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Fire department gives honors

The Suffolk Department of Fire & Rescue promoted eight and presented honors and awards to many other personnel and civilians on Oct. 17 at the Hilton Garden Inn Suffolk Riverfront.

Senior Firefighter Les Lemasters was honored as Firefighter of the Year. The honor was announced nearly a year ago, and the new firefighter of the year will be announced soon.

Lemasters said he was grateful for the honor and that he loves what he does. He has been a Suffolk firefighter since 2002.

Lemasters, a 1998 graduate of Western Branch High School, was a student at Tidewater Community College when he saw an advertisement encouraging volunteers for Driver Volunteer Fire Department.

“I just kind of thought it would be a good idea to try something new,” he said. “Curiosity just turned into a career move for me.”

Lemasters, now 38, cherishes the fact he gets to help people. He works at Station 5 on Bridge Road.

“I just enjoy helping people in the community,” he said. “People call us, because they’re having a really bad day, so they are calling us looking at us to help them in some way.”

Lemasters also works on the department’s uniform and turnout gear program, making sure the firefighters always look professional and have equipment that will keep them safe.

“We always have to be safe every day, so I take that very seriously for all the guys here in the city,” he said.

Lt. Eric Thrush was honored as Paramedic of the Year at the October event.

Thrush has been with Suffolk Fire and Rescue for 21 years and currently runs out of Station 6 on King’s Fork Road.

He also started as a volunteer, but in Virginia Beach. He also worked with Portsmouth EMS before coming to Suffolk.

“I felt like what I wanted to do was help people,” he said of why he started volunteering. “That was my way of helping people.”

Thrush said he was surprised to get the award, because, as a supervisor, he doesn’t do much patient care anymore. Supervisors typically only go to calls if there’s a tough scene or tough patient, he said.

But Thrush has been instrumental in helping the department stay up to date on technology and the good things other departments are doing.

“We always try to find ways to do it better,” he said.

Eric Wynne of the Holland Volunteer Fire Department was named the Volunteer Firefighter of the Year.

“It was pretty surprising,” Wynne said of the honor.

Wynne, 21, had just turned 18 when he started volunteering. He followed in the footsteps of his father, who used to volunteer in York County.

“He told me a bunch of stories of putting out fires and saving people from cars and stuff like that,” Wynne said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, honestly. It’s a really great feeling. I like helping people and making things right.”

Wynne said he, too, is hoping to move from volunteering to making it a career and has been putting in applications.

Christian Hayne, 25, also from Holland Volunteer Fire Department, was named the Most Active Volunteer.

He heard about the firefighting career from his girlfriend’s father, who works in Richmond. He inquired about volunteering in Holland and started going to the class that same day.

He’s also hoping to make a career out of firefighting.

“I just felt like the more I volunteer, the more classes I can get into and the more I’ll boost my resume to become a full-time firefighter,” he said.

The most active volunteer award is calculated by hours of duty time and number of calls ran, Hayne said.

Also honored during the event were:

Birdsong Peanuts — Certificate of Appreciation

Brinkley’s Wrecker Service — Certificate of Appreciation

Davis Lakes Campground — Certificate of Appreciation

Jacob Morton and Ted Locascio — Certificate of Meritorious Conduct

Capt. Steve Johnson, Firefighter Derrick Felton, Fire Medic Manuel Franco, Lt. Roger Stinnette, Firefighter Vincent Posey and Fire Medic Christopher Cook — Certificate of Meritorious Conduct

Senior Firefighter Lucas Weaver — Medal of Merit

Master Firefighter Todd Helmick — Medal of Valor

Battalion Chief David P. Harrell — Fire Chief’s Award of Excellence

Promotees included:

Fire Marshal Charles P. Chapin

Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator Richard L. Stephens

Capt. Stephen Henkle

Capt. David B. Sweat III

Lt. Alan D. Bain

Lt. Dustin J. Hummer

Lt. Jeffery Matthews

Lt. Steven D. Speight