Before they could enjoy their own awards banquet, McDuffie County Fire Fighters had to leave in response to a call.
"Sorry for the hold up, but when duty calls, we have to respond," Chief Bruce Tanner told the waiting crowd.
Chief Bruce Tanner (center) presents awards to (left-right) Preston Ashley for Firefighter of the Year, and Jamie Sewell, Jimmy Newsome, and Lawrence Bruce for 15 years service.
Approximately 50 people, including firefighters, their families and friends, gathered for the ninth annual Firefighter Recognition and Awards Banquet Saturday evening at The Depot.
Special guests recognized were Herman McTier for supplying automobiles for extraction training, and Rev. Fred Favors for his support of the fire department with the McDuffie County Board of Commissioners.
"We need the support of our community, and these men are always there for us," Chief Tanner said.
The chief also thanked the family members of the firefighters for their sacrifices, such as interrupted sleep during the night.
The meal of ham, chicken, pot pie, salads, country vegetables, cobbler and banana pudding was prepared by Ernest Quattlebaum. Mr. Quattlebaum is the department head of EMS authority at Augusta Tech. Mr. Quattlebaum has prepared the banquet meal every year, and said he "just does it for fun, to relieve stress."
The 2005 Firefighter of the Year was awarded to Preston Ashley.
"He is as dedicated and dependable as they come," Chief Tanner said of Mr. Ashley. "He restocks the station equipment trucks and sets an example for new recruits."
Preston Ashley receives the Firefighter of the Year award from Chief Bruce Tanner.
Chief Tanner said Mr. Ashley has been with the department since Feb. 2003, and has completed the air med landing zone class, rescue specialist, pressurized container fire control, Haz-Mat awareness, infection control, ICES EOC interface, crash victim extrication, module one of firefighter one, MPQ firefighter one, national registry of medical first responder, structural fire control class, and agricultural terrorism class. Mr. Ashley attended 170 calls in 2004. As of Oct. 1 of this year, he had attended 136 calls.
"I was just doing my job," Mr. Ashley said. "I was just doing what I am supposed to do."
Other awards given were 15-year service awards to Lawrence Bruce, Jimmy Newsome, and Jamie Sewell; a 20-year service award to Bubba Gibson; and a 25-year service award to Don Reeves. Recognized for responding to over 100 calls were Preston Ashley, James Mullis, Kevin Perry, Bobby Reynolds and Steven Sewell.
In a review of the year, Chief Tanner said the department has responded to 358 calls so far. Their average daytime response is 9.7 minutes, and nighttime response is 11 minutes.
The Chief acknowledged that many county volunteer firefighters also volunteer with the city of Thomson. He admitted that issues of consolidation are being considered, saying "change is inevitable, and we as a group can direct it in the direction we'd like to see it go." Chief Tanner encouraged the firefighters to remember their past experiences, and use them in the future.
"But we don't want to bring our old grudges into the future with us. I'm here to challenge you to strain those out and bring a spirit of revival into our community," he said. He then advised those involved to "pray the prayer of the Saints: 'O God, Your will, not ours, be done on earth as it is in heaven.'"