Friday, October 24, 2014

Firefighters honored with city’s ‘Citizen of the Year’ award

By CRYSTAL HERBER, Herald Staff Writer | 1/7/2013

POMONA — No award was needed, they said, but they got one anyway.

The Pomona Fire Department was honored with the Pomona Citizen of the Year award Monday evening. Serving the small community of Pomona is its own reward, Stan Lantis, fire chief, said. But it still is nice to be recognized for the work they do, he added.

“A little formal recognition ... to hear it from somewhere else, to get to stand up tonight and get a little recognition and I think it’s well-deserved,” Lantis said Monday, thanking each volunteer for their ongoing service.

The award was for the 14-member volunteer crew, whose members risk their lives on emergency calls, from grass and structure fires to car wrecks and medical assists. The Pomona City Council and Marie Seneca, Pomona mayor, presented the award to the department Monday at its regular monthly meeting.

It’s the volunteer status of the department that makes it unique, Lantis said. None of the firefighters get paid to risk their lives, which is the difference between a volunteer and a career firefighter, he said, despite being trained at the same level. All the members work full-time jobs but don’t mind being awakened by a beeper in the middle of the night — forced by their volunteer spirit to leave warm beds and address an emergency.

Why do it?

Lantis said it’s a profound need to pay it forward.

“I think at the bottom for everybody is they feel the need to give back to the community,” Lantis, chief for 18 years, said. “I would like to think that that’s what drives all these people.”

The majority of the crew was in attendance at the meeting Monday night to receive congratulations from the townspeople and council. They stood in the back of the room dressed in Pomona Fire Department shirts. The community is fortunate, Lantis said, to have such experienced emergency responders. Their total years of experience add to more than 220 years, he said. Most of them are emergency medical response certified, and some have spent decades serving on the department.

Because of their constant vigilance and dedication to Pomona residents’ safety, Seneca said, the firefighters deserved the recognition.

“We’d like to thank you and all of the volunteer fire department for all of the years of service,” Seneca said as she gave Lantis the award. “We deeply appreciate it.”

With the exceptionally dry summer conditions, Lantis said, the department was fortunate it did not have to respond to more emergencies. It could have been much worse, he said, but the community and the firefighters overall were lucky.

The Pomona Fire Department responded to 655 incidents inside and outside the city limits in 2012.

Perhaps the most important form of payment for the men and women of the fire department, Lantis said, is to extend to them the gratitude they deserve for their service.

“Your thank you is their pay,” Lantis said. “So I would ask you, when you run into one of these people ... smile and say thank you. That’s their paycheck.”

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