South Whidbey Fire/EMS honored volunteer fire fighters and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) at its annual awards dinner on Saturday, March 18 at Useless Bay Golf and Country Club. The event opened with a dramatic  presentation of the colors accompanied on bagpipes played by Central Whidbey Fire Captain Jerry Helm.

Chief H.L. “Rusty” Palmer presented several new honors this year. “These individuals have displayed great integrity, service and trust, which exemplify the values we aspire to provide to our community,” he said. “Special care must be provided by first responders in order to be recognized by these high honors.”

The Lifesaver Medal is one of the five highest awards presented by South Whidbey Fire/EMS. “This medal is given to an individual who, without the direct assistance of any other person, saves the life of another,” according to Chief Palmer. Christina Turnbull-Agnew was named the first recipient of this honor in an emotional presentation where he described her compassion and professionalism during a difficult situation. She was also recognized as District Recruit of the Year.

Letters of Merit with Distinction went to Anne Collins and Robert Frey. Chief Palmer also presented Letters of Merit to Pat McMahon, Alex McMahon and Paul Shimada.

A Unit Citation for exceptional service during a technical rescue went to Trevor Jones, Sean McDougald, Jon Gabelein, Tom Gideon, Chris Blasko, Billy Piepenbrink, Robert Frey, Mari St Amand, Brian Vick, and Jason Laughren.

The Carl Simmons Officer of the Year was presented to Jerry Beck by Commissioner Kenon Simmons. The award is named  to honor his father who volunteered with the department from 1954 to 2005. This year the entire membership voted and chose Beck who retired in January after 22 years of service with South Whidbey Fire/EMS.  

District Firefighter of the Year was Tom Gideon. Station Firefighters honored were Sean McDougald, Station 36; Brian Boyd, Station 33; and AJ Agnew, Station 32. AJ Agnew was also named  District EMT of the year. Station EMT honored were Pat McMahon, Station 36.

Years of service awards were presented to Kenon Simmons for 35 years; Jim Towers and Bill Stolcis for 30 years; Tom Peterson for 20 years and Jennifer Buchholz and Paul Shimada for 10 years.

Trophies for training competitions were presented to Waterball, Team E-31/34: Chuck Baker, Jeff Simmons and Jon Gabelein; Hose Evolution, Station 32: Hershel Rostov, Robbie Husom, Rebekah Pomeroy, AJ Agnew, Brent Davison and Sean Roberts; and Poker Run, Station 33: Brian Boyd, Anne Collins, Caitlin Jones, Skye Newkirk, and Tom Peterson.

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 2,600 calls in 2016, setting another record year for emergency service.  

Photos by Stadler Studio