Lifestyle

North Whidbey firefighters recognize their own

From left: Officer of the Year Sherri Brown, Firefighter of the Year Scott Lanier, Chief’s Award-winner Chad Petersen and EMS of the Year Ed Klaszky. - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
From left: Officer of the Year Sherri Brown, Firefighter of the Year Scott Lanier, Chief’s Award-winner Chad Petersen and EMS of the Year Ed Klaszky.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

The men and women who volunteer their time to ensure the safety of the North Whidbey community enjoyed a little reprieve Monday evening at the annual North Whidbey Fire and Rescue Awards Dinner.

The crew shared laughs over a year-in-review photo slideshow of their triumphs, tribulations and countless hours of training. Inside jokes, tough-love knocks and the reminder of incidents that a few could only hope would disappear as distant memories peppered the ceremony, which carried the tenor of a big family gathering.

North Whidbey Fire and Rescue wouldn’t be what is without the dedication of its volunteer and paid-on-call firefighters, said Chief Marv Koorn, who thanked the families for their patience when their spouses leave for an emergency call, sometimes amid important events such as birthday or anniversary celebrations.

Koorn praised four members of the department for their exceptional efforts.

Over the past year several people performed a head above the rest, he said.

Sherri Brown, a four-year veteran of the department, earned Officer of the Year, an honor that’s based on the input of fellow officers, Koorn said.

“She’s done a lot of training, volunteered to do extra things, makes sure every call is covered while she’s on-duty and writes up all the reports,” he said.

“She’s really willing to step up,” he said.

Ed Klaszky, who was hired by the Oak Harbor Fire Department late last year as its newest full-time firefighter, garnered the EMS of the Year award for responding to the greatest number of calls in 2009. Klaszky has been with North Whidbey for five years.

“We’ve had several people try to work for both departments and nobody’s been able to pull if off except this guy,” Koorn said in a interview last week.

Chad Petersen earned the Chief’s Award for his effort to implement a paid-on-call, or POC, program at the Monroe Landing Road Station.

“Chad was instrumental in getting the POC program up and running at Station 27,” Koorn said. Peterson spent a lot of time organizing the program and writing policies, Koorn said, which ultimately made the chief’s job easier.

The coveted Firefighter of the Year award went to Scott Lanier for the extra time and energy he’s given to the department.

“I don’t know how he has time for anything else,” Koorn said.

A member of the high angle and water rescue teams, Lanier consistently went above and beyond this year, he said.

With the help of Jimmy Kupinski and Petersen, Lanier spent several weekends educating and testing a group of colleagues on technical ropes rescue.

“He really put a lot of extra time and effort into getting people trained,” Koorn said of the 12-member high angle rescue team. Lanier and Petersen have been with North Whidbey for five years.

Koorn awarded certificates for outstanding service to Steve Cope, Frank Valencic, James Zimmerman, Mike Myrum, Steve Singleton, James O’Connor and Jay Hatter.

North Whidbey Fire and Rescue personnel ran 1,564 calls in 2009, up 59 calls from the previous year, according to the department’s call history. Fire calls rose 4 percent from 2008 to 2009, Koorn said. False calls declined from 75 to 50 over the same period, while the department’s response to severe weather and service calls increased.

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