For any South Whidbey Fire/EMS volunteer firefighter or EMT, awarding one for their service is honoring the entire team.
That’s why when someone like Langley resident Tom Gideon is named firefighter of the year, he’s quick to highlight others’ work.
“It’s a great honor, but everybody’s done a great job all year long,” Gideon said. “It isn’t just one person getting an award, you’re representing the entire fabric and teamwork of the whole organization. You can’t get there without everybody doing their job.”
South Whidbey Fire/EMS officials recognized exemplary volunteers Saturday, March 18 at the district’s annual awards banquet at Useless Bay Golf and Country Club. A litany of awards recognized the district’s best, including firefighter of the year, EMT (emergency medical technician) of the year, officer of the year and more. The awards system was expanded this year to include rookie of the year, recruit of the year and special medals handed out only in special circumstances. Awards were also given to the best of each station on South Whidbey.
District officials and volunteers alike said this year’s awards were more meaningful, since for the first time South Whidbey Fire/EMS awarded the best of the entire district rather than the best of each station. According to Chief Rusty Palmer, awards winners such as Gideon, EMT of the year A.J. Agnew and officer of the year Jerry Beck, to name a few, are the cream of the crop.
“Our volunteers put in over 25,000 hours a year for training and response,” Palmer said. “I’m not a believer of everybody getting a trophy for showing up. But everyone went above and beyond and we wanted to acknowledge that.”
Special praise went out to recruit Christina Turnbull-Agnew, who is still in her one-year probation period. Not only was she named the recruit of the year, Palmer also awarded her with the lifesaver medal. In order to receive the award, a volunteer must save a life on their own without the help of a team. Turnbull-Agnew is the first to receive the award; she saved the life of a family member.
‘The medals are the highest awards and those are going to be very rare because there’s an extreme amount of risk involved,” Palmer said. “It takes a lot to get an award like that.”
Other award winners are as follows: Anne Collins and Robert Frey, letters of merit with distinction; Pat McMahon, Alex McMahon and Paul Shimada, letters of merit. Years of service awards were given to commissioner Kenon Simmons (35 years), Jim Towers and Bill Stolcis (30 years), Tom Peterson (20 years), and Jennifer Buchholz and Paul Shimada (10 years). Awards for individual stations, training competitions and units that gave exceptional service during a rescue were also given.