Little Dixie Fire District honors its volunteers

Tyler Shaw, right, was named the Little Dixie Fire Protection District's Firefighter of the Year for 2020. Presenting the award was Chief Bill Albus. [Dave Faries]
Dave Faries

Tyler Shaw leaned back in his chair and let the announcement sink in.

He had just been named as Little Dixie Fire Protection District’s Firefighter of the Year for 2020 and accepted the award with his son Lucas by his side.

“It means quite a bit to me,” Shaw said after Saturday night’s awards dinner, held at the 4-H Center in Mexico.

The district took the opportunity to recognize Shaw and 10 others at the annual event. Normally scheduled for fall, the banquet had been put on hold by the pandemic.

Fire Chief Bill Albus explained that COVID-19 made 2020 a difficult year. Regular training sessions were postponed or cancelled, and that led to a waiting list of volunteers.

But the department also received new equipment. And, the chief pointed out, there were no serious injuries suffered by the crew, despite answering 425 calls throughout the year.

Little Dixie’s awards ceremony was a chance to look back. In particular, the event honors volunteers who have stuck with it despite the unpredictable calls and obvious dangers.

“It’s different for everybody,” said deputy chief Bill Friday, explaining the reason crew members dedicate themselves to dousing fires, treating injuries, responding to accidents and all the other tasks involved. “I did it because I wanted to give back to the community.”

Friday was recognized for serving 35 years with the department. Lt. Steve Nichols received a 30-year service award.

For Friday, it meant the presentation of a play pipe. Nichols received a helmet, offered by his son Scott, also a volunteer.

“I never thought I’d earn it,” Nichols said. “When my youngest son gave me the helmet, that blew me away.”

As each name was called, a flag team stepped forward with the award. Captain Todd DeOrnellis and firefighter Adam Brown were presented with 25-year plaques. Captain Josh Biggers received the ceremonial axe for his 20 years with the department.

Three members of Little Dixie — Lt. Dustin Null and firefighters Greg Stowers and George Hardy — were honored for 15 years of service. Firefighter Matt Hagan’s name was called because he reached 10 years.
Eli Kramer, a firefighter, received the five-year pin.

Kramer jokes that he is a deputy – his full-time job – on the side.

“I fell in love with the fire department,” he said. “I enjoy it, knowing people are grateful.”

Little Dixie is on pace for 500 calls in 2021. Over one eight-day stretch they responded to 30 calls.

Shaw guessed that his availability to jump from his day job at his father’s shop, Ken’s Fast Lube in Mexico, to his firefighter’s gear led to his Firefighter of the Year nod.

“You have to be ready to do what you have to do,” he said.

That common thread was evident in the room on Saturday night.

“I have 50 men and women who have my back,” Nichols said. “When it comes to fighting fires, you couldn’t tear us apart.”


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