Wednesday, March 19, 2014
On their one-year anniversary, firefighters received awards as a handful of cadet explorers – who could be the future of the fire department – received certificates.
Everyone cheered and celebrated the first year of Dorchester County Fire Rescue.
The new department consolidated all nine rural and volunteer fire departments in Dorchester County into one department with a mix of full-time staff and volunteers.
The inaugural Dorchester County Fire Rescue Awards Ceremony was held Feb. 26 at the Dorchester County Career and Technology Center off Schoolhouse Road in Dorchester.
“It’s great to see this many people,” DCFR Chief A.B. Atkinson said. “It says a lot for the uniforms. I’m very excited to see where our department is going. This is a very important time for us.”
Charleston Fire Department’s David Griffin was the guest speaker at the ceremony. He was in the first fire truck that responded to the 2007 Sofa Super Store fire that killed nine firefighters.
He told the audience they have seen the progressive side of the fire service.
He said the Charleston Fire Department is still run by the city but will eventually be in the county like Dorchester.
“You can receive a lot more money,” Griffin said. “With work comes good things, rewards. All we want to do is help people. We didn’t get into it for the fame or the money.”
Griffin said his main message, which he repeated several times, is, “surrender what you are for what you could become.”
DCFR could be a model fire service for the entire country, Griffin said. He added that several of the firefighters there bought uniforms with their own money.
Atkinson then handed out the awards.
The first bobble-head fireman figurine was awarded to David Wager, who had the most calls that year. His son picked up the award for him.
The Hard Hat Award is given to someone who is always there at different projects across the county. This award was given to District Chief Tommy Williams.
The Office of the Year Award was selected by peer nomination and was awarded to District Chief Jack Kirlin.
“He’s done a fantastic job of being there for other firemen,” Atkinson said.
The Chief Officer of the Year Award was also selected by nomination and awarded to Battalion Chief Ben Waring.
The Rookie of the Year Award was given to Herbert Hampton. Atkinson said he spends a lot of time with the department and is well-deserving of the award.
The Firefighter of the Year Award was given to Mike Smith.
“This one was tough,” Atkinson said, adding that deciding factors were call volume and extra duties performed. “It’s well-deserved. He works very hard.”
DCFR tapped into the existing explorer program in St. George. There were 17 total students; seven attend the career and technology school where the awards program was held.
“These are our future fire service,” Waring said. “They’re going to replace us old guys who have grey hair.”
Dorchester County Councilmember George Bailey said he chaired the council safety committee that helped start the new department. He said the county is fortunate to have Atkinson.
Bailey said 54 years ago he was a volunteer at the St. Andrews Fire Department and still has scars from his service. The most calls seemed to come in on Christmas Eve.
He said the new department needs to crawl, walk, then run.
“We’re walking,” Bailey said. “I hope in a year we’ll be running.”
Dorchester County Administrator Jason Ward said he expresses his sincere appreciation to DCFR.
“I think everybody here deserves some kind of award,” District Chief Mark McDonald said.
“We couldn’t do this without the leadership we have,” Kirlin said. “We couldn’t do this without the sacrifice of our families for having us away.”