A “Family of Responders”

Timberline Fire Protection District Awards

By Patty Unruh

The Timberline Fire Protection District held its second annual awards banquet on Saturday, April 13 at Roy’s Last Shot.

The firefighters, family members, board of directors, High Country Auxiliary volunteers, and a number of other guests broke the ice with a tasty array of appetizers and beverages. Dinner entrees and sides were generous and delicious: beef with gravy, rice, chicken, fish, salad bar, and veggies. Of course, one could always skip the health food and go straight for dessert – tempting pies, cakes, and ice cream. The food was complemented by lovely floral bouquets, and the servers moved quietly among the tables, providing guests’ every need. A video played showing clips of the past year in Timberline firefighting.

When everyone was too full to eat any more, Rick Wenzel, President of the Timberline Board of Directors, thanked Roy and Barb Stewart of Roy’s Last Shot for the spread and introduced the other board members, who were sitting at the head table: Vice President Jim Crawford, Secretary Paul Onder, Treasurer Chris Samuelson, and Member-at-Large Kay Johnson. He also extended thanks to Business Manager Jennifer Hinderman for all of her help.

Wenzel then turned the ceremony over to Timberline Fire Chief Chris Jennings. 2012 was Jennings’ first official year as chief. He summarized the year by saying that it was challenging and exciting, with lots of changes, including a new generation of fire apparatus and more new equipment coming. The firefighters worked hard at training and were excited to have broken ground on Station 8 on Highway 46 by Golden Gate Park Estates. Jennings mentioned the District’s “Ready, Set, Go” program and other programs.

“There has been a lot happening behind the scenes,” Jennings said. “The changes we’ve made were based on the cooperation of the board and input from many. It’s been a joy to work with this board. They have been phenomenal.”

He thanked the officers of the fire department for all they did during this time of transition, whose support and insight he said had been invaluable.

Jennings introduced special guests, Central City Fire Chief Gary Allen, Black Hawk Fire Chief Don Taylor, and their wives. He related how helpful it had been for Timberline FPD to simply get on the radio and tell them help was needed. “It’s a family of responders, and it takes a lot of manpower.”

Jennings did not overlook retirees and former members. The fire department doesn’t build itself overnight, he said, and thanked them for their previous service and for laying the groundwork.

He also recognized another, often unseen, part of the fire department – the wives, husbands, and children back home. “We don’t know what goes on while we’re out on a call, the stress that those back home feel. Their support is crucial.”

Jennings made sure to include the High Country Auxiliary volunteers, who provided ATVs, items of clothing, and many other necessities, through their annual chili dinner and other fundraising. The Timberline awards dinner and items that were raffled during the evening were largely funded by the Auxiliary, Jennings noted.

After giving recognition to the District’s network of supporters, it was time for the awards. Not all firefighters receiving awards that evening were present.

First was a Special Award to Cody Allen. Allen was driving on Highway 119 and saw signs of smoke and fire coming from the basement of a home. He started banging on doors and waking the occupants. Jennings was forthright in his praise. “He saved lives that day because he got involved and took action even before the fire department could get there.”

Basic certificates were awarded to Eric Becker, Greg Bergin, Cammy Cullar, Shivaun Finn, Alice Frisch, Eric Hartman, Ian Hinderman, Josh Korb, Randy Ralphs, Bob Walsh, and Rick Wenzel. Hartman had accumulated 49 hours of training and also received a Job shirt, a dark blue, long-sleeved shirt with “Timberline Fire” on the back in reflective lettering.

Certificates and Job shirts were also given to those who had 50 or more training hours: Levi Beaudette, Randy Beaudette, David Canfield, John Carder, Mario Casilio, Chris Conway, Curtis Cotter, Jim Crawford, Eric Douglas, Ralph Gould, Emmit Hoyl, Galen Koepke, Caleb Kropf, Jan Lande, Paul Ondr, Lawrence Pearlman, Ryan Roberts, Rob Savoye, Katie Schimanskey, Aaron Skeen, Ian Szymanski, Dave Thompson, Brandon Witte, and Mike Zeilbeck. Skeen also received an award from the Chief for rendering exceptional service in his few months with the department.
Firefighters achieving the honor of “100 Call Club” were Chris Patrick, Cheryl Schimanskey, Chip Smith, and Dennis Whalen. Each received a Job shirt and a 100 Call hat.

Chris Schimanskey received the “200 Call Club” award and was given a Job shirt, a 100 Call hat, and a special 200 Call hat.

Responder of the Year was Jerry Johnson, who received thunderous applause for recognition of his 169 calls. “Last year he was Rookie of the Year,” Jennings stated. Johnson had started serving in the Auxiliary and also received their Leading Responder award and a check.

Chip Smith was awarded Leading Trainer of the Year, and Eric Hartman was selected as Cadet of the Year. Ian Szymanski got the honor of Rookie of the Year.

Station 4 received the Station of the Year award. Jennings smiled as he related that Station 4 was the most organized and cleanest station in the District, “but when I intervened, that went out the window.” He thanked them for hanging in there as an “unofficial clearinghouse of old apparatus.” He recognized that they had moved through six or seven trucks and assured them that they would be getting a very nice piece of equipment that would arrive shortly.

Officer of the Year was awarded to Dennis Whelan for his dedication in over 100 hours of responding.

The Chief’s Award went to Chris Schimanskey. “This one was easy,” Jennings acknowledged. “He is absolutely selfless. If he sees a situation that needs leadership and there is no leader already in place, he is the first to stand up.”

Firefighter of the Year honors went to Jerry Johnson and Dave Canfield. They received checks from the Auxiliary.

Interspersed with the awards were raffles for door prizes for the firefighters. These items included gear bags, rescue pocket knives, t-shirts, and Halligan bars (forcible entry tools used by firefighters and law enforcement).

Gilpinites can all be thankful for the selfless dedication of our volunteer firefighters, who do so much to keep us safe. Jennings closed by saying that it was his honor to be the chief this year. He concluded with the realization, “It takes more than just one firefighter, though. It really takes an entire team.”

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