Eight Denton firefighters were honored with a “Life Saving Award” during the 2012 Denton Firefighters awards banquet on Saturday night.
David Becker, Cullen Hinshaw, Brandon Boone, Wade Davis, Heath Hudson, Terry Smith, Mike Holdsclaw and Shane Robert were part of a crew that heard a man screaming for help during an apartment fire last September. Upon arrival, firefighters faced two apartments heavily engulfed in flames, as well as an adjacent building in the 3300 block of Fallmeadow Street.
According to the nomination form, police officers on the scene reported that all apartments were evacuated, but before the fire department could stretch a line to begin operations, firefighters heard a man inside yelling for help.
Heat, smoke, pre-existing medical conditions and a double-keyed deadbolt prevented the occupant’s escape.
Nominee notes described how everyone on the scene worked together to force entry and rescue the victim from just inside the door. The man was then transported to a local hospital before being transferred to the burn unit of Parkland Hospital in Dallas.
The coveted 2012 Firefighter of the Year award was presented to Chad Neely for his “logic, reasoning and calm attitude for every situation,” master of ceremonies Shane Robert said.
Neely volunteered to be lead instructor and project facilitator for the newest rookie class. Laughter broke out as fellow co-workers teased Neely for the “special cheerleading workout” he taught during the rookies’ boot camp training.
Neely also took home a leather helmet that was presented to him for taking on the large team of rookies.
Typically, there are only one or two new hires, but this time, there was a group of about 10, Brad Lahart, spokesman for the Denton Fire Department, said Sunday in a phone interview.
Neely took on 40-hour weeks for a month with the group of rookies, so they all chipped in on a gift.
“I don’t have a speech prepared, Neely said after being presented with the leather helmet. “I definitely wasn’t expecting all this, but thank you.”
The annual awards banquet is held to not only honor but also thank those who have gone above and beyond their call of duty.
Guest speaker Tom Nelson, senior pastor of Denton Bible Church, told the crowd one of the reasons he was there was to share his appreciation for the firefighters’ commitment to service.
Nelson, who has two sons who work in civil service — one as a Fort Worth police officer and one with the Secret Service in Washington, D.C. — said he suffered chest pains one day and was saved by some of the same firefighters who stood before him Saturday evening.
“I know what it’s like to have servants that get into harm’s way — I owe you, if you need anything at all, call,” Nelson said.
As the 2012 retirees were presented with silver hatchets commemorating their many years of service with the department, a loud round of applause filled the dining room.
Minutes later, the new 2012 recruits’ badges were pinned, and they were officially sworn in by Fire Chief Ross Chadwick.
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Firefighter of the year: Chad Neely
Officer of the year: Michael Tucker
Rookie of the year: C.J. Hilliard
Employee of the year: Battalion Chief Cort Higgins
Meritorious Service Award #1: Captain David Boozer, Driver Vince Tooley, Driver Jeb Miller, Firefighter Aaron Carver and Firefighter Jeff Dye for taking it upon themselves to improve firefighter safety in the Denton Fire Department.
Meritorious Service Award #2: Acting Captain Vince Tooley, Firefighter Wade Davis, Firefighter Tom Hardy and Firefighter Ray Harder for assisting someone from Kansas City who was trying to get fuel to make it safely to College Station.
Educational Achievement award: Brandon Hillis
Fire dispatcher of the year: Dawn Dallas
Distinguished service medal: Bert Witherspoon
Life saving award: David Becker, Cullen Hinshaw, Brandon Boone, Wade Davis, Heath Hudson, Terry Smith, Mike Holdsclaw and Shane Robert for saving a man during a September apartment fire.