A most prestigious honor has been bestowed to the staff of the McDuffie-Warren Unit of the Georgia Forestry Commission.
They were named "Unit of The Year for the Northern portion of Georgia" by officials with the Georgia Forestry Commission during special ceremonies held in Macon.
They now join another area forestry unit -- Jefferson-Glascock -- in having been recognized for various outstanding performances as a staff. The neighboring unit was recognized for achievements made during 2009.
"This recognition is real special to our staff, because it shows them that they are being recognized for a job well done," said Gene "Hal" Sharpe, chief ranger of the McDuffie-Warren Unit of the Georgia Forestry Commission. "It means a lot to me that my staff has been recognized in such a special way. It shows you have one of the better units in the state. That in itself is a big honor."
Chief Ranger Sharpe said he learned of the honor from his supervisor, District Ranger Mark Muns during a recent telephone conversation.
"We're very proud of this distinction," said Chief Ranger Sharpe. "It's special anytime you're recognized by your peers."
The McDuffie-Warren County Unit of the Georgia Forestry Commission consists of the following staff members aside from Chief Ranger Sharpe: Ranger 1 David Cheeley; Ranger 1 John Crawford, Jr.; Ranger 1 Chris Cason; and Administrative Assistant Laverne Davis.
"I've got a fine group of people working for me and I'm proud of each one of them," noted Chief Ranger Sharpe.
The McDuffie-Warren Unit of the Georgia Forestry Commission was chosen "Unit of The Year" based on various criteria.
One such reason was based on seedling sales for 2010.
The local unit showed a "great increase" of 191 percent over the previous year.
In addition, staff members of the local unit also host many district-wide training programs and averaged 127 hours per employee for the year -- a 55 percent increase over 2009, despite an increase in overall workload.
The McDuffie-Warren Unit of the Georgia Forestry Commission provided lead instructors for the district in such training as: ATV operation;
208 firebreak installation;
S-233 Tractor plow boss; and
RT-130 firefighter refresher course.
The local unit also provided a district-wide 8-week CDL-OJT training session, which allowed other counties with new employees to focus their training on subjects other than CDL training.
Additionally, the local unit provides additional communications for the lower half of the district and often is the unit that assists with dispatching. Aside from those tasks, the unit has acquired the services of county-paid administrative assistant/dispatcher who handles phone calls and permit notifications from different counties.
Other projects that the local unit has been involved with this year includes: building and ground projects at Spirit Creek and the Wilkes Unit; assisted 17 landowners in the county and completed a total of 1,109 acres of Georgia Forestry Commission assisted burns, as well as assisting 55 other landowners with 309 miles of harrowed./plowed breaks.
And last, but certainly not least, local unit staff members invested 140 man-hours in Fire-Wise and prevention programs. Those 67 programs reached a total of 8,516 persons.
Also, staff personnel were able to save a total of 31 homes or outbuildings which were directly threatened in McDuffie and Warren counties by wildfires this year.
The estimated value saved by such suppression efforts totaled $51,073,500.