Heroic firefighters were recently honored during Cleveland Fire Department’s annual banquet while attendees also received updates on the organization’s operations and status.
Calls for service continue to increase and Fire Chief Steve Haun said recently that as the community grows, the fire department is one that is or can be dispatched to virtually any type of emergency.
A number of CFD firefighters have now gone through swiftwater rescue training.
“There are all types of emergencies we go to because of an action taken by one or more of our personnel, a life is saved — whether it’s a fire, medical or technical call,” Haun said.
Torrential rains caused localized flooding in creeks and roadways during the July 4 holiday.
Along the Greenway, waters of Mouse Creek were swift and according to Haun, an inviting adventure for two people.
“It seems two people decided to ride floats down the flooded creek for entertainment. Upon our arrival, two city police officers had attempted to rescue one of the victims,” Haun said.
The officer’s lives were also in danger of being swept away in the raging creek.
A group of CFD firefighters set up a swiftwater team and made the rescue.
“It took everyone there to make this rescue a success,” Haun explained.
CFD firefighters Dennis Duggins, Josh Ensley, Buddy Ford, Tim Hogg, Jeremy Kelly, Josh Lavigne, Tim McCullen, Jason Pennell and Jerry Vandergriff made up the team.
Pennell and Hogg were also honored with first-time Medal of Valor awards for their efforts during the rescue of the two men.
Hogg was also selected by his peers and battalion chiefs as “Firefighter of the Year.”
According to Haun, Station One located on South Ocoee Street responds to one-third of the calls in the city.
Since January, 2,330 calls for service have been answered.
CFD firefighters saved and estimated $44,195,910 in property. A major fire which recently destroyed a polymer materials manufacturing facility caused the estimated fire loss figure to climb to over $2 million this year.
Polymer Components, which was located just off 20th Street south, was consumed by fire within minutes after it was reported.
Several explosions inside the large plant were believed to have aided in fueling the fire which damaged fire apparatus.
No injuries were reported and training of the firefighters came to the forefront in prevention of injuries and assessing the needs of firefighters and resources.
A 39-year veteran will be retiring in December. Steve Clayton began his fire service just after graduating high school.
Clayton has been in charge of what CFD officials tagged the “snorkel” truck.
Haun said Clayton took care of the equipment, and many days could be found polishing the big red, American LaFrance aerial fire attack truck, as well as other pieces of apparatus.
The department honored Clayton by presenting him with the plaque from the snorkel.
Haun presented 16-year veteran Lt. Pete Van Dusen with the “Chief’s Award.”
Haun laughingly told the audience that VanDusen placed seven new firefighters into training for 15 weeks.
“I was privileged to sit and listen to his teaching and he continues to impress me as a person and an officer,” Haun said.
“He took the lead in the day-to-day teaching and also helps in organizing in other areas of daily training,” Haun added regarding VanDusen.
Haun also cited some history of CFD throughout its 118 years as an organized department of the city of Cleveland.
“A study of the old minute books discloses the fact that for many years, Cleveland volunteer firefighters had no official recognition and consisted only of interested citizens who volunteered their services for fighting fires as best they could. The only equipment they had was buckets and quilts,” Haun said.
Ben Achata, Michael Glasgow, Nathan Kuzdzal, Trent Nunnelly, Eric Otis, Cody Vaughn and Alan St. Clair were added to the rolls of CFD and began their careers recently.
“We look forward to their future,” Haun said.
Lt. Craig Foote recognized Zach Reagan with the William Ragsdale Award.
“This award is to a person that has participated in most, if not all, honor guard functions throughout the year … many on short notice, and performed above the normal operations of the honor guard,” Haun said.
Each battalion chief also selected a firefighter from their shifts that “did an outstanding job” throughout the year.
David Allison was chosen by Commander Buddy Smith and Capt. Donnie Sherlin for Battalion One’s award.
Sherlin filled in for Smith while he was on medical leave from the department, according to Haun.
Allison is known as “Mr. HazMat,” due to his extensive knowledge of the handling and prevention of emergencies involving hazardous materials.
Haun also commended firefighters who have taken special training in officer development, extrication, urban search and rescue as well as the swiftwater rescue and HazMat.
Josh Mowery has been fighting fires since 2008.
He was recognized by Battalion Two Commander Greg Hooper for the Battalion Chief’s Award.
Battalion Three Commander Bobby Gaylor presented nine-year veteran T.J. Smith with the Battalion Three distinction. Smith has also been heavily involved in getting CFD firefighters to aid with the Relay For Life activities and raising cancer awareness.
CFD firefighters take part in many community events during their off time.
After reflecting on the history of CFD, Haun said the department “continually strives to be the most professional and prepared department possible, through training, public education and prevention.
“We have always had a running joke … if you don’t know who to call, call the fire department,” Haun said.
“I am blessed with great chief officers to lead the daily operations and a prevention division that has the safety of our people in mind,” Haun said.
While the numbers and statistics, logistics and other elements of CFD increase, so does the training and education of firefighters and their quest to be the best.