It was a busy couple of years for the Tyler Fire Department as investigators worked with other agencies on church arsons and pipe bomb cases.
But on Saturday night, members stopped to honor some of their own at the department’s 20th annual awards banquet.
An estimated 300 people gathered at the Rose Garden Center for the Hawaiian-themed event, which featured award presentations, a video and door prizes.
“This is just a way for us to recognize current firefighters for their actions, along with retired officers and agencies (that have assisted),” Fire Marshal Paul Findley said. “We’re just recognizing some above-the-call-of-duty things and people who have risen to the top.”
This year’s Firefighter of the Year Award went to Travis Milligan, who works the Station 6 “C” shift.
His colleagues said he goes “above and beyond in all aspects of this job” and has strong work ethic.
He also was described as someone who goes out of his way to help others and has an addictive drive, determination, compassion, and initiative.
“He has never been heard to say a mean or hateful word about anyone,” Fire Chief Tim Johnson said before presenting the award.
“Everything that he is involved in is with a positive attitude. In just a short time in our department, people identify him as an enlightened, concerned and skilled individual worthy of the title ‘Firefighter of the Year.'”
Life-saving awards were given to police officer Matt Leigeber, Capt. David Hickey, Milligan and Dwayne Parrish.
Leigeber was off-duty when he noticed flames at the Hudson Apartments and knocked an apartment door down. He found a person asleep and was able to carry her out safely.
Hickey and Milligan forced entry into a burning room at a residence on 32nd Street. Johnson said a victim was found on the floor, face down, and the two were able to move him to the front yard using a two-man rescue carry.
“If not for their quick actions in making entry to the room and locating and removing the victim, time would have expired, and the victim would not have been able to be revived,” he said.
Parrish, while responding to a structure fire on McDonald Road, found the occupant in the front bedroom and called for assistance to remove the victim from the residence, Johnson said.
Chief’s certificates of merit were given to Marty Lawrence, who came to administration in December and has helped set up address verification for the inspection program; Mike Nipp for his community service and leadership; Jeff Hudgens, for his commitment to the Smith County Fire School and Tyler Firefighter Combat Challenge; the annual Tyler Fire Department Family Picnic Committee; Traveling trophy from the annual picnic: Station 10; Logan Luttrell for his additional help with the picnic; Assistant Fire Marshal Brandon Davis; Assistant Fire Marshal Laura Mason; Deputy Fire Marshal Tony Gumber; Deputy Fire Marshal James Suggs; Deputy Fire Marshal Jeff Tucker; the Tyler Fire Department Gold Medal Soccer Team; and Combat Challenge record holders Don Williams and Jeremy Driver.
Friends of the Department awards went to retired ATF Special Agent Larry Smith for his investigative support; and Ernie Cantu, EMS educator with East Texas Medical Center, for his support and involvement with the department’s EMS education program.
Legends awards went to J.W. Love, who served 42 years with the department, and Floyd Mosely, who served 33 years.
Leadership awards went to Capt. Kenneth Scheid and Fire Marshal Paul Findley; and Customer Service awards went to James Seaton, Josh Spinhirne and Matt Ottaberry.
The department also recognized Resident Agent in Charge Clay Alexander, the ATF-Tyler Field Office, Marjorie Vallejo, Tyler City Councilman Mark Whatley and Mayor Barbara Bass.
“I’m always impressed with the camaraderie of firefighters and their families,” Mayor Bass said. “Thanks for keeping residents safe.”