A year of service is commended at HFR awards banquet

At the annual Highlands Fire and Rescue Award Banquet held Jan. 22 at OEI’s Spring House, the volunteer force with significant others in attendance was recognized by their own and by Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor.

Pictured at the top of the article from left are Highlands Fire & Rescue Asst. Fire Chief Robbie Forrester, Fireman of the Year, Jeff Burnette; and Fire Chief Ryan Gearhart at this year’s Dept. Awards Banquet at OEI’s Spring House, on Saturday, Jan. 22.

“I want to be here to honor you because I know if I need you for anything that happens in Highlands you will be there,” said Taylor. “You are all first-responders, and you will respond to routine situations and you are putting your life on the line when you go to answer calls because you never know what’s going to happen. We’ve seen this happen with rescue attempts in this town. So, I want to express my extreme appreciation for all do as a volunteer fire department. You are just outstanding.”

For 33 years in a row, Roger Lee Wilson (center) received the “Perfect Drill Attendance” award.

Mayor Taylor said, at the suggestion of Chief Ryan Gearhart, a plaque will be mounted at the new station to recognize the retired firefighters and all the firefighters and first-responders and rescue people who have been part of the department.

“And that’s what it’s all about,” said Taylor. “Recognizing all the people who have and do put their lives on the line during their duty of service.”

This year’s officers from left are Asst. Chief Forrester, Rescue Lt. Travis Brooks, Capt. Roger Lee Wilson, 2nd Lt. Hunter Leffler, and 1st Lt. David Leffler, and Chief Gearhart. Not pictured was Rescue Capt. Eric Pierson, Member@large/Training Officer Eric Fielding and Secretary Davis Picklesimer.

The mayor ended his speech saying he was looking forward to the new facility because it’s really going to make a difference in how the dept. performs its duties.

From left are Asst. Chief Forrester, Travis Brooks (5 yrs.), David Leffler and Caleb Bowers (10 yrs.), and Chief Gearhart. Not pictured was Tubby Zachary (5 yrs.)

Later Chief Gearhart said that the recent storm when three fire-fighters stayed overnight at the station illustrated how having full-time firefighters on-site is beneficial.

The night of Monday, Jan. 17, a fire broke out at one of the cottages at Half Mile Farm and since the three were on call and in town at the station, they were able to respond quickly.

The plan is to have six full-time firefighters on call over a 24-hour period at the new fire station. Gearhart said he has three on the force who have expressed interest in being paid, full-time fire department employees.

During 2021, the dept. responded to 640 calls – in 2020 it was 563 calls.

There were 274 calls within the town limits; 129 off or on the Cashiers Road; 45 off or on the Franklin Road; 41 off or on the Dillard Road; 84 off or on the Walhalla Road; 14 off or on Horse Cove Road and 53 off or on the Buck Creek Road/Cashiers Road.

Most of the calls – 48.12% were rescue and EMS calls; 20.47% were false alarm calls; 16.09% were good intent calls; 8.12% were service calls; 5.31% were hazardous condition calls and 1.88% were fire calls.

In addition, firefighters logged 1,098.92 training hours.

Article and photos by Kim Lewicki, Highlands Newspaper

Leave a Reply