This past weekend, I had the honor of travelling to the Oxford (Catfish District) Fire Department to attend their Annual Fire Department Banquet with Cpt. Willie Wines (IronFiremen.com). Cpt. Wines had been invited by Chief Wayne Smith to attend the ceremony, and to speak to the members of the department. While Cpt. Wines was able to get into town early enough for a tour of the area and the area fire museum, I made it into town just prior to the banquet.
As I arrived at the department, the first thing to catch my eye was the memorial that was in front of the station. I knew immediately that this was a group of firefighters that GET IT! The memorial was comprised of a few different elements such as a firefighter statue and an eternal flame atop a monument that had the Firefighter’s Prayer and the Wife’s Prayer. The monument was constructed last year as part of an Eagle Scout Project, and it was something that the members should take PRIDE in…and they DO!
After meeting Chief Smith, the members were telling me that they had completed the project just over a week ago, and had set the goal of having it complete for the banquet. The department operates on a limited budget, and they said they didn’t have money to purchase an expensive bronze statue as they had originally envisioned. They did not let that hold them back, and ended up finding a local business that could make the pieces for the memorial out of concrete. I have to say that it was one of the nicest memorials I have ever seen, and it is on display in front of the firehouse for the members of the community to enjoy as well.
After a great meal, we had the pleasure of hearing about all of the department’s accomplishments from 2014. The members of the department are very dedicated to serving their community, and take pride in being able to do so. Several members were awarded certificates for receiving over 100 hours of training within the last year. These are hours that the members spend to better themselves and better the community while taking time away from their families to do so. The Chief also presented Firefighter Jody Self and Junior Firefighter Freddy Gamboa with the Firefighter of the Year award. As a surprise for the members, Chief presented each member with a Challenge Coin chip and read the history of the coin to explain the concept. Following the award ceremony, it was Cpt. Wines’ turn.
Dressed in his Class A uniform, kilt, and Black Diamond boots, Cpt. Wines began his presentation by congratulating all of those who received recognition during the ceremony. While I have the pleasure of knowing Cpt. Wines as a good friend, this was the first time I was able to travel with him to hear him speak. The message was one that everyone can benefit from. He discussed the 16 Life-Safety Initiatives from the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation, as well as discussed the cultural change that is needed throughout the fire service. He highlighted the importance of seatbelt policies, mental health and physical fitness, and also spoke about the Tampa II event that was held last year. He talked about how each of us can help the fire service work toward having “Under 50” Line of Duty Deaths! It was a message that had everyone’s attention from the beginning to end, and I personally even benefited from hearing it.
Following the event, we were fortunate enough to be able to spend some time with the brothers and sisters of the department. We took a few photos and headed to a local restaurant where we could have a more “informal” conversation with the men and get to really find out more about them. Every where we go, whether it be a trade show or a banquet, I love interacting with the firefighters and hearing how each community operates.
The brothers at Oxford (Catfish District) Fire Department in North Carolina have a lot to be proud of. Cpt. Wines even joked in his presentation that he had been looking for a dust bunny all evening in the corners and behind doors, but he had yet to find one! The rigs were kept clean, the station was spotless, and the environment that was created was a welcoming one. It was a pleasure attending this event, and I hope that the brothers enjoyed it half as much as I did!