For Prairieville Fire Chief Mark Stewart, a firefighter, whether paid or volunteer, should set high standards for professionalism, continuing education and service to the community.
Stewart, whose worked in the fire service for more than 30 years, spoke during the Knights of Columbus annual Firefighter Appreciation Banquet in St. Amant.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re paid or not ... you all perform the same work,” Stewart said.
Stewart, who has been a volunteer and paid firefighter, training officer and part of a disaster mortuary operation response team that deployed to Ground Zero in New York and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, called fire fighting a noble profession that requires dedication and professionalism.
“We should all consider ourselves as professionals,” he said. “We all face the same things out there ... face the same issues and see the same tragedies.”
He said Ascension Parish’s fire service has seen progress in recent years but more change is coming.
He stressed the importance of firefighter training and learning from mistakes and experiences.
Stewart thanked the four Knights of Columbus council who hosted the annual event, now in its 39th year.
“Rarely do you get recognized by your neighbors ... and it’s nice to get the recognition,” he said.
Junior firefighters and firefighters, both paid and volunteer, were honored during the banquet, which is hosted by the St. Theresa, Father James Clement, St. Mark and St. John the Evangelist councils.
Fire District 1 Coordinator Gene Witek read nomination letters sent by fire chiefs and department officials.
The Sorrento Fire Department named Daniel Stover its Junior Firefighter of the Year and Sarah Pinion Firefighter of the Year.
Stover assisted the department with fundraisers, washing trucks and stopped by often to pick up tips from other firefighters, the nomination letter from the department’s chief said.
Pinion was described as “one of the kindest, most caring, hardest working” volunteers at the department.
John Milan won the award from the Fifth Ward Volunteer Fire Department. In addition to his duties as a volunteer firefighter, he works with the department’s annual Christmas program and fed residents during a recent flood.
Galvez-Lake volunteer firefighter Darren Langlois was honored for his commitment to training and hands-on approach in assisting others. He serves as the department’s fire prevention officer, visiting schools and day care centers to educate children about fire prevention.
Galvez-Lake honored Brennen Cook for his work as a junior fireman. Cook is credited with boosting the number of junior firemen volunteering at the department. Cook plans to make fire fighting his career, Witek said.
Jennifer Hebert was honored for her work with the St. Amant Volunteer Fire Department. She has assisted the department by volunteering for several committees and helping with fundraisers. She was been in the top five in fire response call, EMS response, training and work details, Witek said.
The St. Amant department chose Grant Harris for the junior fireman award. Harris attended weekly training sessions and took part in work detail assignments at the station.
The Seventh District award went to Tom Leake. Leake started his fire fighting career 56 years ago in Virginia and has worked his way through the ranks and served as assistant chief and chief of the Gonzales Fire Department and assistant chief at Seventh District, Witek said.
“This man is a living example of a model husband, father, grandfather and brother in the fire service,” Witek said.
The Geismar award went to Maurice Scott. Scott was honored for hits committee to the department and his willingness to cook for department functions.
The Gonzales Department recognized Jeff Jones for his “knowledge, demeanor, determination, consistency and overall execution of his skills” as a firefighter and paramedic.
Kade Kundler received the award for his work as a firefighter and EMT with the Prairieville department.