Fire captain named top firefighter

ALPENA -Each year the firefighters from throughout the area come together for a special night of dining and recognition for the hard work they exhibit throughout the year. The Firefighter’s Ball this year was held at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center on Saturday and featured many of the guests dressed in tropical clothing to fit with the Hawaiian theme that was set for the event. During the ball the Thunder Bay Area Firefighters Association also presented awards to the men and women who were among the best of the best last year.

The 2012 winner of the firefighter of the year was Cathy Dettling from the Alcona Township Fire Department. Alpena Fire Chief Bill Forbush said it was a difficult decision to name a winner for the award. He said all three finalists were worthy of the title firefighter of the year.

“They were all very deserving. They were selected for firefighter of the year for their particular departments of the Thunder Bay Association and all were deserving in their own right,” Forbush said. “Cathy is a captain for her department as well as an EMT specialist, runs the training program and has been there for many years.

“She has really been instrumental in the dive team and other programs, so we’re very pleased to give her this honor.”

The other two candidates for the award were Leon Srebnik from the Alpena Township Fire Department and C.J. Hoppe from the Maple Ridge Fire Department.

The keynote speaker for the event was State Fire Marshall Richard Miller who addressed the crowd. Forbush said having Miller attend and speak to the area’s firefighters was an honor.

“We were very lucky to attract such a distinguished speaker,” Forbush said. “He was appointed by the governor and is in charge of the Bureau of Fire Services and oversees the fire service for the entire state. That includes the data system the building inspection enforcement, firefighter training, it is all under his leadership and to get him to come to Alpena to talk to us made us feel very honored because he is a very busy man.”

Sanborn Township Fire Department Chief Dale Hart was the winner of the first President’s Award which is given to the to a firefighter who is not eligible for the Firefighter of the Year Award because of rank or other things. Forbush said Hart was the perfect selection to be the award’s first recipient.

“Hart was just outstanding,” Forbush said. “He made 98 percent of the calls and is involved with everything else in the system and has been here many years. We were very pleased to have him receive the President’s Award.”

Forbush said there were more than 200 people from all of the departments and by having everyone together it allowed for the firefighters to get to know each other better and exchange ideas.

“We had firefighters from all of the different departments from the Thunder Bay region and it was a great opportunity for networking. The event is always a good time and this year was no different,” he said.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 358-5689.