Fire, rescue awards presented

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First responders recognized for service, leadership

By Calen McKinney


This is the first in a series of three stories about awards given to local emergency services and law enforcement personnel. The next story will focus on awards given to Campbellsville/Taylor County EMS personnel and the last will feature this year's Taylor County Sheriff's Office Deputy of the Year.

They were honored for their service, to each other and the community.

Campbellsville Fire & Rescue and Campbellsville/Taylor County EMS personnel were honored on Saturday during their annual awards banquet.

Campbellsville Fire & Rescue Chief Kyle Smith said the night was to honor the most valuable resource the fire and emergency services operations have - their employees.

"So without all of you, we just can't function," he said.

Smith said people trust fire and emergency services personnel to help them, and the employees must serve as role models.

"We're all about family," he said. "We're all about taking care of people. And we need to protect what we're all about."

Smith said the awards given at the banquet are to honor the personnel who excelled during the past year.

This year's Firefighter of the Year, he said, was chosen by vote of all those at Campbellsville and Taylor County Fire & Rescue.

He said when considering the qualities of a person who should receive the honor, he thought about trustworthiness, a strong work ethic, character, team building skills, good interpersonal and professional skills and much more.

"[The recipient] has all that and a lot more," he said.

Campbellsville Fire & Rescue Engineer Keith Bricken received this year's award. Smith said Bricken has one of the best work ethics he has ever seen.

"He does a tremendous amount of extra work," he said. "Keith always has a smile on his face. And I'm yet to find a person that doesn't like the guy."

Bricken said he was surprised and honored to receive the award, which he also received two years ago.

Bricken, 37, began working at the fire department in 1994 at age 18. His father, Randy Bricken Sr., is assistant chief at Taylor County Fire & Rescue.

"He definitely got me into it," he said.

Bricken went to fires as a young boy, he said, and, eventually, the firefighters came to trust him and relied on his help. Bricken said working at fire and rescue is a way for him to give back to the community.

He also gives back by coordinating the station's fire prevention programs. Oftentimes, Bricken said, those who have seen the programs recognize him. To him, he said, that means he has made a small difference in their lives.

"That means a lot to me."

This year's Fire Officer of the Year, Smith said, was chosen by the firefighters at Campbellsville and Taylor County Fire & Rescue.

Smith said being a fire officer is a stressful job. In addition to fighting fire, employees must complete paperwork, attend meetings and be sure that all equipment is in good condition.

Smith said fire officers often get no credit when everything goes well.

"But he gets all the blame when they aren't," he said.

Fire officers need to be leaders, he said, motivators, decision makers and mentors to younger firefighters. And he says Capt. Chris Taylor is all of that.

Smith said Taylor came to work at Campbellsville Fire & Rescue when Campbellsville Fire Department merged with Campbellsville/Taylor County Rescue. He said Taylor built the fire and rescue special operations team and helped make the transition a smooth one. He said Taylor works hard to get grants to help pay for equipment.

Taylor, who has received the award twice before, said he had no idea he was receiving the award again.

"I was really shocked to get that," he said.

Taylor said he began working at Campbellsville/Taylor County Rescue in 2003 as an EMT and worked his way up the ranks to captain.

But Taylor's experience with rescue goes back to when he was 8 or 9, when his dad starting working with the rescue group in Adair County.

"Ever since the first time I walked in the door, I want to do it ever since."

Taylor, 30, said he enjoys helping people.

"You actually get to come to work and do what you love to do. It's the best job in the world."

The 21 employees who make up rescue's special operations team chose this year's Rescuer of the Year Award winner, Aaron Fields.

Taylor, who presented the award, said the team members must log 200 training hours each year. He said Fields began working at Campbellsville/Taylor County Rescue before he was old enough to drive and eventually became an EMT.

Fields said he was surprised to receive the award and overwhelmed that his team voted for him to receive the honor.

He said he has wanted to work in rescue since high school.

"I wanted to better myself," he said.

Fields, 31, has worked in emergency services since he was 15 or 16. He said he always wanted to grow up and be an EMT.

He also received the Rescuer of the Year award a few years ago. He said he is honored to receive it again and continues to enjoy his job.

"I love it," he said. "It's always different."

Other Awards

Connie Wooley, an administrative assistant at Campbellsville Fire & Rescue, received this year's Jamia Skaggs Behind the Scenes Award. She was chosen for the honor by all of those who work at Campbellsville and Taylor County Fire & Rescue.

Smith said Wooley, like Skaggs, goes above and beyond her work duties but never asked for any recognition.

He said Wooley completes paperwork, helps with reports and makes sure the days at the fire station go smoothly.

"I honestly do not know where our fire department would be without Connie Wooley," he said.

And while some might say Wooley is simply doing her job, Smith said her service goes beyond that. Wooley serves on various committees and takes minutes at their meeting, answers questions about the Toys for Kids program, makes identification cards for city employees and much more.

"I may be the fire chief here, but Connie runs the place."

Skaggs, who died earlier this year, was the first non-firefighter and woman to be named to the Kentucky Firefighters Association Hall of Fame. The behind the scenes award was renamed this year in Skaggs' honor.

Lisa Harris, who coordinates Campbellsville Fire & Rescue's annual Toys for Kids drive, received the Sharon Dobson Making a Difference Award. She was also chosen for the award by all of her co-workers at Campbellsville Fire & Rescue.

Smith said Harris helps ensure the firefighters and rescue personnel have water and food when they are working and pitches in whenever she is needed.

Dobson, who died earlier this year, was coordinator of the Toys for Kids donation drive and Smith said loved the community and fire department.

Dobson began the first ladies auxiliary group and raised money for special needs children, he said, and mentored Harris to take over Toys for Kids.

Dickie Benningfield, a deputy with the Taylor County Sheriff's Office, received this year's Distinguished Service Award.

Smith said law enforcement, fire and emergency services personnel often have to make split-second decisions that can forever change a person's life.

He said those who work in these lines of work often see people at their worst. On one particular day, Smith said, fire and rescue personnel were asked to respond to a report of a vehicle that had been crashed and caught fire. He said the driver was trapped inside.

"When we got there, there was no fire," he said.

Smith said Benningfield had been driving by the area and saw the fire. He got a fire extinguisher from his vehicle and put it out.

"His actions that day undoubtedly saved the life of that individual," Smith said.

Benningfield also received this year's Deputy of the Year Award. Read about that award in the Dec. 26 issue.