County firefighters celebrate success

VERGENNES — Firefighters from 17 local towns showed up in festive fashion last Wednesday evening for the annual dinner of the Addison County Firefighters Association (ACFA). 
But they weren’t the only ones in attendance at the Addison County Eagles Club. A crew of Canadian firefighters came down to learn what makes Addison County firefighting squads so dynamic.
Mike McKenna, Chief of the North Hatley fire department in Quebec, told the Independent he hasn’t seen such a strong and diverse group of firefighters anywhere else in the state.
“I think it’s really impressive — the range of ages that are still involved in the fire service (in this county). To see guys recognized for 50 years of service is great,” he said. “There are also a lot of new firefighters coming up, fostering the next generation of firefighters, which is essential to the protection of the communities of Vermont.”
What he was most impressed by is the way fire departments from across the county are able to organize themselves under one umbrella, ACFA, to share experiences, learn from each other and celebrate one another’s accomplishments.
“It’s a great organization,” Hatley said about ACFA. “We have 170 members in our county and we don’t do anything like this. One of the reasons we came down … is to start something like this in our county. It’s a really good thing.”
The highlight of the annual dinner is the award ceremony. This year, retired Addison Chief Bernard Dubois presented the lion’s share of the awards.
The Chief Fred Jackman Firefighter of the Year award was presented to Kevin Charbonneau of the Vergennes Fire Department.
Charbannou, who joined the Vergennes department in 1992, is well respected for his technical ability with every piece of fire equipment and drives numerous fire vehicles for his department.
In Charbonneau’s nomination letter, Vergennes Chief James M. Breur wrote, “Kevin is always around and eager to do whatever is needed to be done. He has spent numerous hours supporting the ACFA regional fire school and training seminars. Our department strongly recommends your positive consideration of him for this award, which we feel he is most deserving.”
The Francis Shorkey Chief of the Year award went to Deputy Chief Jon Soter of the Ferrisburgh Fire Department.
Having served the department for more than 20 years, Soter is also an Emergency Medical Technician and a first aid and CPR instructor. He has written numerous grant applications to secure much-needed equipment for his department and serves as a department representative on many local committees.
In Soter’s nomination letter, Chief William Wager of the Ferrisburgh department wrote, “Jon contributes many hours, evenings and weekends to support the fire service … For his long, valued and continuing service to the community, the county and the department, (the Ferrisburgh department) is pleased to nominate Jon Soter for Chief Officer of the year.”
Other award winners this year were:
• Mount Abraham Union High School junior Will Ellwell of Bristol, who won the Chief Ralph Jackman Youth Firefighter of the Year award.
• George Gardner of Ferrisburgh, who won the ACFA Senior Firefighter of the Year award.
• Paul Garrow of Middlebury, who won the ACFA Line Officer of the Year award.
• Pat Shaw of Middlebury, who won the ACFA Emergency Maintenance Technician of the Year award.
• Bill Van Steamburg of Monkton, who was named an ACFA life member.
• Karen Taylor of Ferrisburgh, who was also named an ACFA life member.
• Howard “Buster” Grant of Addison, who was awarded a pin for 50 years of service.
• Michael Collette of Vergennes, who was also awarded a pin for 50 years of service.
• Assistant Chief Dean Gilmore of New Haven, whose name the 42nd Regional Fire School will be dedicated in.
• The Bristol Fire Department, which won the Paul Turpin Training Award for the most hours of recorded training in the county.
Also at the annual dinner, the ACFA reelected the following officials:
• Bill sinks of Weybridge was reelected ACFA president.
• Dave Shaw of Middlebury was reelected ACFA vice president.
• Karen Taylor was reelected ACFA secretary.
• Howard “Buster” Grant was reelected ACFA treasurer.
• And George Gardner was reelected ACFA auditor.
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected].

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