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Honoring our local heroes

PLATTSBURGH? Not only must you be brave, but you must have nerves of steel and a heart of gold to be a firefighter, part of an emergency rescue team or fire police. It takes even more to be honored during the annual Clinton County Firefighters Association awards banquet. As we are gathered here tonight there are plenty of people sitting home with no real understanding of what it is we do or why we do it, said Tom LaBelle, executive director of the NYS Fire Chiefs Association at the award banquet last Saturday evening. I feel sorry they dont understand, he said. But it is a given that the North Country is truly a better, safer place thanks to the men and women that have become fire and emergency service providers, he said. A round of applause signified unanimous agreement from the audience. But it was no match for the standing ovations that followed as the 2006 Firefighter, EMS provider and Fire Police of the Year Awards were announced. Mark LaFountain, of Peru was nominated for Firefighter of the Year because of his willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty on numerous occasions and because of his example-setting enthusiasm and dedication. When LaFountain joined the fire department in Peru over 11 years ago he did so with aggressiveness and determination. In nine years he climbed his way to the top as chief, though he is described by his fellow members as one who never looked for the well-deserved pat on the back. If a path were to be created for new firefighters to follow, they would want to follow in the footsteps of LaFountain. His face is well-known throughout the region for his continuous involvement in emergency incidents. He took command and control of a tractor-trailer roll-over, orchestrating a triage of drivers, diesel fuel spill control and scene safety. LaFountain has been to a number of horrific automobile accidents and has had to use the Jaws of Life to extricate victims. He assisted in a mutual-aide swift-water rescue that lasted about a week. LaFountain has also played a hand in mutual aide training, equipment testing and always helped out with fundraising and awareness campaigns and events -in his spare time. The EMS?Provider of the Year award went to Jim Lavoie of Cumberland Head. He was nominated for his strength and ability to see beyond the immediate situation to address the larger picture, and his actions to set and achieve department and patient care goals. After graduating college in 1972, Lavoie joined the Army where he became an infantryman, paratrooper and logistics officer and continued with the Reserves while seeking a career which would give him the same thrill as jumping from airplanes. Hooked on television re-runs of Desoto and Emergency, he earned his Basic EMT in 1979 and became an emergency room nurse. Since he joined the Cumberland Head Fire Department he has continued to strengthen his skills and increase his knowledge. He was also recognized for his willingness and drive to share with his fellow members as well as the community. He was also noted for his role in the take-charge style in conversion of the ER Fast Track into a critical care department during the the emergency situation that resulted from the I-87 bus crash. Arthur Hart was honored as the 2006 Fire Police of the Year. Hart joined the West Chazy Fire Department in 2000 and became a member of the Fire Police a year later, when he was also recognized as Fireman of the Year by his department. Since 2004 he has held the position of fire captain and has served as an officer of the Clinton County Fire Police Association for the past three years. Hart has taken numerous classes and attended seminars in traffic control, emergency scene safety and procedures related to criminal justice. He was also noted for his assistance with the CC Fire Police Train and Hobby show, Fire Prevention Weeks, Youth Safety fairs and Operation Prom nights. Hart has also helped with the fire departments toy drives, volunteered his services during the Battle of Plattsburgh events, and many other public awareness and fundraising events. He is the type of man that younger members tend to look to for advice and guidance. You can be assured that when a Fire Police is needed in your area, Hart will be there!

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