For the first time, Loudoun County’s Combined Fire-Rescue System brought both volunteer and career firefighters and emergency medical personnel together in an awards ceremony that celebrated some of the best and bravest in the department.
“You don’t have to pull somebody out of a burning building or rescue somebody out of a car to be a hero in my mind,” said Acting System Chief Keith Johnson. “If you just come to work and do a really god job every day, you’re a hero in my mind.”
Of course, rescuing people from burning buildings and wrecked cars is exactly what many of the people at the ceremony have done time and again.
The most awarded firefighter of the evening was retiring System Chief W. Keith Brower Jr., who was recognized with both the Hall of Fame Award and the John C. Carr, Jr. Memorial Award, which is granted to a member of the system of at least five year who has “displayed outstanding leadership and achievements during their service.”
“Chief Brower has had a dedicated career for the Loudoun County Combined Fire-Rescue system for over 44 years,” said EMS Operations Committee Chairman Al Pacifico. “It is by no means an overstatement to call his knowledge of our department unparalleled due to his past experience as a volunteer, an employee, as well as a leader.” Brower’s firefighting career began as a volunteer in Purcellville in 1973.
The awards also honored people who have been at the heart of some of Loudoun’s most harrowing incidents. The Meritorious Service Award went to seven people who tackled three of 2017’s most difficult situations.
Lt. Jacob Sherer was honored for his role in stopping a gasoline tanker truck crash from getting any worse. Sherer found the truck had been broadsided by a car and was leaking gasoline from a broken valve stem, which could not be stopped by hand. He improvised a way to stop the flow of gasoline with a come-along and ratchet strap, stopping the flow of gasoline.
Alexander and Elizabeth Apple and Jessica Lindsay responded to an incident where two Loudoun County deputies had been shot. Alexander Apple rushed into the home before it had been fully secured, and the three took care of the deputies until more help arrived, helping both deputies survive the incident.
And Lt. Christopher Jenkins, Firefighter EMT Clarence Kidwell, and Firefighter Conor Wright were the three-man swift water rescue team that went out to aid a family from a disabled boat teetering over the edge of the 20-foot drop down Goose Creek dam, having decided the situation was too risky to follow standard practice of waiting for as second boat to deploy. The family was brought to shore safely.
The awards also recognized a family whose quick work saved the life of a neighbor. When a child ran to their house to ask for help, the McCarthy family found their neighbor Robbie Schmand had been trapped under a vehicle and pinned against the foundation of his home.
Sarah McCarthy and her daughter, Meara, took care of the child while Tom McCarthy and son Caleb rushed to lift the car off of Schmand with paving blocks and a 4-ton jack enough for Schmand to start breathing again. They stayed with Schmand until first responders arrived and found him breathing and responsive, and took him away for treatment.
“Tom, Caleb, Sarah and Meara’s quick response, ingenuity and compassion contributed to the saving of their neighbor and friend, and gave his son the chance to grow up with his father,” Johnson said.
After the incident, Schmand wrote a letter to the system chief remarking on the McCarthy’s heroism. The Schmands were at the ceremony seated next to the McCarthys.
And Lt. Greg Southwick was awarded the System Chief’s Commendation for his leadership of his shift in Lansdowne after the untimely loss of one of their shift mates, putting aside his own feelings to make sure his company had the direction and resources required and supporting the family in their grieving and necessary arrangements.
“No officer is prepared for the loss of one of their own employees,” Johnson said. “No promotional test or training can help ease the burden or make it any less stressful.”
County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) told the firefighters, EMTs, paramedics and support staff at the ceremony they are heroes, but entreated them not only to take care of the community, but themselves, their families, and each other.
“Even Superman has his kryptonite,” Randall said. “So know what your kryptonite is and take care of yourself.”
Full List of Awardees
Clark J. Deener Memorial Award: Tracy Lane
Recognizes an EMS member for their significant contribution to the development of the EMS system in Loudoun County.
Leo C. Kelly ALS Instructor Award: John Rice
This award is sponsored by the Loudoun County Emergency Medical Services Council, Inc. with input from the LCFR Training Division. It recognizes an ALS instructor for their dedication and commitment to EMS training including contributions of the training process and program(s).
Robert W. “Hap” Arnold BLS Instructor Award: Stephanie Corbin
This award is sponsored by the Loudoun County Emergency Medical Services Council, Inc. with input from the LCFR Training Division. It recognizes a BLS instructor for their dedication and commitment to EMS training including contributions of the training process and program(s).
Hall of Fame Award:
This award is sponsored by the Fire Operations Committee (FOC) and EMS Operations Committee (EMSOC). It recognizes system members for fire, EMS or direct contributors for outstanding achievement for their many years of service and/or outstanding contributions furthering the advancement of the fire and EMS service in Loudoun County. Nominees must show activities to include contributions to the County as a whole and not to a specific station. Nominees may be recognized for achievement, humanitarian and lifesaving actions.
John C. Carr, Jr. Memorial Award: Bob Dryden and W. Keith Brower, Jr.
This award is sponsored by the Fire Operations Committee (FOC). It recognizes those who have been a member of the LC-CFRS for a minimum of five years and have displayed outstanding leadership and achievements during their service.
Fire Instructor Award: Boyd Morris and Brent Smith
This award is sponsored by the Fire Operations Committee (FOC) and the LCFR Training Division. It recognizes a fire instructor for their dedication and commitment in fire suppression training. Nominee’s activities must include contributions to the fire training process for all system members.
Meritorious Service Award:
This award recognizes a member or members of the LC-CFRS for conspicuous gallantry and bravery at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty, in action involving either fire ground operations or emergency medical services, or under extreme emergency circumstances that directly resulted in the saving of a human life.
Recognizes persons who have made significant contributions to the progress of the LC-CFRS, must include contributions or actions to promote the efforts of the fire and rescue system. The McCarthy family is being recognized for their heroic actions that directly contributed to a positive outcome on an LC-CFRS incident.
System Chief’s Commendation: Greg Southwick
This award recognizes persons who have made significant contributions to the progress of the LC-CFRS. The nominee’s activities must include contributions or actions to promote the efforts of the fire and rescue system ,as well as actions which influence or enhance the efficiency of the system.
EMS Provider of the Year: Jessie Nelson (volunteer) and Donald Vick (career)
This award honors an EMS provider of the system who exemplifies outstanding performance in the day-to-day performance of their duties, and their outstanding service and dedication, which are keeping with the highest traditions of the re and rescue system.
Firefighter of the Year: Karam Mashaal (volunteer) and John “Wes” Howard (career)
This award honors a uniformed member of the system who exemplifies outstanding performance in the day-to-day performance of their duties and their outstanding service and dedication, which are keeping with the highest traditions of the fire and rescue system.
Civilian of the Year: John Boyle and Maria Figueroa Taylor
This award honors a civilian (non-operational or administrative) member of the system who exemplifies outstanding performance in the day-to-day performance of their duties, and their outstanding service and dedication which are keeping with the highest traditions of the fire and rescue system.
Officer of the Year Award: Scott Maple (volunteer) and Christopher Kordek (career)
This award honors an officer of the system who exemplifies outstanding performance in the day-to-day performance of their duties, and their outstanding service and dedication, which are keeping with the highest traditions of the fire and rescue system.
Recruitment and Retention Award: Abena Bonso-Bruce
Previously known as the Leadership Award. This award is sponsored by the Loudoun County Recruitment and Retention Committee. It recognizes members of the LC-CFRS who have demonstrated leadership at multi-agencies or County-wide levels and whose impact greatly influenced newer members of the system.