Awards and accolades at Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department annual dinner

Mary Bullwinkel

Beacon Correspondent

Under a Hawaiian theme, dinner was served and recognition was given to the Firefighter of the Year, Fire Citizen of the Year, and Fortuna volunteer firefighters for years of service.

The 2010 Firefighter of the Year award was presented to Company 3 Fire Capt. Phil Mullins by Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department Chief Lon Winburn.

"He has stepped up and done a good job," Chief Winburn said. He added words of praise for how Mullins interacts with his crew. As captain of Company 3, Mullins works with a crew of nine. Mullins has been with the fire department for six years and has done "a ton of training," according to Chief Winburn. Mullins has also been an automobile extraction training instructor.

Chief Winburn also presented the award for the Fire Citizen of the Year to Harry Hardin, owner of Eel River Disposal. This award is presented to "people that show extraordinary support of the Fire Department, financially and in other ways too," Chief Winburn said. All firefighters in the Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department have a voice in who is selected to receive this award. Hardin has supported the fire department for many years, including making significant contributions to the Santa's Sleigh program.

"Thank you very, very much," Chief Winburn said to Hardin, "we appreciate it."

This award was first given in 2005.

Seven volunteer firefighters received Years of Service pins, ranging from five years to almost 50 years. Mel Berti received a plaque and a standing ovation for his nearly 50 years of service to the Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department.

"Mel joined the department in October of 1962," Chief Winburn said. "Thanks for all your years of service."

Three firefighters in Company 5 of the FVFD received recognition: Bill Wohlers for 25 years of service, Capt. Jared Collins for 15 years of service, and Dean Glaser for 10 years of service. Company 4 firefighter Mike Wentworth received a pin for 20 years of service, and five-year service awards were presented to Kyle Conley (Co. 1) and Mike Ransford (Co. 2).

Chief Winburn expressed his appreciation to everyone in attendance, including representatives of Blue Lake, Carlotta, Ferndale, Loleta, Samoa, Scotia, Redcrest and Westhaven volunteer fire departments, and Humboldt Bay Fire. Recognition was also given to past Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department chiefs attending the dinner, including Bob Somervile, Joe Toroni, and Frank Hizer.

The Fortuna Volunteer Fire Ladies Auxiliary was selling tickets at the Annual Dinner and the lucky winner will receive a child's vintage pedal fire truck. The raffle will be ongoing, with the drawing to be held on July 22, 2012, at the Fortuna Rodeo barbecue. Tickets are available from Ladies Auxiliary members.

Serving the meal and cleaning up afterward were members of the Eel River Youth Soccer League, U-14 (Under age 14) Girls Team (Rapids). The team members are raising money for a trip to Europe in June. They will spend two weeks in Northwestern Europe, including Belgium, Germany and Sweden. Lots of friendly soccer games, interaction with soccer players from the countries they are visiting, and sightseeing are on the menu for this trip. The trip will culminate with a tournament in Pitea, Sweden, where the girls will get to march in the opening parade, carrying our nation's flag.

The team also has a dinner/auction fundraiser scheduled for this weekend (Feb. 11) at the Scotia Inn. For more information on this event, contact Suni Killfoil ( or 496-9185 for more information.

photo captions:

photos by Heather Nyberg-Schlotzhauer/Beacon

1. Chief Lon Winburn address the honored guests of the Annual Firemen's Dinner at the FVFD while his department heads and their families look on with gratitude and support to the community who has supported them throughout the year.

2. Humbled by the honor, Company 3 Fire Capt. Phil Mullins stands before a supportive crowd with his wife, to accept the honor of Firefighter of the Year.