By Justin Ide
The Crozet Volunteer Fire Department gathered at King Family Vineyards October 19 to celebrate another successful year of service, the 103rd for the department, and to toast standout members and the department’s community supporters.
The evening featured a keynote address from LTC Jeff Mullins from the US Army JAG School in Charlottesville and various awards to a number of firefighters and local businesses. Guests arrived for cocktail hour and were able to sample a number of King Family Vineyard vintages, appetizers from Patsy Wood, and later a delicious dinner by Country Cupboard Catering.
After the presentation of the colors by the Crozet Volunteer Fire Department Color Guard, including firefighters Dave Layne, Adam Schifflett and Chris Rowland, and Captain Mark Carlson, Fire Chief Preston Gentry welcomed the crowd and chaplain Doug Forrester, pastor of Crozet United Methodist Church, gave an invocation. White Hall District Supervisor Ann Huckle Mallek, chair of the Albemarle board, also greeted members and guests.
Community service awards were given to “Sam’s Hot Dogs,” a huge supporter of CVFD members when they come in for lunch and dinner, and Lisa Baber Jones from Arborlife, for her help selling raffle tickets for the most recent cash raffle.
The evening began with the promotion of three hardworking firefighters to the rank of lieutenant. The lieutenant in a fire company, an integral post, not only performs all the regular duties of a firefighter, but is also tasked with supervising, motivating and training newer firefighters.
Promoted his year were Larry DeVault, Will Barnhardt, and Chris Rowland. Collectively, they have over 40 years of fire service experience, and each brings a wealth of knowledge to the line officers cadre in Crozet. They were chosen for their dedication and their ability to lead and inspire.
A special CVFD Service Award was given to Captain Mark Carlson, who after six years of service with the Crozet firehouse is moving to Wisconsin. Carlson, visibly touched when he was presented with a plaque and his yellow Captain’s helmet, said he was grateful for the many friends he has made in Crozet, and that his time here will be remembered fondly. Chief Gentry, who made the presentation along with assistant chief Will Schmertzler, said, “Mark was a very valuable asset to the community as well as the fire department, and he will be surely missed.”
The Chief’s awards, chosen by Gentry himself, recognized two people essential to him for their constant assistance in responding to calls and in the day-to-day operations of the department. Schmertzler, a longtime volunteer, was recognized for his consistent service and willingness to always be available no matter what the need.
Firefighter Gary Dillon, a newer member of the department, was recognized with the Chief’s Award for his steady service on calls and for his ability with technology. Dillon spearheaded the inclusion of mobile technology on fire engines, installing iPads in the cabs of each, as well as promoting smartphone technology for firefighters that provides them more information about calls and reduces response times to incidents.
A special award called the “Joyful Noise Award” was given to Captain Greg Pugh and firefighter Dave Layne for their assistance in providing professional sound production services repeatedly to the department over the years.
The evening ended with the presentation of the President’s Award as well as Firefighter of the Year to Captain Mike Boyle, who joined the department in 2008 after relocating to Crozet from Maurice, Louisiana. Gentry said of Boyle, “he is an energetic and enthusiastic member who really gives 110 percent to the department,” and, he continued, “I couldn’t think of someone better to win both awards.”
Boyle, joined at the dinner by his wife and brother, who came from Tennessee for the event unbeknownst to Boyle, said, “It was a shock,” when asked about the awards. “It’s an honor to be thought of that highly by the whole fire department,” he said.