Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department shines at awards dinner

For the first time, two members of the Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department are sharing the honor of being named Firefighter of the Year. The awards were presented on Feb. during the annual awards dinner, this year prepared by Company 3 of FVFD, and served at the Fortuna Fire Hall on South Fortuna Boulevard.

Steve Hohman, lieutenant of FVFD Company 4 and Mike Ransford, captain of FVFD Company 2, were selected as Firefighters of the Year by their colleagues.

Hohman has been with FVFD for 11 years and currently serves as one of the department's training officers.

"Steve is responsible for the Department's First Responder Medical Training ... and is a major contributor to the fire prevention program with local elementary schools," Fortuna Fire Chief Lon Winburn said. "He never hesitates to make himself available to teach children how to be fire safe."

Hohman accepted the award saying, "Thank you guys, I really appreciate it."

Ransford has been a member of the FVFD since 2006.

"Mike is one of the Department's premier training instructors and has shown great leadership capability, leading by example," Winburn said. "He promotes the fire department through professionalism, participation, and community involvement."

Ransford said, "I try to lead by example and I work hard, but I don't know if I deserve it," to which fellow firefighters in the audience replied, "Yes, you do."

Two new awards were given out this year: the Fire Chief's Outstanding Service Award and the Explorer of the Year.

FVFD Company 4 firefighter Steve Underwood received the Fire Chief's Award, established this year to recognize the outstanding efforts of an individual who has made an impact in the Fire Department's realization of goals and objectives.

"This year's recipient has been directly responsible for the development of the department's disaster preparedness plan and the community emergency response team," said Winburn. "He is also a member of the county incident management team and has played a major role in the requisition, equipping, and training of the district's most recent apparatus purchase."

Tanner Mendes is the recipient of the Explorer of the Year Award. The Explorer program is available to youth between the ages of 14 and 21, who are planning to go into police, fire, or the medical professions. Mendes was selected to receive this award by his peers in the Explorer group "for his outstanding leadership of the Explorer Post, attendance, and overall participation with the group," Winburn said.

Also honored during the annual dinner was the Fire Citizen of the Year, which recognizes an individual who through their civic involvement with the department has shown extraordinary support. This year the award was presented to Bob Ingenluyff.

Winburn said Ingenluyff received this award "for his outstanding support and service to the Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department, assisting in various events and community service programs with Company 2, and providing website design and maintenance for the Fire Department." Winburn described the department's website as "functional, user-friendly, includes a ton of safety messages, and has made a huge improvement with communication in the fire department."

Length of service pins were given to five volunteer firefighters: Anthony Makakoa, Jason Kadle and Robb Foley for three to five years, Bob Lewis for 20 years, and 2nd Assistant Fire Chief Ted Silva for 25 years.

Exempt members of FVFD were also named: Dave Nicholson from Company 1 (seven years), Walter Shuman from Company 2 (18 years), Melinda Hillman with Company 2 (5 years), and the late Don Crispin with Company 4 (eight years). To be given exempt status, an individual must have a minimum of five years of service as a member in good standing.

Also remembered were supporters of the Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department who were lost in 2013: Barbara Smith and Pam Casacca (Ladies Auxiliary), Dave Ansley (Company 2), Gene Lucas (Company 3), Don Crispin (Company 4), and Dave Church (Company 5).

Photos by Heather Nyberg-Schlotzhauer/Beacon

Representatives from several fire departments and agencies including Blue Lake, Ferndale, Loleta, Rio Dell, CalFire, and the State Fire Marshall's Office, along with family, friends, and supporters attended the Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department's annual awards dinner on Feb. 8.