As 2021 winds down, South Whidbey Fire/EMS recently recognized staff and volunteers for their service to the department in 2020. The department also said farewell to three retirees: Chris Blasko with 22 years of service, Eldon Baker with 26 years of service, and Jim Towers with 35 years of service on the line. Towers transitioned in November to serve as a Fire Commissioner.

Years of Service awards were presented to: Chuck Baker and Jon Gabelein for 20 years; Alex McMahon, Heidi Beck and Robbie Husom for 10 years; and Carlee Wilkie for 5 years.

The Carl Simmons Award for Officer of the Year was presented to Leah Kalahiki. The award is named after Carl Simmons, who volunteered with the department from 1954 to 2004, and is presented to an officer who demonstrates exemplary qualities of integrity, service and trust.

Terry Welch was named EMT of the year. Nicole Hagen was named, District Recruit of the Year. Blake Benenati was awarded Rookie of the Year as well as District Firefighter of the Year.

A Unit Citation was presented to Eldon Baker, Leah Kalahiki, Robbie Husom, Sean McDougald, Chris Turner, and Melissa Simmons for their actions following a fatal motor vehicle accident.

Letters of Merit went to Paul Shimada for organizing Drive-Thru Santa’s Sleigh, Brian Boyd and Bill Piepenbrink for setting up the new Check It program, and Neil Rixe for his service as a support member.

Individual Station Firefighters of the Year went to Adam Conley, Station 34 (Langley); Marc Swenson, Station 35 (Saratoga) and Barry Pomeroy, Station 36 (Bayview). Individual Station EMTs of the Year were awarded to Terry Welch, Station 35 (Saratoga) and Dennis Batey, Station 36 (Bayview).

South Whidbey Fire/EMS provides emergency services to 15,600 people over 66 square miles. The fire district has both full-time personnel and volunteers, but relies primarily on volunteers to respond to an average of 2,600 calls a year.