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FCFD celebrates department awards, promotions
Dave Svehla Fire Department
West Forsyth High School athletic trainer Lena Davis and head football coach Dave Svehla embrace as she receives a citizen life saved award for her actions after Svehla had chest pains and a cardiac event in 2020.

First responders and local residents were joined by their families and those saved by their actions at a recent ceremony hosted by the Forsyth County Fire Department.

On Saturday, Nov. 20 the Forsyth County Fire Department’s awards and promotions ceremony was held at North Forsyth High School’s auditorium, where firefighters, Central EMS employees and members of the community were given awards, celebrated promotions and recognized for retirement.

“Like many things in our world today, the COVID pandemic has affected our promotional and ceremonial timeline, so several of the events and many of the promotions you’re going to see this afternoon actually occurred in 2019 and 2020,” said Division Chief Jason Shivers, who emceed the event.

Awards given during the ceremony were life-saved awards for civilians and members of FCFD who were nominated “for particular acts of heroism or actions that result in a life saved,” unit citations given to fire companies and awards were given to employees with Central EMS, which provides emergency medical services for Forsyth County.

FCFD Company 12’s David Cody, Patrick Francis, Zak Holbrook, Madeline Martin, Joel Roberts and Central’s Katrina King and Mike Kelly received a unit citation award for their action during a residential fire in August.

Shivers said while responding to the fire, Cody went into the home’s basement to find the cause of the fire, when conditions deteriorated, and he was forced up the stairs to warn the rest of the team before “the atmosphere engulfed him in flames” and caused severe injuries.

After Cody made a mayday call, Francis, the firefighter closest to Cody, found him and with the help of Holbrook and other members of the team, pulled Cody from the home “in disregard for his own personal safety,” Shivers said.

In all, four firefighters were injured in the blaze, which was allegedly intentionally set. Shanice Alesha Riggins-Davenport, 21, was charged with felony aggravated assault with other weapon and felony arson residence in August in connection with the fire.

During Saturday’s ceremony, not only did Francis and Holbrook receive lifesaving awards but Cody was also nominated for his own.

“With an interesting twist, Firefighters Francis and Holbrook also nominated… Cody for a life saved award because of his efforts to warn the others not to enter too deep into the home because of the conditions he was aware of,” Shivers said.  “So, the entire company is receiving a unit citation award, Firefighters Francis and Fire Apparatus Operator Cody received a life saved award. They’re also receiving a commendation signed by the Governor of Georgia [Brian Kemp.]”

Two life-saved awards went to members of the public, including one to West Forsyth High School Athletic Trainer Lena Davis.

In July 2020, Davis gave CPR and used an automated external defibrillator, or AED, on West Forsyth head football coach Dave Svehla after he began having chest pains and later a cardiac event.

“During her CPR efforts, Coach Svehla regained consciousness,” Shivers said. “Ms. Davis’ actions absolutely saved the life of Coach Svehla… for her efforts, she will receive a civilian life save award.”

Along with the awards, milestones in firefighters’ careers were also commemorated.

During the ceremony, 34 firefighter promotions were celebrated.

“Each of the individuals who are being promoted this afternoon has stepped up to help lead our organization, but they will also help shape it for future generations of firefighters,” said Fire Chief Barry Head. “Successful fire officer candidates work extremely hard to achieve their promotions. It takes a lot of time, sacrifice, discipline and commitment to prepare for the very challenging testing process.”

Each firefighter had their previous badge removed by a loved one and the new one pinned on.

Lt. Kevin O’Connell and Volunteer Firefighters Tim Greaves and Joe McNamara were also recognized for their retirements during the ceremony.

Though the fire department has been a paid department for over 20 years, Head said, following the ceremony, the department would be down to its last two volunteer firefighters after Greaves and McNamara’s retirements.

“Most of you know that our departments started as a volunteer organization, and people like Joe and Tim are what made this place work for a long time,” Head said. “They did it not for a paycheck, but because they felt the need to serve the community and their fellow man, and that’s really all that got out of it, that gratification and satisfaction.”

For his retirement, O’Connell was awarded with a ceremonial ax for his contributions to the fire department, which Head said began in 1998.

“He’s had a front-row seat to many of the changes and experienced the growth of the department, and he’s been an integral part of the HAZMAT team and Station 2 and Station 10 for a long time,” Head said. “While the loss of Kevin’s institutional knowledge is unavoidable, good senior firefighters and officers spend most of their years teaching younger generations to ensure their experiences and skills are passed on, built on but never forgotten.”