County firefighters honored for their dedicated service

VERGENNES — Lt. Gov. Phil Scott knows what it means to have one’s life upended by a fire. A year ago a fire struck his business, DuBois Construction, in Middlesex.

In his keynote address at the Addison County Firefighters Association annual meeting at the Eagles Club in Vergennes last Wednesday evening, Scott shared his personal experience of the dedication and bravery of Vermont firefighters. He recounted the heroic efforts he witnessed as firefighters worked through the night and over the course of several days responding to flare-ups.

The experience, Scott said, reminded him of the “true grit of Vermonters, working hand in hand.”

“(Firefighting) is volunteerism at its best, the best of Vermont,” Scott said.

Clad in dress uniforms for the organization’s annual dinner and awards banquet, the scores of men and women who serve the 17 member departments of the ACFA responded warmly to Scott’s remarks.

The ACFA also bid an emotional farewell to its treasurer of 40 years, Howard “Buster” Grant. The Addison firefighter is retiring after decades working on the front line and behind the scenes putting out blazes and making local homes and businesses safer. Grant was presented with a bronze eagle.

“We have a great organization,” Grant told the ACFA community, which included many young cadets. “It’s only as great as we make it. All we need is for you young guys to step forward, have your time, and do the best you can — have it remain as good as it is today.”

AWARDS CEREMONY

The highlight of the annual event is always the awards ceremony. This year, the Firefighter of the Year award was presented to Amos Martin of the Bristol Fire Department.

“It is a rare day when Amos is not there for a training or work detail,” Bristol Assistant Chief Darwin Kimball wrote in Martin’s nomination letter.

Martin, who served for eight years in the New Haven Fire Department, joined the Bristol department in 2010 after moving. He was praised for his volunteerism and quality of work, as well as for co-chairing the site committee for the 2012 ACFA Regional School.

The Chief of the Year award went to Chief Bill Wager of the Ferrisburgh Fire Department, who joined that force as one of the first cadets in Addison County. Wager was praised for making the fire service “a central commitment of his life,” though he also is an emergency medical technician, a Ferrisburgh first responder, and a public safety officer in Vergennes.

“Bill has already dedicated more than 30 years of service to the department and community … (He) may be the perfect example of a community firefighter,” the trustees of the Ferrisburgh department wrote in their nomination letter.

The ACFA Senior Firefighter of the Year award went to Les Champine of the Vergennes Fire Department, who has served for 45 years. He joined the VFD in 1984, and before that served in the New Haven Fire Department for 17 years. Champine was praised for donating thousands of hours in maintenance work and attending numerous classes, and for his involvement in helping the department purchase vehicles.

“Les is a devoted member of our department and is always willing to help make everything easier for us,” Vergennes Chief James Breur wrote.

Other award winners this year included:

•  Trevor Patterson of Ferrisburgh, who won Cadet of the Year.

•  Christopher Dion of the Vergennes Fire Department, who won the Emergency Maintenance Technician of the Year award.

•  Bill Lyons of the New Haven Fire Department, who won the Line Officer of the Year award.

•  Tony Caruso of Ferrisburgh, who won a pin for a life membership.

•  Irwin R. Clark of Addison, who was recognized for 50-plus years of service.

•  Bill Sinks, who also won a life membership as he completed his term as ACFA president.

•  The Vergennes Fire Department, which won the Paul Turpin award for most hours.

•  Chief James Breur of the Vergennes Fire Department, in whose name the 43rd Addison County Regional Fire School will be dedicated.

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