January 26, 2012


Cortland firefighter honored with annual award

Fire department captain given Keith Whiting Award for his efforts to train firefighters

FirefighterBob Ellis/staff photographer
Capt. Duane Pierce, of the Cortland Fire Department, winner of the department’s annual Keith Whiting Award.

Staff Reporter

Duane Pierce says being a firefighter means serving with a team and a family. It also means making sure everyone goes home safe, he added.
Pierce, a captain in the Cortland Fire Department, was awarded Wednesday for his work in coordinating firefighter training efforts among the paid and volunteer staff. Pierce became a Cortland firefighter in 2000 and puts together training programs firefighters must complete regularly.
That can include basic training for newcomers, working with newer equipment and honing the latest techniques in rescue or emergency response, Pierce said.
“We try to educate firefighters, make them better at what they do,” he said. “The biggest thing is we want everyone to come home safely after each day and that’s my focus.”
Pierce was awarded the Keith Whiting Award, which recognizes achievement. It is named for a Cortland fire official and has been awarded since 1982. Pierce has received similar awards for his work in recent years.
Fire Chief Chuck Glover said Pierce has proven an asset, particularly when it comes to training for firefighter safety. Pierce spent 15 years as a corporate safety manager for Crowley Foods before joining the fire service.
“He brings a fresh attitude and fresh ideas,” Glover said. “We are in a dangerous business and over the years the fire service has recognized there have been too many on-duty deaths.”
Now fire departments all over the country are working harder to give their personnel the best training possible, Glover said. Firefighters are no longer just putting out fires; they must tackle “all hazards — emergency and nonemergency — and now more than ever they need to know each others’ job,” said Pierce.
It could also be helping someone take their next breath, pinpointing the source of a carbon monoxide leak, or speaking to the public about fire prevention and first aid techniques, Pierce added.
Cortland firefighters go on many medical-related emergency calls each day, and are also called to perform rescues. The Cortland Fire Department also serves as the county’s hazardous material response team.
“Fifty years ago we were firefighters and now we’re covering any other hazard they don’t know who else to call,” Pierce said.
Humbled by his award, Pierce said he pitches in just like every other firefighter he works with. He lives in Greene, with his wife, Christine. They have two children.


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