SIDNEY — Sidney Firefighter Michael Utz has been named Sidney Fire Department’s (SFD) Firefighter of the Year for 2017.
Fire Chief Brad Jones presented the honor to Utz during Monday evening’s Sidney City Council meeting.
The room was filled with fellow Sidney firefighters, but also with several other firefighters from across the country from Florida to California. Members of the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute’s (UL FSRI) fire service technical panel/advisory committee that was part of Monday’s live-fire experiments conducted by SFD, UL FSRI and Illinois Fire Service Institute Research attended, also.
Jones told attendees each year the Department of Fire & Emergency Services recognizes an individual for outstanding performance. He said the Firefighter of the Year award is part of their overall awards program and that members are nominated by their peers and evaluated by a committee on the following criteria:
• Consistent top level performance;
• Cooperative attitude;
• Demonstrates a high level of proficiency while operating at emergency incidents;
• Projects positive image of the department to the public;
• Seeks ways to improve delivery of departmental services.
Utz has been with the SFD for over 16 years. He is a graduate of Ottawa-Glandorf High School, is a certified paramedic, a current member on the Rope Rescue and Water Rescue teams and the Honor Guard.
Utz is also a CPR, pediatric advanced life support (PALS), advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), an EMS continuing education (CE), and protocol instructor, Jones said.
“Michael has received recognition from his supervisors on numerous occasions,” Jones said, “and just to name a few of them are: in 2011, after arriving on scene of a fatal car accident of a young girl, Firefighter Utz went beyond his expected duties and stayed with the family offering emotional support in their time of need which was recognized by numerous community members; in 2012, Michael and his crew received recognition for their actions for saving a man’s life after him being found in cardiac arrest; in 2015, Firefighter Utz was part of a crew that was recognized as doing a great job from the CareFlight team on scene of a motorcycle accident on Interstate 75; in 2017, Michael was part of a crew that responded to a call of a man not breathing after a seizure, where ACLS procedures were performed.”
“The patient survived because of the knowledge and skill of this team. This patient’s daughter personally came in to the fire station to thank those that saved her father’s life,” Jones continued. “Also in 2017, Michael was on scene of a natural gas leak and due to the actions taken that day, saved this house from an explosion. Recently in January of this year, Firefighter Utz’s crew responded to a patient not breathing with no pulse, but as a result of the quick actions and team work, this patient is alive today.”
Jones told council that Utz has shown great professionalism and is a great example for his fellow firefighters with his dedication and compassion for teaching children about fire safety within the schools.
During his career, Jones said, Utz’s supervisors have said he is a very competent paramedic, an asset on emergency scenes, and great asset to their organization.
Jones said that because of these “invaluable assets,” Utz received a Fire Chief’s Commendation Award in July 2015 for his actions and life-saving efforts in a river rescue event on the Great Miami River.
“Firefighter Utz is clearly a credit to the department and an asset to the entire community,” Jones said as he presented the Firefighter of the Year Award to Michael Utz immediately before he received a standing ovation.
With his wife Shannon and young son, Ezekiel, in the audience, Utz thanked members of his department who put him up for the award and said any of them could be up for it as well.
“As the chief was mentioning, it’s a team effort. When we are on the scene, it’s not a one man game, and all those (events) he mentioned were as a team, so every one of these guys are top notch,” Utz said. “I just want to say thanks to everybody, and the good Lord and my family who have my back through it all.”
At then end of the council meeting, Council member Steve Wagner and Mayor Mike Barhorst commended SFD and Jones on the professionalism and work involved with the live-fire experiments held in Sidney over the last two weeks.
“I appreciate the fact that those that were able to come. It just seemed the great range of departments were represented, from Orlando to Colorado Springs to San Jose to Phoenix (to) Sacramento; across the board. I don’t think everybody in Sidney realized what a big deal this was,” Barhorst said. “The gentleman from New York City said to me, ‘people will be talking about the Sidney experiments for the next 20 years.’ And not only in this country, but in 90 countries over seas.”
He praised Jones for having the foresight and taking the time and energy to bring the project to Sidney.
Jones responded by saying the last two weeks during the live-fire experiments had been a highlight of his career.
“We’ve had 12 regional (fire) departments, from Oregon to Troy, that have actually come and physically participated in the experiments themselves. They didn’t just come and watch. They brought their fire gear and air pack and participated. And you have heard me say 1000 times, I’m only as strong as my neighbor, so to have the opportunity to share this with the region, it’s just — the last two weeks have been up there in my 25 years of experience. I’ll say that out loud,” Jones said.
In addition, council went into an executive session to consider the discipline of a public employee and pending litigation. No action was taken by council when they emerged from the session.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.