Two named Firefighters of the Year

Zach Lincoln and Eli Harris were named the 2009 Firefighters of the Year at the annual Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District awards banquet Saturday night.

“Over the past year, these two individuals have either brushed up on their existing skills or attended training courses,” said presenter Greg Mahler, 2008 Firefighter of the Year. “They’ve brought this training and knowledge back to the department and helped train the rest of their fellow firefighters. I know I’ve personally learned a lot from these individuals this past year and their dedication has been greatly appreciated.

Mahler described Lincoln as “a very outgoing person who always portrays a very positive attitude. He is a very intelligent man with a very bright future. I see some of the same similarities in this recipient as I did with another young man who also was aspiring to be a paramedic, who passed through Sweet Home in the early ’90s. His name is John Bradner, and for those who don’t know who he is, he’s currently the fire chief in Albany. This young firefighter has the same potential if he puts his mind to it and sets his goals in that direction.”

He said Harris “can literally do it all, whether he’s building something with Jake or fixing some piece of equipment, he’s constantly striving to make us a better department.

“He is very active with all aspects of rescue, and besides being a good firefighter, he’s also an excellent paramedic. There are times I just stand back and marvel at his work ethic and how valuable of an asset he is to our department.

“Then there are times I think he’s a little crazy, especially when he repels off the top of a perfectly accessible 105-foot ladder on our truck. To him, it’s just another day at the office.

“This firefighter also has a bright future ahead of him.”

Harris is a paid paramedic-firefighter and has been with the department for five years. He grew up in Bend and then served in 82nd Airborne in the same unit fellow firefighter Ronnie Garcia is joining.

He returned to Oregon and started volunteering at Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District and then became an intern, he said. He fell in love with diving and then rescue through the department.

Lincoln moved to Sweet Home from Vermont three years ago for a change of scenery and to do something different. He is a part-time intern medic.

He is currently working on finishing paramedic school at Chemeketa Community College. He recently finished training to qualify as acting in capacity lieutenant and can perform any job in the department.

After completing school, he hopes to go to work as a full-time paramedic-firefighter.

The reason he joined the fire department is cliché, he said. “But I just like helping people.”

Harris settled in Sweet Home with his wife so they could attend school, he said. He missed the camaraderie of the military, so he joined the department on the suggestion of his friend Nick Tyler, who works at Lebanon Fire District.

That camaraderie is why he was interested in the fire service, and it’s what keeps him interested, he said. It’s an extended family.

The award “is a huge blessing,” he said. “And it just kind of reconcretes that family (idea),” he said. He never thought he would be able to call anywhere else home, but that family is why Sweet Home is home.

Other award winners included Rookie of the Year Chris Barnes; Engineer of the Year Jake Alguire; Rescue Technician of the Year Eli Harris; Medic of the Year Jared Huenergardt; and Officer of the Year Eli Harris.

Mahler received the Pride in Ownership Award, which is given for participation, volunteerism, a positive attitude and other criteria. Mahler attended the most calls and drills, 224, in 2009. Dave Trask attended 212.

Employee of the Year was presented to Shannon Pettner.

The Keith Gabriel Humanitarian Award went to Rob Younger.

Fire Chief Mike Beaver presented several certificates of appreciation, awarding them to Shannon Strubhar, Mike Severns, Guy Smith, L&D Construction and Sweet Home Choppers.

The department also handed out tenure awards for his contributions to the community, fire department and School District.

Completing five years of service were James Seward, Eli Harris, Chris Forum, K.C. Cates and Sam Posthuma.

Receiving recognition for 10 years were Kevin Pettner, George Virtue, Bob Burger and Dianna Huenergardt. Randy Whitfield was recognized for 20 years of service.