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Firefighters honored for dedication to their departments, community

ALTONA Though the tireless efforts of firefighters and other emergency responders may go unacknowledged call after call, one group of local firefighters has been recognized for their commitments to the community and their departments. Firefighters from departments across the county were recognized by the Clinton County Firefighters Association during the associations annual banquet at the Rainbow Wedding and Banquet Hall Feb. 2. During this years event, the association named its EMS Provider of the Year, Fire Police of the Year and not one, but two honorees as Firefighter of the Year. William W. LaMarche, a firefighter and emergency medical technician with the Beekmantown Volunteer Fire Department, was honored for more than two decades of serving his department. In his nomination, read by 2006 Firefighter of the Year Mark LaFountain, Mr. LaMarche was credited by his fellow firefighters for being on the forefront of emergency medical services and for attending as many calls as humanly possible. Mr. LaMarche, a charter member of the Morrisonville EMS formerly known as the Morrisonville Ambulance Service has also been an EMT instructor, firefighter safety officer and fire police captain. In our own department, this member was instrumental in the formation of a squad of EMTs that support our contracted EMS service, Mr. LaFountain read from the nomination letter. In this capacity as EMS captain, our provider continues to provide the leadership that motivates our entire EMS unit. Mr. LaMarche was further credited for having touched many lives throughout the county in many ways through CPR classes he has conducted for the American Red Cross, supervising at emergency scenes, and participating in fundraisers and fire prevention activities. I love helping people, Mr. LaMarche said humbly when accepting his award. Ive been at Beekmantown now 22 years. Theyre a great group of people. Equally as humbled and at a loss for words was Richard J. Klages, a lieutenant with the Keeseville Volunteer Fire Department. Mr. Klages, a member of the department since 1991, was honored as the 2007 Fire Police of the Year. Arthur Hart, Clinton County Fire Police Association president and last years recipient of the award, read from the letter nominating Mr. Klages. The letter cited the honoree for going above and beyond in his duties with the department. Mr. Klages had responded to 442 calls at the time the nomination was submitted, said Mr. Hart, with that number continuing to rise. If you need something done, ask him. It will get done, Mr. Hart said of Mr. Klages. He is an asset to the department and as asset as a representative of the fire police and fire service. Im not much for words, but thank you to the Clinton County Firefighters Association and God bless, Mr. Klages said when receiving his award. An uncommon occurrence happened this year when the association presented the Firefighter of the Year Award to two recipients, honored for their leadership and dedication. Leonard A. Lenny Martin II, a member of the fire service in Clinton County since 1979, was given the honor for several accomplishment made in his 19 years of service with the Keeseville fire department alone. In that time, Mr. Martin is credited for obtaining a building to be used as a firefighter training site and overseeing several highway safety classes which have helped revamp the departments fire police program. He was also commended for his role in the department receiving a statewide award for improved safety in a small department for 2007. Our candidate is a strong advocate of training and preparation for any event, Mr. LaFountain read from Mr. Martins nomination letter. The leadership and example set by this individual is commendable. Personal safety is another goal of our candidate. The Firefighter of the Year nomination for Barb Stone, fire police captain with the Beekmantown fire department, was similarly credited by her peers for serving the department selflessly for the past 11 years. Ms. Stone attended various training seminars and fundraisers and served as a department delegate to the county firefighters association. During her tenure, she also served a successful four-year term as the associations treasurer. In the nomination, she was cited for participating in many fire prevention and public relations activities in the community, making her a strong candidate for the award. Our candidate has continually shown their dedication by participating in almost all department functions over the years, Mr. LaFountain read from her nomination. Additionally, this person has set an example for the younger members to look up to. Mr. Martin and Ms. Stone both accepted their respective awards with a nod and simple word of thanks to the association. While having two people named Firefighter of the Year is a rarity itself, the award to Ms. Stone was even more significant, as she was the first female to receive the honor in the 60-year history of the county firefighters association. Though also at somewhat of a loss for words when on stage to receive her award, Ms. Stone later discussed her gratitude and pride of the achievement. Im very honored, said Ms. Stone. To be the first woman to receive this award is really quite an honor. I had no idea. During the event, James McConnell Jr. was recognized with the Robert LaMoy Lifetime Service Award for his dedication and years of service. Mr. McConnell, a member of the Peru Volunteer Fire Department, is Area 9 vice president of the Volunteer Fire Police Association of the State of New York. He was credited for being an outstanding leader committed to the continued development of the fire department profession in Clinton County and New York State. For the last 25 years, he has worked diligently with Clinton County firefighters. Hes a well-known member of the fire police community, said Mr. Hart. His peers recognize him for his dedication and continues to arrange training and participate in necessary courses to prove his skills. The amount of pride Mr. McConnell had for the men and women who serve with him overshadowed the pride of his own accomplishment as he accepted his recognition. This award is an honor to receive, said Mr. McConnell. I receive this on behalf of all the fire police here and Id like all the fire police to stand up and take a round of applause. We are the protectors of the protectors. It is a great honor to have any of these awards bestowed upon a firefighter, and I can only hope that the winners this year feel that honor, said Mr. LaFountain. These awards are quite commendable.

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