WMFR celebrates promotions, awards

WMFR celebrates promotions, awards
Chief Ben Rigney congratulates firefighters Cameron Frazier and Zachary Benshoff on earning the district’s Phoenix Award. - Kristin Swain | Sun

BRADENTON – West Manatee Fire Rescue’s commissioners and staff had a lot to celebrate during the board’s Nov. 19 meeting with two new firefighters sworn in, three promotions and two Phoenix Awards handed out.

First on the agenda was the oath which was given to new hires firefighters Aaron Reese and David Stark. Reese is working to finish paramedic school in December while Stark comes to WMFR from Manatee County Emergency Management Services.

Firefighters Aaron Reese and David Stark take their oaths as West Manatee firefighters. – Kristin Swain | Sun

Firefighter Tyler MacDonald was promoted for the rank of lieutenant but was absent from the meeting. He will officially be promoted during the district’s January board meeting.

Also promoted was firefighter Clayton Lease who was promoted to the rank of firefighter third class.

More than a month after he started the job, firefighter Jay Johnson was officially promoted to the position of administrative battalion chief, serving as the right hand of new Chief Ben Rigney. Johnson’s family was on-hand to help celebrate the promotion and his father had the honor of pinning his son with his new badge.

Firefighter Clayton Lease is promoted to firefighter third class. – Kristin Swain | Sun

Two Phoenix Awards also were handed out to firefighter/paramedics Zachary Benshoff and Cameron Frazier.

WMFR gives Phoenix Awards to first responders who respond to a cardiac arrest call where the patient is brought back from the brink of death and is able to leave the hospital under their own power. Johnson and Rigney presented the awards.

Benshoff and Frazier earned this Phoenix Award after responding to a drowning call on Sept. 21 with two of their fellow firefighters, Corey Hill and Capt. Buddy Leigh.

Johnson said that when the WMFR team arrived, CPR was already being conducted by marine rescue personnel and a bystander. The WMFR paramedics took over patient care using their medic training and the district’s non-transport advanced lifesaving equipment and were able to keep the patient alive until an EMS transport unit arrive four minutes later. The patient was able to leave the hospital on Sept. 30.

Battalion Chief Jay Johnson addresses commissioners just moments after being officially promoted to administrative battalion chief. – Kristin Swain | Sun

For a patient who needs CPR, Johnson said their chances of survival drop 10% every minute without patient care. By WMFR’s paramedic trained firefighters arriving on-scene four minutes ahead of EMS, he said it increased the drowning victim’s survival rate by 40%.

“That’s huge,” Johnson said of the rescue efforts. “That’s why we’re here and we’re just so proud of you.”

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