Friday, May 23, 2008

Tulare's Firefighter of the Year

The news he had been selected as Tulare Fire Department firefighter of the year came as a complete surprise to Capt. Ignacio Vasquez.

He said he didn't even know he was a nominee.

"Honestly, I didn't even have a clue," he said. "I was really surprised."

Following a department-wide open nomination and an e-mail-based runoff, Vasquez was selected as the annual award's third recipient.

Having been decided by peers and co-workers, the award carries extra meaning for Vasquez.

"These are the guys you sleep with, these are the guys eat with, these are the guy you respond to emergency situations with," he said of life in the firehouse. "They know your good sides and they know your bad sides."

For paramedic/firefighter Josh Ryan, Vasquez was the right choice.

"He's deserving of the award," Ryan said. "He's dedicated. He comes to work with a good attitude."

Ryan is the recently selected Tulare Firefighters Association president and has been on Vasquez's fire crew since January.

"He had been a mentor," Ryan said.

Vasquez was hired as a paramedic/firefighter in July 2002, promoted to engineer 18 months later and received the rank of captain in 2006.

Vasquez said he wanted a career as a firefighter because he wanted to help people in need.

"It's about helping people," he said. "To show up and have a positive impact when someone is having a difficult time, it makes you feel good inside. It's the feeling to help fellow man."

Despite the recent accolade, Vasquez said there were other worthy recipients.

"I know there are other co-workers who deserved this award," he said. "We work as a team."

Vasquez will receive a commemorative plaque at a May 30 ceremony, scheduled for 3 p.m. at the fire department's headquarters, 800 South Blackstone St. The ceremony is open to the public.

Also as part of the ceremony, Mike Saulque, who was recently promoted, will receive his engineer badge, five paramedics/firefighters, including Ryan, will be removed from probation status, and three cadets will graduate from the department's in-house academy.

Source: Visalia Times Delta News

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