Saranac Lake Fire Department

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Nov 28, 2023

SLVFD holds annual awards banquet following 3 year pandemic break
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By SLVFD News Room
May 21, 2022

On Friday May 20th The SLVFD held its annual banquet at the Red Fox in Saranac Lake for the first time in 3 years. Our last banquet was held in June of 2019. The hiatus was brought on by the Covid pandemic and the need for social distancing. It was really special being able to be together again.

The following presentations were made.

The "Chiefs Award" is awarded annually by the chief of the department to the person he or she considers to have made the most outstanding contribution to the department. Instituted in 1989 by Chief Don Duso, "Chiefs Award" recipients are honored at our annual banquet with a plaque. A perpetual plaque is also maintained at the fire house listing all previous recipients of the award. The full list of Chiefs Award recipients can be viewed by clicking the link below.

This year’s Chiefs Award was presented to Past Chief John Wamsganz by Chief Keough via zoom meeting. John who never misses a banquet was unable to attend this year due to significant health issues. The zoom call was projected onto a large screen in the banquet room so John and his family could be present when the award was announced. It was prearranged with his family that his plaque was staged at his house and able to be presented to him there in real time when the award was announced. John served as Chief of the SLVFD for 2 terms in 1981 and 1982. John’s father Vern Wamsganz had also been Chief. John and his father Vern are the only Father and Son Chiefs in the entire history of the SLVFD. John contributed to the department over his long career, had left service and came back to serve again during a critical time period in the 2000’s when his service was really needed.

Retired head driver Kent Robinson still serves as a volunteer. Kent had achieved 50 years of service during the pandemic and was unable to be recognized until tonight. Ben Wheeler of The New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control was present to make the award. Ben made presentations recognizing Kents 50 years on behalf of 3 separate organizations. The awards were from the Fireman's Association of the State of New York, The New York Association of Fire Chiefs, and the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control. Kent also received an award from the SLVFD.

John Derby who retired recently following a long 30 plus year career as a paid driver, and a member of the volunteer department was recognized for his long service. John is known as a dedicated Red Sox fan was presented with tickets to an upcoming Red Sox vs Yankees game at Fenway Park in Boston by the members of the SLVFD.

Hawley Snyder was also recognized for his recent retirement as a paid Driver.

Debbie Zerrahn who recently went on the Honor Roll had served as the departments treasurer for 18 years was recognized for her service.

Scott Glenny, Assistant Chief of the Duane VFD and his wife Sue were present. They were recognized for their assistance in making a key presentation that helped highlight perspective to the planning process and teamwork necessary for our upcoming public safety building project. The presentation was made to the SLVFD, the rescue squad, the police department, the Mayor, and village board members. Scott who is a retired Chief of the Lunenburg MA fire department oversaw the planning and construction of a public safety facility of similar size and scope of what we are planning while serving in that role.

Challenge coins are awarded to SLVFD members upon completion of 2 active years of service. The SLVFD does have active challenge rules in effect and eligible members are expected to carry their coins at all times. Garret Krasher was awarded his coin this evening. Garrets coin presentation was a little late and as a gag gift he was awarded a giant paper version of the award. (he was also given an actual coin) you can read more about SLVFD’s challenge coin tradition by clicking the link below.

Each year the top 5 volunteers with the highest number of responses during the year are recognized and presented with a gift. Given that there have been 3 years with no banquet Top 5 awards were given for all three years. They are listed below by year.

When Chief Keough was done making all the presentations Assistant Chief Michael Knapp took the mic and made one last presentation. On behalf of the members Chief Keough was recognized for his leadership guiding us through this pandemic period. A common complaint is that sometimes the chief is too busy to stop for meals. As a gag the chief was awarded with a "Milwaukee Pack-out" which, when opened, it was filled with MRE’s so when needed he would have something to eat. Of course he was also presented with a gift card for a real meal at the Red Fox. Chief Keough’s wife Julie was also presented with a gift certificate for a massage and a bouquet of flowers.

Following the meal and the awards presentations the annual slide show was presented. It can be viewed below.

Below are your Top 5 responders over the last 3 years.

2019 - 2020
1. Michael Knapp 281 out of 337
2. Dominic Fontana 211
3. Nate Jones 172
4. Douglas Peck 169
5. Casey Taylor 158

2020 - 2021
1. Dominic Fontana 157 out of 261
2. Michael Knapp 123
3. Daryl Brier 120
4. Nate Jones 96
5. Doug Peck 96

2021 – 2022

1. Michael Knapp 252 out of 377
2. Dominic Fontana 234
3. Christina Fontana 191
4. Brendan Keough 159
5. Nate Jones 127

Hyperlinks: SLVFD Challenge Coin Tradition
List of previous Chiefs Award recipients


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Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department
100 Broadway
PO Box 509
Saranac Lake NY 12983

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