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1st Responders honored at annual event

Sept 22, 2022

By: Katherine Trowbridge



The annual First Responders Barbecue, held Thursday, Sept. 15 saw its largest crowd to date. As you walked in you felt the sense of welcome and honor that was being given to our First Responders as everyone greeted one another and shared in conversation. The meal was outstanding, as usual, with barbecue chicken, tri-tip and all the fixings. Connell Mayor, Lee Barrow, opened the event expressing appreciation to all our First Responders.


The event, hosted by the Connell Community Club (CCC), brings all of the N. Franklin community together. CCC President, Helen Tobin recognized Ron Lalka and Steve Houston for their service to our community and for the hole they leave behind. A gift was presented to Houston’s wife, Larissa, “for supporting him as a firefighter, and servant in our community.”

Franklin County Sheriff, Jim Raymond expressed appreciation for the invite and recognized his department members present. However, they do their staff awards in January, so there was no award to present.



Connell Police Chief Chris Lee kicked off the awards part of the event announcing their Officer of the Year award. Lee stated most people know him as the face of the department and have met him at some point in time. Lee went on to state that no matter what he asks this individual shows up and delivers without question. “He truly is a great asset for the organization, and he’s been a great asset for all the officers, a true mentor and a great positive individual...” The Officer of the Year went to Brad Quinton.


Chief Eric Mauseth of Franklin County Fire District 1 stated, he and the district appreciate everyone coming out, giving a “shout-out to the Franklin County Sheriff. For some reason, this year, we have had more interaction where we’ve had to request their help with situations. They just show up and do a great job and it’s been fun working with you guys.”


Mauseth went on to introduce his Firefighter of the Year, Austin Smith. “I’ve known this kid since knee high... He’s just one of those that he wants to be the last one on the fire... I’m very proud of you for the initiative you can go on. ..He’s a good leader. He doesn’t want to admit it, but he’s a leader, and I’m very proud of him.”


Steve Cooper, with Franklin County Fire District 4 was up next. Fire District 4 covers the Basin City area. Cooper took a moment to tell a quick story of how far the districts have come since he joined the department in 2003. He told of when his fire chief got a call, and they got in their trucks and took off for the fire. “...come down Hendricks Rd and we’re getting closer and closer to the fire and there’s firefighters out there putting the fire out and all of a sudden we just pull up and stop...” Cooper was ready to go put out the fire but his chief said, “No, we can’t go help those guys...” See the fire wasn’t burning in their district. Back then they couldn’t go unless they asked, or the fire came across the district line. “That’s the way it used to work around here years ago...and now, it’s unbelievable how the fire district to the hospital district, it’s all about community, we don’t care if you’re one, four, or five, you know. Helping with MBA’s and ambulance calls. It’s just really neat to see how this whole community’s come together. And we all just go help each other. It’s very impressive to live in this community. This community, or county, is very fortunate to have all of you, that’ll get up anytime a day....”


For his award, Chief Cooper shared, “This particular fireman, he has been accused of sleeping at the station because when the tone goes off, I mean he’s already ready to go before dispatch gives an address. Jon is always ready to go...He’s always ready to help.” Cooper went on to speak of the “new recruit program” started by Jon. A special training program for new recruits when a new firefighter is brought on, they get special one on one training with trucks and gear. Their first graduate Willie Pound. will graduate in October. Cooper applauded Jon Cox for all the extra effort he has put in and honored him with the Firefighter of the Year award.


Throughout the event, Mayor Barrow held a drawing for a variety of door prizes. Burl Booker joined in with a fun auction for the final cut of tri-tip holding a competition between the departments. It was Chief Lee and the Connell Police Department who won and will be enjoying the tasty meat.


Connell Fire Department’s Chief I stated, “We’ve been talking about young people all evening and the new folks that come into the program with both feet on the ground... I also want to say I appreciate everyone in the department. They all have a role, and they’re mostly always there.” Chief Woffenden brought up Eduardo Gomez stating he was skeptical of joining ... Chief Mauseth also joined them as he expressed how Eduardo joined the FCFD1 and CPD then also joined the ambulance crew. Mauseth commented on his dedication to firefighting sharing a story of being on a fire and telling Eddie he needed to go home, he said he had to work in a couple of hours. But to call him if it gets big again. Mauseth stated it’s fun to be out there with these young people who push you, one day they will win and be on top of the ladder. Eduardo Gomez received Connell Fire Department’s Firefighter of the Year award.

Franklin County Public Hospital District 1’s award was presented by Woffenden to Bob Andrews. Andrews, “A scholar of the hospital district for 40 years” served as captain in Basin City for 15 years or so and was the first Chief of the district serving six years. Woffenden stated, “There are not enough words for this gentleman. Lot of sacrifices over the years. Thank you.”


The Emergency Medical Transport (EMT) award went to Jerri Rae for her service to the community and training of future EMT’s. Rae was totally surprised and stated, “I’m lost right now, I have no words.”


Former First Responder and EMT Dorothy Krein was also recognized. Support Staff including CPD’s Kenna Reid and Kim with SECOM and the Women’s Auxiliary that supports our firefighters were all recognized.


The event was filled with laughs, comradery, good food, and appreciation for our First Responders who take the call day or night to serve our community and keep it safe.



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