications for 19 years and she's very great. She not only does dispatch for the fire department but she is also over the police dispatch, the dispatch for Sabine and for animal control. She stays pretty busy,” Henderson said.
Rescue Unit Member of the Year was Lee Latham.
“He's a Kilgore Rescue Unit volunteer,” said KFD Chief Johnny Bellows. “He's been in the unit about 20 years.”
KFD also bestowed the Chief's Award at the ceremony. This award traditionally is given to a member of the community who lends assistance to the department. This year, the award was given to Kilgore Wal-Mart Store Manager Bridget Taylor.
“We gave it to her because she has consistently, with every disaster we've had in the state, she's called us before we heard of the disaster to say 'Hey, I've got items to donate.' We pick them up and take them to wherever they need to go in the state. She's given us water, blankets, she's helped us when we had the tornadoes in East Texas and Hurricane Harvey,” Bellows said.
Sabine Fire Department also handed out awards to some of its members.
“The Firefighter of the Year is voted internally amongst the firefighters,” said SFD Chief Richard Sisk. “They vote on that based on the criteria of training and accomplishments. The Firefighter of the Year this year is Noah Crawford.”
Sisk said Crawford stood out as deserving of the award because he completed the basic firefighter certification from the Texas Commission of Fire Protection through the Kilgore College Fire Academy and also completed an Emergency Medical Responder course through the Texas Department of State Health Services.
“He's a registered firefighter, a state-commissioned firefighter. That's a lot of work,” Sisk said.
SFD's Responder of the Year was Richard Fesler of Gladewater.
“We recognized him because he responded to, out of our total calls, 68 percent of our calls as a volunteer. He does that on a volunteer basis. He's a retired captain from Gladewater so he brings a lot to the table,” Sisk said.
The Excellence in Mutual Aid award was given to Jason Chamblee for his work to support both departments.
“He's a captain from Kilgore Fire,” Sisk said. “We recognized him because, as fire departments, we all rely on mutual aid so we recognized him because he goes above and beyond when it comes to training and providing guidance and those things to our firefighters and to our volunteers. He comes out after hours and helps provide training.”
One of the most prestigious awards was given to Bellows by Sisk, from one fire department chief to another.
“I did an award for Chief Bellows, for his willingness and his guidance and leadership to our departments and myself,” Sisk said. “He's always there to help and lend his expertise and knowledge to help me in making my decisions. He's really good at that. The award was the 'Distinguished Leadership Award.' On the award it said: 'Presented to Kilgore Chief Johnny bellows for his generous commitment of time, support and inspiration.'”
“He's always there 24 hours a day if I need him or if I need help from his crew and I think he feels that same way about us,” Sisk said.