State bestows honors on local fire departments
by Jessica Loeding
Aug 24, 2014 | 3408 views | 0 0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Firefighter Awards
Receiving the Life Saving Valor Award, from left, Sgt. Dale Thurman, Firefighter Robert Clements, Firefighter Paul Lottner, Battalion Chief David Levey and Capt. Chad Woodall. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Receiving the Life Saving Valor Award, from left, Sgt. Dale Thurman, Firefighter Robert Clements, Firefighter Paul Lottner, Battalion Chief David Levey and Capt. Chad Woodall. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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Cartersville Firefighter Joshua Pruitt is the State Rookie Firefighter of the Year. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Cartersville Firefighter Joshua Pruitt is the State Rookie Firefighter of the Year. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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On the afternoon of May 11, five Bartow County firefighters responded to a call on Lake Allatoona. There a 25-year-old male had traumatic injury to his left leg from a personal watercraft accident.

Sgt. Dale Thurman and Firefighter Paul Lottner arrived with BCFD Engine 4, going aboard a DNR boat to the scene near Blockhouse Boat Ramp. Once to the scene, the men went into the water, applying a tourniquet to the partially amputated left leg and starting the victim on high flow oxygen.

Capt. Chad Woodall and Firefighter Robert Clements responded with fire boat 6 from Allatoona Landing and the four were able to load the victim after lowering the dive doors on the vessel.

“He had traumatic injuries to his left leg below the knee. They got the tourniquet applied to it, got him somewhat stabilized in the water. They called for ... fire boat 6 to come,” Woodall said. “Once we got there, we were able to let the doors down, the dive doors, get the patient onto the boat and took him to the dock where the ambulance was waiting. From there we transferred him ... to the helicopter. From there he was flown to Grady.”

For their actions, the four men and Battalion Chief David Levey, who operated as incident command, will receive the Georgia State Firefighters Association Life Saving Valor Award in September.

According to the nomination letter, crews later learned the victim’s leg was amputated below the knee and he had lost a large volume of blood.

“By the actions of Sgt. Thurman and Firefighter/Paramedic Lottner, you know, getting there as quick as they did and were able to get the tourniquet applied to stop the bleeding, obviously saved the guy’s life from blood loss,” Woodall said. “[That] was probably the biggest aspect of the whole rescue. The fact of having a boat capable of getting a patient out of the water quickly helped in that, too. We were able to expedite his transfer from the water to the ambulance.”

Improvements in training and equipment were credited for the swift rescue.

“They were the boots on the ground. These are the guys that did all the heavy lifting. I think these guys did a great job on the incident. They worked very well together,” Levey said. “It seems to be the lake rescues and the lake calls, the proficiencies have improved so much over the years, not only with training but with better equipment. The lake rescues used to drag out a while and it’d take a long time to respond, to get the boat out there and get them out of the water. Now, with the training and the equipment we have now, it just seems to go a lot quicker. This rescue really did not take long at all and that’s due to the coordination between the stations and the personnel and the equipment.”

Fire Chief Craig Millsap echoed Levey’s comments.

“The experience set in that group, all of them are veteran firefighters with Bartow County and have been with us and doing this type of work for a long time,” he said. “They are able to put those skills and the things they have learned through their experience over the years with the county and their training and just come together and complement each other so well, but that’s throughout our department [that] we have those things happen. When you put it with the right equipment, like the boat that we were able to get the grant for that we were operating off of that day, it makes the job that much easier.”

When asked how it feels to win the valor award, the five said little.

“I think we’re all honored, but I don’t believe any of us feel like we went above or beyond any other firefighter out there, anywhere in the country,” Levey said. “It was just an everyday event that we had the opportunity to intervene and we did it. We did our job. That’s it. But we feel honored to be recognized for it, of course.”

Millsap said the recognition is indicative of the five’s actions each day.

“For any department, it’s a big honor, especially to honor those firefighters, you know, who just were doing their job. It’s that type of behavior that my guys exhibit on a daily basis, but for them to be able to stand and all their peers throughout the state to recognize their efforts, it really feels good,” he said.

During the same GSFA ceremony, Cartersville Firefighter Joshua Pruitt will be recognized as the state’s Rookie of the Year.

Pruitt joined CFD in July 2012, two years after a friend offered him the opportunity to get into the fire service.

