By Deb Patterson
CLAYPOOL — Kosciusko County Fireman’s Association annually hosts a fish fry for its members, township trustees/advisory boards, elected county officials, suppliers and friends the third Thursday in September. This event is highlighted by the presentation of awards.
This year things were a little different.
There was no fish fry, no preview of new equipment, gear or radios from dealers and suppliers, and no 100-plus firefighters, township trustees/advisory board members or county elected officials. It has all been moved to 2021. Instead, Thursday, Sept. 17, was the normal monthly meeting hosted by one of the county’s fire departments.
But one thing remained unchanged. The presentation of awards.
Chris Fancil, Syracuse, a volunteer firefighter with Turkey Creek Fire Territory and Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory EMS coordinator, was awarded the 2020 Firefighter of the Year Award. Fancil was nominated by the Sidney Fire Department.
Fancil said after the meeting, “It is an unexpected honor when everyone else in here deserves it just as much. They volunteer their time. I get paid for it.”
In the letter of recommendation, it was noted Fancil has gone above and beyond in many different aspects of the fire service, taking time out of his busy schedule to ensure firefighters and first responders are always trained and aware of new skills in firefighting and in life-saving techniques.
Al Disbro was speechless after being named the 2020 Friend of the Firemen.
Roger Gelbaugh, former Winona Lake fire chief and past president of the County Fireman’s Association, presented the award to Disbro. “He’s a dear friend of the Winona Lake Fire Department,” Gelbaugh stated, noting about 40 years ago, a man with a camera showed up at a house fire and began taking photographs. No one knew who he was. The next day, two large stacks of photos appeared on Gelbaugh’s desk. “He has continued in this county, his photography. Every time you see him … never goes anywhere without his camera.”
The evening, attended by approximately 50 firefighters and guests at Claypool Fire Department, also included the “tolling of the bell” for firefighters who have passed away during the last year. Ten firefighters from various county departments were remembered.
During the business meeting reports were heard on numerous activities of the association. These items included new towers, the arrival of the final two “Titus” fans all stationed throughout the county, a report on Auto Pulse, training, upcoming events of local departments and a brief presentation about FirstNet with AT&T.