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story.lead_photo.caption Cole County Fire Protection District Board Members Rich Gordon and Gary Smith present former fire chief and current board member Donnie Braun with awards to mark his 50 years of service to the fire district.

The Cole County Fire Protection District recently held its annual service awards banquet to show appreciation to the firefighters for their service.

District spokesman Steve Cearlock said one aspect of the 2018 awards really stood out.

“The district recognized six firefighters who have given 105 years of service to the district,” Cearlock said in a news release. “The combined years of service of district personnel are over 1,300 years. This in itself shows the commitment to the district by its personnel in the aspects of training, call response and the rewards of helping others in their time of need.”

The following firefighters were recognized for their years of service:

• Five years: James Buechter and Bradley Kempker.

• 10 years: Adam Bashore, Jim Rademann and Bill Wirtel.

• 15 years: Matt Long.

• 50 years: Donnie Braun.

The following firefighters also received recognition:

• Fire Fighter of the Year: Mac Kennedy.

• Officer of the Year: Gary Braun.

• Special Recognition Award: Steve Cearlock.

• Outstanding Community Service Award: Blake Bopp.

The deputy chiefs have an award known as the “Dirty Dozen,” which goes to the firefighters who responded to the most calls. Those who received the award this year were: Justin Braun, Zack Rustemeyer, Mac Kennedy, Galen Hammann, Gary Berendzen, Gary Braun, Jason Hammann, Mike Hart, Robbie Hammann, Dakota Roth, Adam Bashore and James Buechter.

Awards for perfect attendance in training went to: Gary Braun, Galen Hammann, Robbie Hammann, Jason Hammann and Nathan Luebbering.

This year the district also gave a Life Saving Award to firefighters Justin Braun, Jason Hammann, Matt Long and first responder Neil Sneller.

This group was fishing at the Lake of the Ozarks when they heard someone yelling in the distance, Cearlock said. They looked around and located a boat with no operator. They called back to the person in the water that they were coming.

The firefighters maneuvered their boat toward the empty boat and found a man hanging on near the trolling motor. The man had been fishing when he stubbed his toe, lost his balance and fell into the water. Hammann asked if he could swim, and the man said he could but at he was too tired and was about ready to go under. Braun handed Hammann a throw cushion to give to the man, then grabbed him and pulled him toward their boat. Long then maneuvered the boat toward the bank. Once close to the bank and in about 2 feet of water, the firefighters told the man to stand up and walk to the shoreline; he grabbed a mooring cable and walked out of the water.

The man later told authorities that if it hadn’t been for the four firefighters coming to his rescue, he probably would not be here today.

Each firefighter received a Missouri Senate proclamation sponsored by state Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City.

Cearlock said the Cole County Fire Protection District is always looking for men and women who want to join the firefighting service. Anyone interested should call the district office at 573-634-9011.

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