“In June 2010, I left Cartersville, at the lowest point in my life, to go hike the Appalachian Trail with the hopes of finding myself along the way. [On] July 24, 2010, I happened into the squad building of the Blue Ridge Rescue Squad in Branchville, New Jersey, looking for a place to crash while waiting on a resupply package,” Pruitt said. “The squad members, wary at the time, allowed me to pitch my tent behind the squad building, Over the next four days — still waiting on the package, I was able to talk more and more with the captain of the squad, James Vance, and began to explain why I was hiking the AT.

“On July 29, after finally getting my package, James loaded me up in his car to return to the trail head and continue on my journey. As we approached the trailhead, James made an offer, maybe it was only in jest, or just being polite, but the offer was this, ‘If you ever want to give fire and EMS a try, give me a call when you finish the trail and we’ll see what we can do.’”

On Oct. 29 he returned to New Jersey and moved in with Vance, running calls as a ridealong before attending the fire academy.

“Fast forward to April of 2012, I came home to visit my brother and other family members here in Cartersville for my birthday. I stopped by what is now the old station 1 just to talk shop and say hello,” Pruitt said. “On this visit, I found out they were hiring. After four flights, a physical agility test, three conference calls, and one very important letter later, in June of 2012 I was offered the job by Cartersville Fire Department, and the rest, as they say, is history.”

Since then, Pruitt has excelled, particularly in the hazardous materials area. He was selected in 2013 to become a member of the Cartersville-Bartow Hazardous Material Response Team, which is a designated type-two team by Georgia Emergency Management Agency. Additionally, Pruitt has accelerated and completed the Fire Apparatus Operator program for CFD almost one year ahead of schedule.

“My rookie experience was great, the first year with the department, my rookie year, was all about learning the trucks inside and out, front to back, top to bottom, attending basic classes, learning how shift life goes, and basically building a strong foundation in which to build my fire service career on,” Pruitt said. “Rookie year sets the tone for the rest of your career with the fire service.”

For the state, being named rookie of the year means less than three years of service.

CFD Chief Scott Carter said Pruitt has grown not only as a firefighter but in other areas as well.

“Josh is a firefighter who believes in the profession and what it means to be a firefighter. He was one of the 12 that was hired when we added station 4. I have seen him grow as an individual, firefighter and public servant,” he said. “This is one of the highest honors given in the state. There were many worthy firefighters under consideration, and it simply says that he is being recognized as one of the best of the best.”

For Pruitt, the rookie honor speaks to the quality of CFD and the community it serves.

“… I think that winning this award is a huge reflection of the caliber and character of our fire department and even our community. We are driven as a department, not just focusing on the here and now, but on the future of the department and of the community we serve,” he said. “I think this award mirrors and can be applied, in some way, to every single member of this department.”

“Honestly though, I don’t feel truly deserving of such high accolades. I’ve just done my job, the way I was taught, and doing what I felt I needed to do. I think there are hundreds of firefighters across the state that equally deserve, if not more so, this award more than myself,” Pruitt continued. “To be selected as the Rookie Firefighter of the Year, is so humbling. It’s a very serious title to me, not a ‘Hey, look what I did moment,’ but a mark that I must continue to live up to and to push past, a personal challenge or commitment of sorts to stay the course, train hard, work hard, study hard and, now more than ever, to be an example and not let this be where my career peaks, but let this be one of many acclimation points on my way to the summit.

“I’m in no way the biggest, the fastest, or the strongest, however what I lack there, I make up for with heart, compassion and determination. It is an amazing honor and blessing, to be awarded this title. I am so thankful to all of those that have helped me reach this point — Capt. James Vance, Chief Jason Miller, Chief Scott Carter, Lt. Stephen Ogle, Lt. Mike Elrod, Mark Muenzen, Dennis Thayer, mom and dad, my brother Sean, and all of the Cartersville Fire Department. This award is a reflection of each and every one of them. They deserve all the credit for getting me to this point.”

Carter agreed.

“While this is an individual award, the fire service is not an individual cause or purpose. This award brings honor not only to Josh, but to our department and our city because it is always a team effort in the fire department family,” he said. “I am honored to be blessed to serve with what I believe is the greatest firefighting family in the state.”