Those Who Helped
BY KEN LITTLE
The Greeneville Fire Department is quick to respond in the event of an emergency, and the department's inaugural Awards Ceremony and Memorial Service drew a sizable response from an appreciative community Tuesday night.
Several hundred people attended the event at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.
Groups and individuals were recognized by the GFD for making "significant contributions to both the fire department and the community as a whole" in 2013, event emcee Ron Metcalfe said.
Firefighters and others who benefit the fire department were also recognized during the program, which began with bagpipes, a processional march of Greeneville Fire Department members, and presentation of the colors by the fire department's Honor Guard.
Sgt. Christopher Bowers sang the national anthem, and a prayer was offered by Fire Marshal Alan Shipley.
A 'VERY SPECIAL EVENT'
Fire Chief Mark Foulks addressed the crowd prior to the presentation of awards and memorial recognition.
"It is a very special event for us," he said.
Foulks said the families of firefighters, many of whom were in attendance Tuesday night, are also often called to serve in many different ways.
"The sacrifices of the families of firefighters cannot be expressed in words," he said.
The Greeneville Fire Department was formed in 1891 as a volunteer organization, and many changes have been made along the way.
"The 'fire service' is no longer just a fire service. We are an all-hazard response service," Foulks said. "We are no longer a reactive service but a proactive service that strives to prevent fires."
TRAINING IS A PRIORITY
Each member of the fire department receives more hours of high-quality training than firefighters of previous eras, Foulks said.
In the last seven years, the annual average number of fires in Greeneville has declined from more than 40 a year to just 18.
At the same time, he said, "We have not had an injury or an illness that has resulted in a lost workday in more than seven years."
He told Greeneville firefighters their "professionalism and dedication is surpassed by no one."
SERVING THE PUBLIC
Greeneville's firefighters are truly public servants, City Administrator Todd Smith said.
"A public servant is defined by someone's character, when they run into a burning building when everybody else is running out," Smith said.
"The bottom line is, there is something special about a firefighter," he said.
Each Greeneville firefighter, with a description of the individual's professional accomplishments, was introduced to the audience.
In addition to Foulks, 42 firefighters took the stage and were recognized.
Others singled out for their service included Ed Kershaw, the Greeneville attorney who is outgoing chairman of the Greeneville Civil Service Board.
"He did an outstanding job guiding us through a lot of the civil service and human resources procedures," Foulks said.
JUNIOR WOMAN'S CLUB
The 2013 Greeneville Fire Department Community Service Award was presented to the Greeneville Junior Woman's Club.
The award is given "to recognize either individuals or groups within our community who have taken action to help the community by contributing to community safety or enhancing the Greeneville Fire Department through community service."
"The first Community Service Award is presented to a group who, approximately eight years ago, took on a community service project to enhance the appearance of all four Greeneville fire stations," Metcalfe said.
"At the time, the appearance and condition of the fire stations was not very pleasing, and this group provided paint, brushes, buckets, and other materials to paint the inside of all of the stations.
"They also, along with the firefighters, spent numerous hours accomplishing the work of getting the stations updated," he said.
The next Community Service Award was presented to a group "that few people outside of the organization even know of its existence," Metcalfe said.
The award recipient was the Greene County Safety Exchange.
"This group is comprised of business and industry throughout Greene County and is fully committed to improving employee and facility safety for all of its members," Metcalfe said.
The Greene County Safety Exchange hosts bi-monthly meetings of safety managers and industry executives who view presentations and exchange ideas for workplace safety enhancements.
"The success of this group is immense," Metcalfe said.
"Not only have they prevented numerous workplace accidents, but they have had a significant economic impact on industry by reducing lost employee work days."
FIRE CHIEF'S AWARDS
The Greeneville Fire Department 2013 Fire Chief's Award is presented to individuals or organizations who have either donated to or have provided assistance to the Greeneville Fire Department, "which have resulted in significant operational or administrative advancements for the department."
The recipient of the first Greeneville Fire Department's Fire Chief's Award was Laughlin Memorial Hospital, the Laughlin Health Care Foundation, and the Laughlin Memorial Hospital Volunteers.
Another 2013 Greeneville Fire Department Fire Chief's Award was presented to Walters State Community College.
"In 2010, the Greeneville Fire Department began planning for a new mission area of responding to life-threatening emergency medical calls. Due to the way that the fire stations are distributed throughout our community, response times are typically very short.
"Short response times are critical when it comes to life-threatening medical emergencies, and often seconds can make the difference of life or death," Metcalfe said.
During 2010, the majority of Greeneville's firefighters had a lower level of emergency medical certification called First Responder.
"Chief Foulks felt that it was important to adequately provide [training] that the firefighters needed to be licensed at the much more advanced level of Emergency Medical Technician, or EMT.
"But the country was still mired in an economic slowdown, and the Town simply did not have the funds to get numerous firefighters trained and licensed to this level," Metcalfe said.
Two organizations "stepped up to meet the needs of the fire department for this training and licensure to occur," Metcalfe said.
Walters State Community College agreed to host Emergency Medical Technician classes at its Greeneville-Greene County campus, and did so "in an exclusive accelerated format that enabled our firefighters to attend the classes and clinical training necessary for licensure," Metcalfe said.
Laughlin Memorial Hospital and two of its internal organizations, the Laughlin Health Care Foundation and the Laughlin Memorial Hospital Volunteers, provided $45,000 to fund the tuition, books, and fees necessary for the classes and the licensure of the firefighters.
In January 2011, a total of 19 firefighters began EMT classes at the local Campus of Walters State, and by June of that year, all 19 firefighters had completed the classes and had become licensed EMTs.
In July 2011, the fire department began responding to life-threatening emergency medical calls "with at least one, and most of the time two or three, EMTs or paramedics, in an average response time of less than four minutes," Metcalfe said.
"Countless lives have been impacted by this program," he stated.
MEMORIAL SERVICE HELD
A memorial service was also held to recognize all deceased members of the Greenville Fire Department, whether they had died while still active-duty firefighters or after retiring from the department.
The memorial featured a Bell Service, by the Greeneville Fire Department Honor Guard. The bell was rung for deceased firefighters by Administrative Capt. Marty Shelton.
A list of all deceased members of the Greeneville Fire Department, both full-time and volunteer, was included in the program. A moment of silence was held in their honor.
A moving rose ceremony was also held in honor of firefighters who had died while still in active service with the department.
Fortunately, the Greeneville Fire Department has never experienced a line-of-duty death, Metcalfe said.
But having a colleague die while on active duty is also felt deeply by fellow firefighters, he said.
"Simply put, it's like losing a member of the family," Metcalfe stated.
Family members of five Greeneville firefighters who died while on active duty were given roses, which were placed in a vase on a table that held their firefighting helmets.
The firefighters honored were Maynard T. Daniels, who died in 1973; Sgt. Clarence Holt, 1977; Lt. Dean Shipley, 1991; Lt. J.B. Laws, 2003; and Firefighter Matt Stahlin, 2011.
EVENT A SUCCESS
The memorial service and awards ceremony concluded with the removal of colors by the Honor Guard and a bagpipe rendition of "Amazing Grace" by Gary Graham.
"I thought it went really well," Chief Foulks said at the conclusion of the awards ceremony and memorial service.
"We've wanted for years to recognize (firefighters), especially some of the deceased members who died on active duty. We wanted to put this together to recognize the firefighters."
Foulks said he anticipates that the event will be held annually.