Andy Trudeau received the Fireman of the Year award during the Park Rapids Fire Department appreciation and awards banquet Saturday at American Legion Post 212.
Guests filled all the seats in the room, including spouses and children of the firefighters, city and county officials, law enforcement, dispatchers, power company staff and other citizens the firefighters wished to honor for helping them do their jobs last year.
"This is always fun for us," said Fire Chief Terry Long. "This is us saying 'thank you' to everybody in the community that helps us."
Recognized for their years of service with the fire department were five-year firefighters Steve Safratowich and Zach Deshayes, and 10-year veterans Bob Meier, Kyle Little, Darin Hafner, Logan Hanisch and Pat Focken.
Retirees from the department who were recognized included Pat Mikesh (18 years), Brian Ellenson (20 years), Mike Ridlon (22 years) and former chief Don Hoffman (30 years).
Hoffman also received a U.S. flag made from decommissioned fire hose cleaned, painted and mounted by firefighter Kasey Krautkremer and signed by all the department's members.
Special recognition went to Jayla Pederson, a girl who spotted smoke coming from a neighboring residence, saving the lives of the couple inside; and Wesley Little, a small son of firefighter Kyle Little, who was with his father when they spotted a house fire and stayed on the scene throughout the fire department's response.
Meier, the second assistant fire chief, also presented a series of gag awards, such as a toy ladder truck for Deshayes (known for always wanting to drive the ladder truck), a toy fire helmet on a retractable lanyard for Long (who once temporarily lost his helmet on a fire scene) and a set of toy squirt guns for the crew of a fire truck that caught fire on the way home from the Blueberry Pines lodge fire.
According to a video recap of the department's activities during 2018, Park Rapids firefighters responded to 92 calls, racking up a total of 2,556 hours of service. They also underwent more than 760 hours of training and provided some 30 hours of educational outreach to hundreds of local school children.
Some of the firefighters' children donned aprons and bused tables during the pork loin dinner. Following the awards, the father-and-sons band Raccoon Antlers provided entertainment.