For 53 years, the Agassiz Fire Department has celebrated the efforts of its members. And on Saturday, they gathered together once again, in the Friendship House.
Five main awards were handed out this year, including a new award for the Junior Firefighter Program.
That went to Ross McInroy. He was the first youth to join the program when it began in the fall of 2011, and his is the first name to be engraved on the Junior Firefighter Award plaque, which will hang in the firehall. He was 15 at the time he joined, with the hopes of “being able to help someone some day,” he said.
McInroy smiled as he was handed the plaque and award, but chose not to give a speech.
Other awards given out this year included Most Volunteer Hours and the James G. Morrow Memorial Award for Rookie of the Year, which both went to Mike Van Laerhoven.
Ryan Chairot earned the Carl Tyfting Memorial Shield Award for Firefighter of the Year, and Don Jorgensen was given his Five Year Service Pin.
This year’s event was a bit more relaxed than last year’s, noted Kent’s CAO Wallace Mah. Last year’s awards banquet was held on the same night as the civic election, and many candidates and District staff were at the function.
“This is a little calmer,” Mah said.
He also gave plenty of accolades to all the firefighters in the room, which included those in the District of Kent but also representatives from other areas, including Chris Wilson, manager of the FVRD Fire Services, and Rick Herfst, fire chief at Popkum.
“When we think about volunteers … we often don’t think about firefighters,” Mah said. “There are plenty of brave men and woman (there is currently one female firefighter at the Agassiz Firehall) here who give up their time for the community.”
Darlene Wahlstrom from Victim Services also attended the banquet, and noted that through the years the Agassiz Fire Department has donated $25,000 to that organization through the annual golf tournament.
Wilson, who formerly was Harrison Hot Springs’ fire chief, noted that the room was full of fresh, new faces.
“I think that’s absolutely fantastic,” he said, and added that he hoped the partnerships between Popkum and Agassiz will continue.
Herfst noted that this would be his last year with the Popkum Fire Department.
“I’m standing here with mixed emotion,” he said. “I was working in my garden today thinking about what I would say up here. The strength and the bond we have with you guys (Agassiz), well, we have your backs and you have our backs. You’ve always been more than willing to help us out.”
He said he hopes the partnership between the two firehalls will continue through the future. Agassiz and Popkum have a mutual aid agreement, and conduct training together, but that hasn’t always been the case.
Herfst received a standing ovation as he finished his address.
Carol VanTol was also recognized for her hard work with the fire department, and she once again had the rookies sing a Christmas carol, much to the delight of the audience.
Fire Chief Wayne Dyer also congratulated Al Prior for his 42 years of service.
The annual banquet also serves as an additional fundraiser for the upcoming food drive for Christmas hampers. In total, Dyer said they collected four boxes of food and $500.
The food bank drive is held on Dec. 13, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Firefighters will be going door to door in Agassiz, and will be at the firehall accepting donations.