3 Honored For 40 Years Of Service To Whitfield County Fire Department

Monday, November 13, 2017 - by Mitch Talley

Since 1977, the Whitfield County Fire Department has served the community.

Three of the firefighters who were there from the beginning - Lt. Maurice Moody, Lt. Wayne Saylors, and Assistant Chief Huey Talley - are still active members of the department.

The three men were honored with 40-year service awards during the 40th Annual Firefighter’s Appreciation Banquet held Nov. 7 at the Dalton Golf & Country Club.

Also recognized were Career Firefighter of the Year Nathan Callaway and Firefighter of the Year Chase West.


The awards capped a night of reminiscing about the past, but the department definitely has an eye on the future, too.

“I’m very proud of what has been accomplished in the last few years,” County Commission Chairman Lynn Laughter told the crowd. “When Chief (Carl) Collins retired, we were able to find a great new fire chief in Ed O’Brien. We have new fire engines, two new ladder trucks – which I’ve gotten to ride to the top of one of them, new equipment and gear, Station 11 is being built, plans for Station 12 are underway for next year, and the reduction in our ISO rating from a 5 to a 3 is saving people money on their homeowner’s insurance. I am so proud of that.”

Mr. Laughter thanked all the firefighters for their part in “these great accomplishments,” adding “we’d be remiss if we didn’t thank our citizens for voting in a SPLOST that helped us with a lot of that.”

The chairman called the firefighters “heroes and heroines in every sense of the word.”

“I want to honor you for what you do, but I mostly want to honor you for what you are willing to do,” Laughter said. “You are first responders – you are willing to drop whatever you are doing and literally place yourselves in harm’s way. Very honestly, I have seen your job and I don’t want it. I’m not as brave as you are, and tonight I honor you for your willingness to do that job.”

Chief O’Brien recapped a busy year for his department, noting that at the 2016 banquet, one of the new ladder trucks was on hand for everyone to see.

“Truck 1 had just been delivered – wasn’t in service yet,” the chief said. “Big additions to our fleet were Truck 1 and Truck 8. We did a lot of training and got those in service. Just those two ladder trucks were almost $2 million. It was a heck of an investment, and we appreciate that.”

Mr. O’Brien also said the department hired nine new firefighters last year “to help with our relief staffing so personnel could have a day off and still keep two people on duty to keep all of us safe daily.”

The chief gave credit for the ISO reduction to the staff. “It’s not me,” he said. “It’s all the hard work that you guys do each day out there, your hydrants, your trucks, your inspections that you do – that’s what made the ISO rating what it is today, and I appreciate the hard work of everyone on that.”

Mr. O’Brien also praised the efforts of Jesse Bond, who helped start the Santa in Uniform program last year that provided Christmas presents for underprivileged children with part of the funds from the annual Boot Drive.

“We took the children to Walmart, and they had a gift card for $125 each,” the chief said. “We had a firefighter go with each child through the store. They couldn’t buy all toys – they had to buy some clothes, too. Randy (Kittle, assistant chief) and I stood up at the register helping them check out. I know there were two of the kids that really stuck in our mind. One little girl came through with nothing but school supplies. You give a kid $125, and all she wanted was school supplies, so it really showed that that made a difference for that child.

“And then another girl came through, probably 8 or 9 years old. She had some clothes and toys, but then she had some little clothes, too. It turned out she wanted to buy her little sister something for Christmas. You know we are making a difference in the community, and that’s what it’s about. We’re out there every day 24 hours a day, and it’s the responders, you guys out there in the field who are the ones that make myself and Randy and the command staff look good.”

While 2017 was busy, Mr. O’Brien said, “guess what, ’18’s gonna be wide open, too,” with the opening of Station 11 in Cohutta by mid-year and Station 12 off Riverbend Bend by the end of the year.

Lt. Chris West talked about the department’s new partnership with the Shriners last year, when they teamed up for the first time to hold a Boot Drive. The 2016 Boot Drive collected $20,000, and the groups raised another $19,750 this year. Seventy-five percent of the funds goes to the Shriners’ burn hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the rest goes to the Whitfield firefighters’ Santa in Uniform program.

“This is a great honor for us to be partnering with the Whitfield County Fire Department,” Shriner Potentate Danny Huggins said, noting that four of the Shriners’ 22 hospitals for children across the nation are burn units.

“The one that y’all have chosen to send money to is our Cincinnati burn hospital,” Mr. Huggins said. “That particular hospital is a magnum hospital. There are very few hospitals in the world that ever achieve that rating. We have one of them, and we’re very, very proud of that.”

He said the Shriners provide care for all children, regardless of their ability to pay, “so this money that you’ve given will go to the burn unit in Whitfield County’s name. We thank y’all so much for allowing us to be here; it is an honor to be with you first responders.”

Mr. O’Brien recognized six retired firefighters attending the banquet – Gary Carlock, Owen Brooks, Scott Benson, Mike Cannon, Ron Ownby, and Tommy Jenkins – as well as retired Coroner Bobbie Dixon.

Service awards were presented to several firefighters, including:

30 Years

Lt. Gary Smith and Eng. LaDon West

25 Years

Capt. Jeremy Kittle and Lt. Harold West

20 Years

Firefighter Matt Lowery and Lt. Brett Miller

10 Years

Lt. Jantzen Chance, Lt. Jamie Franks, Eng. Keith Gray, and Eng. Jamie Howard.

5 Years

Engineers Christopher Adams, Jordan Brown, Cody Kendrick, Barry Ownby, Branden Pewitt, and Austin Ridley, and Firefighters Derek Craft and Samantha Splawn.

A silent auction at the banquet raised money for the Whitfield County Benevolence Fund, which was started two years ago by firefighter Mac McFadden to help current and retired firefighters and volunteers and their families who may need assistance. A scholarship is also planned in the name of John Chester, a long-time firefighter who passed away earlier this year.


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