South Whidbey Fire/EMS honored volunteer fire fighters and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) at its annual awards dinner on Saturday, March 12 at Useless Bay Golf and Country Club. The event opened with a surprise presentation of the colors accompanied on bagpipes played by Central Whidbey Fire Captain Jerry Helm.
A special highlight of the evening was an inspirational speech by guest Rep. Norma Smith of Clinton. She thanked the audience for their trusted service to Whidbey Islands’ residents and visitors. Rep, Smith is very familiar with the risks first responders take. Her husband Steve was killed in 2005 after a medical-transport helicopter he was flying crashed into the water near Edmonds. He had logged more than 8,500 flight hours with Airlift Northwest, which operates a fleet of emergency-transport helicopters and airplanes in Washington.
Seated at the head table were recent department retirees Mike Helland, Don Mason, Andy O’Keefe, Connie Shields and Paul Busch. “Their collective experience with South Whidbey Fire/EMS is nearly 150 years, ” noted Chief H.L. “Rusty” Palmer whose special recognition included formal presentations of helmets and badges.
The Carl Simmons Officers Choice Award was presented to Jim Towers by Commissioner Kenon Simmons, The award is named to honor his father who volunteered with the department from 1954 to 2005. “Each year the officers choose someone who represents the same level of integrity as my father, “he said . “I am honored to present this year’s award to an individual who for 30 years held to the same values as my father, going beyond what is expected of him, ti
me and time again. ” Towers currently serves as captain for both the Saratoga and Langley stations . He has volunteered with the department since 1986.
Anne Collins was awarded Firefighter of the Year. Sean McDonald was presented awards for EMT of the Year and Marine Rescue. Most Inspirational went to Division Chief Wendy Moffatt who joined the department last year. Terry Welch was presented the Star of Life. The award for Fire Prevention/Public Education went to Alex McMahon. Each presenter expressed their respect and described how they drew inspiration from the individual’s dedicated service to the community.
Individual Station Fire Fighters of the Year were: Robert Armstrong, Freeland Station #31; Brent Davison, Clinton Station #32; Anne Collins, Maxwelton Station #33; Will Piepenbrink, Langley Station #34; Terry Welch, Saratoga Station #35; and Tom Gideon Bayview Station #36. The Langley and Saratoga Stations #34 and #35 took first place in training competitions the Poker Run and Hose Evolution. The trophy for winning Water Ball went to Freeland Station #31.
South Whidbey Fire/EMS has provided fire suppression, emergency medical service, marine, and rope rescue to residents and visitors since 1950. Volunteers and staff responded to 2,391 calls in 2015, setting another record year for emergency service.