3 firefighters earn awards for service, performance | CraigDailyPress.com

3 firefighters earn awards for service, performance

Lauren Blair

— Most of the time when they're together, the volunteer firefighters of Craig Fire/Rescue are either responding to an emergency or training to respond. But at the end of every year, the crew takes a break from the seriousness of their duties to celebrate the year's accomplishments.

The Craig Fire/Rescue Christmas Banquet took place Dec. 17 at the Clarion Inn & Suites and three firefighters received special honors. The 2016 Firefighter of the Year award went to Jesse Doolin. Annie Sauer was recognized as Rookie of the Year and James St. Louis received the Unsung Hero award.

"If I needed something, these are one of the three that I can go to and expect to get it done," said Batallion Chief Troy Hampton. "Whether it's PR, help with some training, they're willing to step up, there's no hesitation… They're always on call and always willing to learn, always jumping in, not ones to stand back."

Craig Fire/Rescue is currently 29 firefighters strong, and many firefighters serve for years or even decades before earning one of these honors.

"We've had people that have been there 20-something years without receiving an award, so when you do receive something like that, it's really a big accomplishment," Hampton said.

Doolin certainly didn't expect to earn the designation of Firefighter of the Year, this being his second year of serving as a firefighter.

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"I was surprised," Doolin said. "I'm excited, that my peers would vote for me, being so new to the department… I was pretty taken that they thought of me for it."

Doolin, who has young kids himself, put in a lot of extra time in the schools this past year, doing inspections and teaching kindergarteners and preschoolers about fire prevention. And he's not the only one who's had to make sacrifices and adjustments since he joined the department.

"If I'm at my kid's games, if the pager goes off, I have to leave," Doolin said. "Or when we're shopping at City Market. My wife drives herself now because she doesn't want to get left. We drive separate cars everywhere we go."

The honorees are each selected by Fire Chief KC Hume from nominations sent in by members of the department. During the banquet, the crew also recognizes the year's most significant accomplishments, such as noteworthy rescues, and caps it all off with a slideshow.

"There are some pictures in there that really touch you," Hampton said. "It's a really neat thing to see."

But at the end of the day, it's what happens in the regular moments that make volunteer firefighting worthwhile for Doolin.

"(It's about) being able to be there to help somebody on their worst day, because nobody calls us for birthday parties," he said. "And just the camaraderie of the guys, it's like a second family."

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1795 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @LaurenBNews.