Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue personnel were honored at the department's annual meeting Monday.
"Tonight, I've seen the results of bravery in action," said Harold Lewis, a former volunteer firefighter and Columbia County resident who attended the meeting at the headquarters station. "Every firefighter here is as brave as any soldier overseas.
"Every time you go out on that fire truck, you're putting yourself in the line of fire. I appreciate that very much."
The department also honored several of its own.
The meeting was the last for Mort Lindner, the outgoing board president. He retired after 34 years as a volunteer with the department.
"I'm really honored to have been in the presence of so many fine, professional people in my 34 years," Lindner said.
Chief Doug Cooper said Lindner was always someone he could call when help was needed.
Cooper also named Capt. Brent Willis as the department's 2010 Firefighter of the Year.
"I've had to run him off from the fire station before," Cooper said of Willis' dedication.
Cooper said the choice was difficult because he felt like all of his firefighters deserve to be the firefighter of the year.
"We all work together as a brotherhood," Willis said, thanking his fellow firefighters and others for their support. "I have to share this award with my wife."
Volunteer firefighter Troy Fields was named the 2010 Volunteer Firefighter of the Year.
"No problem," was all Fields said as he accepted the award and Cooper's thanks.
But all of the department volunteers are appreciated, Assistant Chief James Champion said.
He said that from July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010, volunteers worked nearly 1,500 12-hour shifts, trained for more than 1,400 hours, and spent more than 1,000 hours at fire and other emergency scenes.
"This is a real dedicated group of individuals who do this job," Champion said.
Financially, the department is doing well. It boasts a nearly $9 million budget to operate 14 stations manned 24 hours each day and two unmanned stations covering the unincorporated areas of the county.
The department experienced recent budget cuts, as all county departments did. The fiscal year was especially strict, Lindner said, as personnel lost some benefits. But he expects more pay increases and new hires in the coming year.
"There's still plenty of money in the bank," said Estevan Price, an accountant with the Cleveland Group, who performed the department's annual audit. "Overall, the financial position of the department, it is in good shape."
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