October 13, 2010
4 firefighters recognized for service
The will to get the job done whenever needed proved a common thread in annual awards recently handed out to four city firefighters, who say having that mind-set simply goes with the territory.
In addition to naming the recently-retired Michael Andersen as Firefighter of the Year, the Cortland firefighter’s union handed the Firefighter’s Association President’s award to Michael Ten Kate and Jeff Eldred. City firefighter David Jensen also took the annual Charles “Terry” Bulger award, which is named for a former assistant fire chief who died in 2000.
The prizes were handed out at a ceremonial dinner Sept. 25 at the Elks Lodge in Cortland.
Andersen, who ended his 21-year career with the city fire department this past May, is also a 1993 firefighter of the year recipient.
Richard Roberts, union president for the fire department, said Andersen’s stepping down last year as captain so the department could bring in a new staff member, Dwayne Pierce, was worth recognizing.
“I agreed to step down so they could promote one of the guys on the list of candidates for a promotion, but knowing I’d be leaving within about a year or so,” Andersen said Monday. “It (the award) is nice because being retired, you kind of think you’re gone.”
One thing firefighters said they miss about having Andersen around the department is his sense of humor and ability to pull off a tasteful practical joke on occasion, which they said adds to the camaraderie.
“Sometimes this job is not fun and the bonding helps you get through those issues that come up,” Ten Kate said.
This year was the first award in Ten Kate’s and Eldred’s firefighting careers.
“I split it between them,” Roberts said. “It was difficult for me to single people out.”
This was also Jensen’s first award in his 10 years as a firefighter. The winner of the award is selected by past recipients.
Roberts was described as someone willing to get “elbow deep” into any rescue situation.
“Things aren’t always pretty on the EMS calls,” Roberts said.
Many of those medical calls involve elderly patients.
Jensen, who emphasized firefighting is all about teamwork, said he tries to show the patients he treats how to keep themselves safe.
“The philosophy I take is I treat everybody like my grandparent,” Jensen said. “Many of them are frail both mentally and physically and are afraid to ask for help.”
Jensen was recently promoted to captain and has two weeks remaining in a month-long training course held in New York City.
Eldred deserved recognition for his constant willingness to pitch in on whatever tasks needed to get done around the department, Roberts said.
Checking and maintaining fire equipment, code inspection work and cleaning the station are some of the daily projects city firefighters tend to while not out on an emergency call.
“He’ll see unfinished projects, take care of them, and that stuff goes a long way,” Roberts said.
Eldred, a city firefighter of five years, said he considered the award humbling.
“I didn’t do anything that anybody else wouldn’t have done,” Eldred said.
Ten Kate handles much of the department’s grant writing work and wrote applications this year for several grants, mostly for new equipment.
“There’s a lot of people who do extra work,” Ten Kate said. “The bar is set so high.”
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