Banquet honors volunteer firefighters

Chief Spruce McRee (right) and Assistant Chief Kenneth Harbison (left) present the Brierfield Fire Department Firefighter of the Year award to Lynn Crider. (Contributed)

By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer

MONTEVALLO – Men and women in blue and white uniforms gathered around banquet tables with their families to receive awards and honor those who fought blazes, not as main professions, but in their spare time.

Brierfield Volunteer Fire and Rescue and the Dry Valley Fire Department came together to hold the 6th annual volunteer firefighters awards banquet Feb. 5.

The awards banquet began as the Pelham Fire Department Honor Guard led the presentation of colors and the Pledge of Allegiance. As the firefighters took their seats in the University of Montevallo’s Anna Irvin Hall,  a program began to recognize them for their bravery and persistence in the line of duty.

“We are neighbors helping neighbors,” Brierfield Fire Chief Spruce McRee said to the crowd of firefighters and their loved ones. “It’s about duty, honor and brotherhood. We are summoned, and we obey. We’re here tonight to encourage and motivate you.”

Master of Ceremonies Dollar Bill Lawson, a voice of local radio, began the evening by explaining that while the community tends to take firefighters for granted, especially those of the volunteer variety, the fact that the firefighters show up every time is priceless.

“You are giving the most precious commodity you have — your time and your lives here on earth — just to help somebody else,” Lawson said. “Helping others gives you more meaning in your own life.”

Fire Chief John McGrath of Raleigh, N.C. took over the firefighter-themed podium and shared words of experience with the rookies and weathered firefighters at the surrounding tables.

“This is not an easy job for volunteers, and it’s not an easy job for leadership,” McGrath began. “From one professional to another — thank you.

“In volunteer firefighting, there’s no pay, no compensation and no expectation of reward, but what greater privilege can there be than protecting those who cannot protect themselves? You have an unbelievably hard job,” McGrath said. “Never forget how dangerous your job is. Get home to your families.

“Being a firefighter is like being Peter Pan. You never have to grow up,” McGrath said to a round of appreciative laughter. “And you’re always protecting those who can’t protect themselves.”

McRee and Dry Valley’s Fire Chief Kevin Lucas then took the opportunity to present award after award to honor extraordinary firefighters and auxiliary members of their respective fire departments.

“Each of you guys are heroes, not for what you’ve necessarily done, but for what you’re willing to do,” McRee said.