BROWNSBURG — In an emotional scene that saw tears shed and a new tradition begin, the Brownsburg Fire Territory awarded fallen firefighter David Schanz II with the Firefighter of the Year Award.
Schanz II was a third generation firefighter and his grandfather, Floyd, and father, David, accepted the award in his honor Saturday evening at the BFT building. Schanz lost his battle with cancer in November of 2012 at the age of 34. The award will be renamed in his honor and a mental attitude element will be added to the process of choosing the winner.
David Downey, fire chief for the Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue, flew in to be the keynote speaker for the event.
BFT Fire Chief William Brown said he had worked with Floyd and David Sr. and they had talked about preparing the next generation of firefighters
“Little did I know coming out here that David (II) was even a member of Brownsburg,” he said. “And of course once I got here is when he became sick. This was the committee’s idea and I felt very honored and privileged that they had the forethought to do this.
“Even today, when I look across my desk at the empty chairs, I think of David coming in the last few months and telling me he was sorry that he didn’t feel good. He just kept pushing and pushing all the way to the end not only because he wanted to get well, but because he wanted to come back. Even while he was going through all that chemo and treatments, he still wanted to give 110 percent back to the job. That’s what’s amazing about that young man.”
Out of respect for that dedication, he said the committee decided to rename the Firefighter of the Year Award to the David Schanz II Firefighter of the Year and Mental Attitude Award.
“And they’re not only going to take the current description of that award, but add to it some of that language about the mental attitude entry and working toward having the right positive attitude both on and off the job in their personal lives and character as well,” Brown said.
Brown said he felt as though it was necessary to start this tradition of an awards banquet to honor the members of the BFT, saying that even though all of his firefighters say what they do is just their job, they deserve to be honored for their work.
“In the fire service, we take pride in honor, tradition, and duty,” he said. “One of the goals that I wanted, coming into Brownsburg, was to re-establish that commitment. Often times you’ll year firefighters say they’re not in it for the glory, and ‘it’s my job.’ They’ll often downplay it, but it’s an important part to recognize that.
“The most amazing thing is not always the life-saving tasks they do, it’s when they’re on duty with the small things they help participate in, like go out to schools, go out and do child safety programs, neighborhood picnics, let kids come and climb on the engines.”
A silent auction raised $1,594 for the Make a Wish Foundation in Schanz II’s honor as well.
Additional awards bestowed at the banquet included Crystal Tatman being named Emergency Medical Services Provider of the Year, and Lt. Keith Rinehart being named Officer of the Year. Firefighters George Ignas and Raymond Kindred were given Espirit Du Corps Medals. The Chief’s Medals went to Lt. Bill Zeunik and Battalion Chief Stephanie Martindale, and the Medal of Merit was given to Sean Atkinson.
Brown said he often sees his crew shine in moments of high stress, and cited a recent police chase across multiple counties that ended with a serious crash at 56th Street and Northfield Drive.
“It was a highly charged scene with emotions running through the law enforcement side and dealing with the suspects,” he said. “Once our firefighters rolled up on the scene, they were just calm, cool, and collective. They put out the fire on the vehicle. It had hazardous materials leaking from the fire into the environment and soil and they contained that. They did a tremendous job.”