LAFD Holds Annual Banquet, Honors Firefighters

Bruce Doll / Images of Vision

Each December, the Lowell Area Fire Department holds an annual banquet in which firefighters, officers and their families gather to recognize the achievements of the past 12 months.

Held at The Fairway Event & Banquet Center, this year’s event included a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, a catered meal from Saladino Smoke barbeque and family portraits taken by Bruce Doll of Images of Vision. No taxpayer dollars were spent on the event with an anonymous donor covering the cost of the venue and Fire Chief Shannon Witherell and his wife picking up the tab for the meal as a gift to firefighters.

Here’s a look at who was honored during the evening.

Outstanding Community Supporter

Bruce Doll / Images of Vision

The first award to be presented was new this year: outstanding community supporter. It went to Bruce Doll.

Witherell told Lowell’s First Look that the fire department is fortunate to have many people and businesses support it throughout the year. However, Doll has gone above and beyond in volunteering his time.

“Bruce has been our unofficial photographer for years,” according to Witherell. Doll has taken photos for the department whenever needed – often giving up nights and weekends – and Witherell adds: “He’s never asked for a dime for his talents and services.”

Special Service Awards

Bruce Doll / Images of Vision

Several members of the department were recognized for hitting milestone years of service with the Lowell Area Fire Department. These included the following:

  • 5 Year Award: Firefighter Timothy Hill and Lieutenant Kevin Jones
  • 15 Year Award: Captain Justin Soyka

The LAFD also created an honor guard in February. While they originally expected to have months to prepare for their first event – the Memorial Day Parade – they were called upon in April to serve at a funeral for a former firefighter in Alto. “In very short notice, there were able to organize and train,” Witherell says.

Members of the honor guard include:

  • Kevin Jones
  • James Wieler
  • Tim Hill
  • Nigel Heftye
  • Matthew Harrison
  • Dan Rybiski
  • Jim Oswald

Life Saving Awards

Bruce Doll / Images of Vision

Three members of the Lowell Fire Department received Life Saving Awards which, as their name suggests, recognizes those who responded to a call and provided life-saving aid.

Fire Chief Shannon Witherell, Firefighter Brenda Herron and Firefighter Mike Hoppenrath responded to a call of a young man who was having an anaphylactic reaction to a bee sting and stopped breathing. The three were able to provide the treatment necessary to revive him.

Herron was also recognized for her life-saving response in a separate incident to a man who had suffered cardiac arrest. She was able to revive him as well.

Chief’s Service Award

Bruce Doll / Images of Vision

The Chief’s Service Award typically goes to a firefighter rather than an officer, but Witherell says he broke tradition this year. He awarded the honor to Deputy Chief Cory Velzen in recognition of his commitment to going above and beyond when it comes to training.

“His drive for training has not only helped our department, but it has helped (many others) as well,” Witherell says.

That’s because Velzen completed the training needed to become a live fire instructor. There are very few live fire instructors, according to Witherell, and without one, a department cannot conduct live fire exercises. Now that Velzen has achieved the necessary level of training, he is able to not only ensure the Lowell Department can train with live fire, but he is assisting other local departments as well.

2022 Rookie of the Year

Bruce Doll / Images of Vision

The Lowell Area Fire Department has welcomed a number of new faces in recent years, and from them, Dan Rybiski was selected as the Rookie of the Year.

The award generally goes to someone who has been with the department for fewer than two years, and who has shown themselves committed to the force. In Rybiski’s case, one of the ways he did that was by volunteering as a charter member of the honor guard.

2022 Firefighter of the Year

Bruce Doll / Images of Vision

The top award of the year went to Firefighter Brenda Herron. Since joining the Lowell Area Fire Department two years ago, she has become an integral part of so many activities – from organizing an annual open house and trunk-or-treat to handing out bike flags to kids at Ball’s Softee Crème.

“We look at the total package of what the members are doing,” Witherell explains. In selecting the Firefighter of the Year, the department’s leadership team isn’t just considering the number of calls a person responds to but also how much training and community service they complete. “(Herron) clearly checked all those boxes,” Witherell notes.

Our congratulations to Firefighter Brenda Herron and all those who were honored during the annual banquet.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.