Annual banquet shows appreciation to firefighters
Being a public servant can be a thankless job, but once a year Minden Fire Chief Kip Mourad goes out of his way to make sure his firefighters and their families know how much they are appreciated.
Catered by Party Express at the Minden Community House, Thursday night's annual Fire Department Dinner Banquet was a time for remembrances, laughs and recognition for jobs well done – past and present.
Mourad recognized many attending firefighters who have retired and read a letter from retired Chief T. C. Bloxom who was unable to attend due to health issues.
"There will always be a special place in my heart for the Minden Fire Department," said Bloxom's letter. "I sincerely appreciate the desire and dedication of members, both past and present, that have given so much of themselves to make Minden a better place for all of us."
Mourad said over the course of 2011, the fire department responded to 260 fires and drills.
"With training this year, we had a total of 2,782 classes," Mourad said. "That was people going to different classes – not just all at once."
The department also had a total of 6,737 hours of training.
Keeping the hydrants cleaned and tested, as well as pre-planning for businesses are parts of a firefighter's job.
"Around 1,500 children either came through the fire station or the men went to their schools and talked to them," Mourad said.
Mayor Bill Robertson congratulated the fire department on reaching a goal of lowering the city's fire rating to a Class 2, which will save homeowners money on insurance.
"If it hadn't been for the firefighters and city crews, I don't believe we ever could have done it – and without Kip doing some things he really needed to do," Robertson said. "I was happy and thrilled – as was the council."
Mourad said his firefighters went above and beyond their call of duty to help the city achieve the rating.
"I'm very proud of every one of you for it," he said. "In the United States, only 45 states reported having cities with Class 2 ratings. Only 535 fire departments out of 47,000 had this rating. For us, that's pretty good."
According to Bloxom's letter, over a period of 40 years, the department was able to take the rating from Class 6 to Class 3.
"It was due to the work of the entire fire department," Bloxom's letter said, as he named many of the past firefighters who were an integral part of the process.
Mourad concluded the banquet with recognition plaques.
"The Fire Chief's Award is the one I pick," Mourad said. "I wanted to give every one of them an award this year because of all the hard work they did going to Class 2 rating – especially the paid men. They were doing work every shift they were on duty."
Mourad, who said he couldn't decide on one person, presented the first award to Guy Mandino.
"Guy does more than anybody at that fire station," Mourad said. "He's our computer whiz – he goes over and above on everything."
The second Fire Chief's Award was presented to Eric Lee, who does double duty with the fire department and the City of Minden.
"Eric worked many, many hours on our hydrant system," Mourad said. "I can't tell you how much he did to help us get that rating."
According to Mourad, the firemen vote on who they want to be awarded Paid Firefighter of the Year and Volunteer firefighter of the Year.
Unable to attend the banquet Thursday was Lonnie Gray, who was awarded Volunteer firefighter of the Year.
"He's going to have to come see me to get it (the award)," Mourad said.
The chief ended the evening by presenting Paid Firefighter of the Year honors to Tommy John Hughes.