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Firefighters presented with awards

ALBANY — In recognition of National Fire Prevention Month, the Albany Fire Department honored some of its own at the Albany City Commission meeting this week. In four separate categories: Employee of the Year, Medal of Valor, Chief’s Award and Firefighter of the Year, worthy firefighters were cited for their contributions by Assistant Fire Chief Ron Rowe.

In awarding the title of Employee of the Year, Rowe described recipient Stan Ruffin as demonstrating qualities including dedication passion, skill, understanding, positive vision and imagination in the execution of his job.

According to Rowe, Ruffin is responsible for maintaining more than 6,000 pieces of firefighting inventory, as well as maintaining nine AFD buildings which supply 11 fire stations. Ruffin also responds to all structure fire calls, day or night and maintains protective clothing inventory for all employees.

In addition, Ruffin makes props, including an improvised golf cart and fire truck replicas for the annual fire safety show each October.

Medals of Valor were awarded to firefighters Danny Hancock and Stephen Cannady for their quick response to a cardiac emergency in May. Working as a team, Hancock and Cannady administered CPR to the victim for more than 10 minutes, as well as applications of the automated external defibrillator in efforts to restart the victim’s heart. The pair continued with emergency treatments until an ambulance arrived to transport the victim to the hospital, Rowe said.

Also receiving the Medal of Valor was Fire Captain Bobby Spargo, who Rowe said has displayed in 2013 qualities of “untouchable integrity,” service to the community, outstanding decision-making and the development of employees.

“There are multiple examples during the last year of these qualities and efforts,” Rowe said. “(Spargo) has trained his employees and has a successful record of them being promoted. He treats his employees fair, firm and with respect. When he and his crew report for work they are as one and prepared to serve.”

The annual Chief’s Award went to eight AFD personnel: Assistant Chief Sebon Burns, Capt. Eugene Anderson, Inspector Tom Wilson, Plans Review Specialist Carlton Russell, support Coordinator Roxanne Garrett, Inspector Gwen Jennings, Inspector Laurence Cargile and Fire Inspector Sam Harris.

Winners of the Chief’s Award were selected, Rowe said, for their extraordinary support of the goals of the fire department and the city. Specifically mentioned were support of the the AFD’s hosting of the 2013 Joint Fire Conference in Albany for the first time since 1961. Rowe said the honorees sold advertising to local businesses to support the conference.

In addition, Rowe said AFD personnel researched and applied for grants, resulting in funding to continue educational funding which had been reduced by budget cutbacks.

Fire Investigator Sam Harris was given special mention by Rowe as having been named No. 1 in the nation for arson arrests three separate times.

Finally, the coveted Firefighters of the Year award was given to Capt. Tony Denby, already a three-time winner of the award, and firefighter Derrick Eldridge. According to Rowe’s narrative, on Feb. 3 Denby and Eldridge arrived at what turned out to be a structure fire on Johnson Road. Because the original dispatch had been in non-emergency mode, the pair arrived well ahead of their backup, Rowe said.

Entering the burning structure with a hose line, Eldridge and Denby were able to extinguish a significant section of the fire and then to locate the person with breathing difficulties dispatch had said was in the building. At risk to their own lives, Rowe said the two firefighters removed the unresponsive victim to EMS care, then returned to help extinguish the fire.