The Fountain Hills Noon Rotary Club recognized public safety personnel in Fountain Hills and the surrounding communities in awarding its annual firefighter and law enforcement officer of the year awards at a luncheon on March 10.
Club President Richard Karr, himself retired law enforcement (FBI), said the recognition had special meaning for him.
“Terms associated with first responders – bravery, honesty and integrity are just words until someone comes along and gives them meaning,” Karr said.
Rio Verde Fire District Chief Jay Ducote presented the Firefighter of the Year Award to Josh Johnson, a member of his team who oversees the Firewise Team in the Verdes from the fire department perspective. He works with community leaders in Rio Verde and Tonto Verde taking care to develop defensible space around the community to prevent wildfire.
Johnson is also a wildland fire strike team leader and has led a RVFD team in responding to several California wildfires. He is also a certified inspector for the district.
Ducote said Johnson’s talents with video have special meaning for the district as he produced video tributes to two retired RVFD team members who passed away this past year.
“I don’t work at all because I’m doing something that I love,” Johnson said. “I consider it my job to make life better for the guy next to me and those around me.”
Fountain Hills Rural/Metro Fire Department Chief Dave Ott recognized Devin Schofield as Firefighter of the Year in Fountain Hills.
Ott said Schofield was part of a team that is credited with saving the life of a teen who suffered cardiac arrest at Fountain Hills Middle School last year. That group is a nominee for national Stars of Life recognition.
Recently certified as a paramedic, Schofield is also responsible for maintaining supplies for the department’s five EMS units.
Ott said Schofield came to the department as one of the first participants in the sole provider program that trained EMS ambulance personnel to serve as firefighters with the department.
Schofield said it is an honor for him to be able to work with the personnel at each of the departments being recognized.
“We do our best in the customer service we provide,” Schofield said.
Fort McDowell Fire Department Chief Mark Openshaw said the department is particularly proud of Firefighter of the Year Paul Camacho. Comacho joined the department as part of a recruitment program designed to bring tribal residents into the department. Camacho has completed EMT training as well as Firefighter I and Firefighter II certification. He filled the first open position available after completing the recruitment program. With the support of the department Camacho has recently completed the paramedic program.
Openshaw called Camacho a great asset to the community, a mentor, avid hunter and a great family man.
Camacho thanked Openshaw and his captain for their help and support in getting where he is today.
MCSO Capt. Larry Kratzer said Deputy J.J. Cosme has been a perfect fit to help with one of the first challenges the town asked Kratzer to improve upon.
That task was improving traffic safety enforcement within the town. Kratzer explained that with the office under a federal compliance order, traffic stops are something that get very careful scrutiny, which results in a reduction in traffic stops.
However, Cosme is someone who loves to make stops and in the eight months he has been in Fountain Hills, has averaged more than 200 stops per month.
“That has helped motivate the other deputies as well,” Kratzer said.
An 18.5-year veteran with MCSO, Cosme has singlehandedly transformed the traffic detail in Fountain Hills, which has helped protect the safety of pedestrians and students, according to Kratzer.
They were not present for the award luncheon, but Rotary named Det. Clayton Wilcox as Officer of the Year for the Fort McDowell Police Department.