On Wednesday, July 10, employees and guests of the Salt River Fire Department (SRFD) gathered at Casino Arizona for a lunch and awards presentation recognizing the outstanding employees of 2012. Firefighters and staff were recognized for their hard work and dedication to the department and to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
A Moment of Silence for the Yarnell Hill Firefighters
The event started with a moment of silence in honor of the 19 firefighters who lost their lives in the Yarnell Hill wildfire on June 30. Prayers and best wishes go out to those families on behalf of the SRFD.
SRFD Fire Chief W. Dave Bunce offered some remarks about the tragedy. In addition to a personal loss, the Yarnell fire posed a professional challenge. On June 30, he received a phone call from the Arizona Fire Chiefs Association about the passing of the 19 firefighters and activating the statewide Fire Service Mutual Aid System, where fire departments around the state coordinate to help each other in fighting fires.
“It was just 30 minutes after [the firefighters] passed away,” said Bunce about the call. “I am professional friends with the incident commander, operations sections chief and the division supervisor who were all operating on the fire at the time of the incident, and I knew the hotshot crew superintendent. There were calls made requesting help in coordinating assistance with the Prescott Fire Department.”
Bunce said he spent the next three days focused on doing what he could to assist and support the firefighting activities. The SRFD was asked to take on the response activities in the City of Prescott, as their fire department was suspending operations. A request also came through to the SRFD to provide volunteers to support the vigilant guard at the medical examiner’s office. “It’s a tradition that we never leave our brothers and sisters,” Bunce said.
“I am proud to announce that the [SRPMIC] Council and Administration unanimously supported our desire to assist in Prescott, and on Saturday, July 15, the SRFD [had an] engineer company operating out of one of Prescott’s stations for a 24-hour shift,” said Bunce. “This to me is truly neighbors helping neighbors, and if it wasn’t for Council’s support of our efforts in supporting the Prescott Fire Department, it couldn’t be done.”
After his remarks about the Yarnell Hill fire and supporting the Prescott firefighters, Bunce continued with the awards program.
Going Above and Beyond
“Today we are celebrating the retirement of one of our oldest members, welcoming new members, and recognizing those who have done extraordinary things,” Bunce said.
The first person recognized was Community member Amson Collins. Collins assisted the SRFD and Salt River Police Department in rescuing a young adult and two young children who were stranded on Red Mountain. “Because Collins knew the mountain like the back of his hand, he knew which trails to take in leading the rescuers up to those needing help,” said Bunce. “He [helped take] rescuers up the mountain because he is familiar with the trails and because he is in pretty good shape.”
Robert Hickem of the Victory Acres II Clubhouse was recognized for his quick actions in assisting a young boy who was choking on a sandwich. The boy could not move air through his airway, and Hickem performed the foreign body airway obstruction maneuver. By the time the fire department arrived on scene, the boy was breathing normally with no injuries.
The SRFD also recognized SRPMIC employees who have contributed to making the operations of the SRFD more efficient.
The first was Fleet Services Manager Lorrie Gutierrez, who has worked hard to keep the department’s emergency-response vehicles in top shape. “He’s taken the time to focus on the needs of our apparatus, to personally rebuild and refurbish some of those parts, instruct our personnel on better ways to perform preventive maintenance, and insure that every vehicle meets performance standards,” explained Bunce. “He has done this by constant communication with the fire department and has stayed after hours to get the job done.”
The other governmental employee recognized was Dawn Sinoqui, of the Public Works Department, who, on her own time, helped the SRFD install electronic drawings of the Community’s commercial and government buildings on the computers in the fire trucks. These drawings contain information about fire-control systems and utility shutoff locations for the buildings, as well as any hazardous materials that they may come upon during a call at one of these buildings.
The SRFD also recognized dispatchers Briana Aranda and Luisa Ika for their dedication and extraordinary actions during major incidents involving the Salt River police and fire departments.
“Both have volunteered through special assignments and worked extra hours for special events, such as DUI task forces and spring-training events,” said Bunce. “We would like to thank them for their dedication to keeping us informed and safe.”
The last recognition went to Fire Engineer Paul Bolger for his work refurbishing an old ambulance. Bolgers used his own equipment and material to refurbish the vehicle, which was transformed into the SRFD’s technical rescue team support vehicle.
“His commitment to getting the project completed professionally, on time and within budget (which he didn’t have) is greatly appreciated, and we are all grateful for what he did,” said Bunce.
Retirement, Swearing-In and Awards
Battalion Chief Kervin Miles started out as one of the first firefighters in the SRFD. Now he is retiring after 31 years of service to the Community.
“He was able to watch the department grow from one station to what it is today. He was promoted to captain and then to battalion chief, where he took on extra projects and programs in an effort to better the department,” said Bunce. “Kervin was and is a mentor to those who are new to the fire service and those who are wishing to promote in the fire service. We appreciate and are grateful for his service.”
To ensure that Miles would have some mementos from the SRFD, the department presented him with an axe mounted on a plaque; his last helmet, to remember where he came from; and a shadow box with his last badge. Miles was not able to attend the presentation, so his son, SRFD Firefighter/Paramedic Jared Miles, was presented with the items.
With those who retire, there is now room for new members to come into the department. Two new firefighters, Dylan Bryan and Frank Montiel, were officially welcomed to the SRFD during a quick swearing-in ceremony by Chief Bunce.
Each new firefighter could have the person of his choice pin his badge on his uniform. Daryl Dash was also pinned, to recognize his promotion from captain to battalion chief; his daughter Melania pinned on his badge during the ceremony.
The award for EMT of the Year was presented to Ramon Arenas. This award signifies that the EMT has demonstrated quality and performance that is recognized by his peers to be at a high level.
The Paramedic Award went to Anthony Arnett for his leadership, how he manages day-to-day operations and how he responds to emergency responses and patient care.
“I would like to thank my wife and family for their support. It’s an honor to receive this award,” said Arnett. “It’s always been a passion of mine to take care of others and make sure that others behind me do the same thing.”
The Rookie of the Year award went to John Hattabaugh, and the Firefighter of the Year award was shared by two firefighters, Robert Clark and Anthony Badalamenti, who was recognized for his outstanding work in mentoring Fire Explorers.
“I thank everyone for this. The [Explorers] program wouldn’t be successful if it wasn’t for you all,” said Badalamenti.
Melanie Lake was named Engineer of the Year, and the Frank J. Molina Prevention Award went to Dave Ott for his efforts in fire investigation, code compliance, inspection services and public education. The Officer of the Year was Capt. John Acosta.
Capt. Randy Villa received the Chief Steve Maddox Award for “being technically and tactically proficient, seeking responsibility and taking responsibility for his actions, setting an example, knowing the people and looking out for their well-being, making sound and timely decisions, keeping the people informed, and last training his personnel as a team.”
“He has been a mentor to a number of personnel. He has originated and overseen a number of projects in the department, put on a number of training programs, organized and managed parts of the budget, and more,” said Bunce.