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Firefighters honored for their service helping others

Justin Hewitt of the Plum City Union Fire Department recently received Firefighter of the Year for his volunteer service to the fire department. Hewitt has been with the fire department since 2001. Submitted photo1 / 3
Chad Nawrocki received the 2017 Prescott Firefighter of the Year honor. He has volunteered on the fire department for the last four years and in 2017 served as the Public Education Coordinator for the Prescott Fire Department. Pictured Chief Tom Lytle and Nawrocki. Submitted photo2 / 3
Nate Sorenson (far right) received the Spring Valley Firefighter of the Year. Sorenson will be celebrating his 22nd year on the fire department this March. Submitted Photo3 / 3

Many volunteers give countless hours serving their communities as firefighters. They give up their personal time and sometimes family time to make a difference in their communities.

Recently, some local firefighters were recognized for their service and received Firefighter of the Year awards from the local fire departments.

Plum City Union Fire Department

Justin Hewitt, Assistant Chief of the Plum City Union Fire Department, recently received the Firefighter of the Year award. Since 2001, Hewitt has been volunteering for the fire department and said it was a way for him to serve his community.

"I joined to simply give back to the community," Hewitt said.

In order to become a firefighter, Hewitt said he needed to go through some basic training.

"Every firefighter must go through an entry level introduction to the basics of firefighting," Hewitt said. "This would include fire behavior, firefighting PPE [personal protective equipment], fire equipment, tactical, extrication, life safety and etc."

But, Hewitt said being a firefighter requires continuous training to stay up to date and keep skills current.

"The fire service is constantly evolving," Hewitt said. "There is almost an endless amount of training a firefighter can be trained in."

Depending on the size of the community a firefighter serves, Hewitt said firefighters may not always use all of their skills regularly, but he believes it is important to keep up with training in case unused skills are needed some day.

"It is very important that a smaller department such as Plum City is constantly refreshing ourselves," Hewitt said. "When you have smaller volume of calls, some skills do not get used very consistently."

In order to serve the community, he said it is important to be ready for whatever the firefighters may be faced with.

"You never know when that skill or tactic will be needed," Hewitt said. "Therefore, it is extremely important to stay as sharp and informed as we can."

Hewitt admitted it can be challenging to get all the training done with everyone's family life and jobs. He said he is very lucky to have a supportive family that help him to not only have the time to get his training done but to also volunteer on the department. He said many times his wife has had to take on extra duties on top of her already busy schedule, but she is willing to do that. And he said he is lucky that his children really like the fire department.

"My kids love the fire department," Hewitt said. "Most of the time they can beat me to the car if they hear me mention going to the fire hall."

Besides spending time with his family and being a volunteer firefighter, Hewitt also works as a boom operator at Wieser Concrete in Maiden Rock.

The fire department volunteers, Hewitt said, have been great to work with and all of their dedication makes them able to get their job done.

"Our department is lucky to have had such a solid group of members over the years," Hewitt said. "I credit it to strong leadership and the willingness of everyone compromising and working together. We just have a good time."

Having a group of firefighters that are reliable and willing to give their time to communities is something Hewitt is grateful for.

"I'd like to thank all volunteers for dedicating their time to the departments and communities," Hewitt said.

Volunteering is a good way to give back to a community and zHewitt recommends others consider being a volunteer firefighter.

"I encourage anyone that has thought about volunteering to ask questions and go for it," Hewitt said. "Don't feel intimidated. Your local department may need you, and so does the public."

Spring Valley Fire

Deputy Chief Nate Sorenson of the Spring Valley Fire Department recently received the Firefighter of the Year award. Sorenson will be celebrating 22 years on the Spring Valley Fire Department in March.

Sorenson said being on the fire department was something he always figured he would grow up to do.

"My dad was on the fire department and I saw all the camaraderie in the department and wanted to be part of it," Sorenson said. "Being around it, I always knew I wanted to be around it [fire department] when older."

During his years on the department Sorenson said there have been changes with equipment and how to fight a fire.

"Technology and ways of fighting fire are completely different than when I first got in," Sorenson said. "A whole different way of fighting than when I first started."

Sorenson said many of these changes were to provide a safer way for firefighters to perform their jobs.

When Sorenson gets a call for a fire, he said he is fortunate he has a family that accepts he needs to leave.

"Family understands it, been around it for years," Sorenson said. "If pager goes off you go, they understand."

He said during the day, when he is at his job at Albrightson Excavating in Woodville he is unable to respond to pages. He said finding people who can respond to daytime calls is one of the problems the fire department faces. He said with most of the volunteers working jobs outside of the area, many can't respond during the day.

Sorenson said they are always looking to find new volunteers who can help serve the community and help during the daytime hours if possible.

"We always put out flyers to try and get people to apply," Sorenson said. "Always looking for people, doesn't hurt to apply."

Receiving the Firefighter of the Year is an honor, but one he felt could have been shared with others.

"It's just not only me that deserves, whole department deserves," Sorenson said. "We came together since [Terry Shafer] passed away. It was an eye-opener for all the work he did for us."