FREELAND, WA — South Whidbey Fire/EMS honored volunteer fire fighters and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) at its annual awards dinner earlier this year at Useless Bay Golf and Country Club. The evening opened with the presentation of the colors by Naval Sea Cadets and the Bellingham Pipes and Drums.

South Whidbey resident Spence Byrum gave an interactive exercise and inspiring talk emphasizing the importance of listening, teamwork and problem-solving skills. Byrum is a retired Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander. He is the CEO and co-founder of HRS Consulting, Inc., an expert in adapting High Reliability Organization (HRO) Best Practices from aviation to high risk industries. He has implemented programs for NASA, NATO, the FAA, the Coast Guard and the Department of Transportation, working closely with all branches of the Department of Defense as well as the military forces of the United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium, Canada, Switzerland, Poland, and Greece.

Chief H.L. “Rusty” Palmer presented a Citation of Merit for outstanding peer support to Pat McMahon. Letters of Merit for Service Beyond a Call went to Pat McMahon, Leah Kalahiki and Naomi Blair for their actions following a fatal motor vehicle accident. Another Letter of Merit for Service Beyond a Call went to Dennis Batey.

Years of Service awards were presented to: Chris Blasko for 20 years; Deputy Chief Jon Beck for 15 years; and Kelly McDonald for 5 years. Former Deputy Chief Mike Cotton who retired this year was honored for his 27 years with the department.

Recently retired fire commissioner Kenon Simmons was recognized for his 38 years of service. In memory of his father, Simmons also presented the Carl Simmons Officer of the Year to Captain Tom Gideon of Station 36 in Bayview. Carl Simmons volunteered with the department from 1954 to 2005.

Certificates of Merit went to Paul Shimada for organizing the department’s community outreach Santa’s Sleigh and Jon Gabelein for coordinating the department’s participation in the Polar Bear Plunge. Unit Citations for Exceptional Service went to Michael O’Brien and Ken Lindenstein for their role in overseeing the department’s maintenance program.

Additional award winners include District Firefighter of the Year Brian Boyd; District Recruit of the Year Cody Wilkie; District Rookie of the Year Jesse Jennings; and District EMT of the Year Naomi Blair.  EMTs Pat MacMahon and Judith Canfield were also recognized by their stations.

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

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