Under the dust and the bravado of what some would describe as a crusty and cantankerous man is one of the Payson Fire Department’s finest.
“While these descriptions may fit on occasion, they do no justice to the truth of this firefighter’s character,” said PFD Battalion Chief Dan Bramble. “If you need help, Sam is the guy you want coming. He is the can-do and go-to guy.”
On Wednesday, Capt. Sam Mays was honored as Payson’s firefighter of the year.
Mays was honored alongside Brandon Buckner, the Payson Police Department’s officer of the year, at the police and fire department’s annual awards ceremony.
The banquet honored those who go beyond the call of duty.
Also awarded were Beth Lacey and Celina Ortiz of the PPD for their civilian service, the PFD’s secretary Monica Savage, firefighter Jerome Lubetz and two firefighting companies.
Peers nominated all of the recipients.
Of Mays, Bramble added that he learns something new from him every day and nearly every day, Mays saves someone from making a mistake — most often paramedics.
“While he never wanted to be a paramedic, he has saved many of them, including myself, through the years,” Bramble said. “There is a saying that paramedics save lives and EMTs save paramedics and Sam has proven this true again and again.”
Mays’ mechanical skills have saved the department thousands of dollars through the years and his mind is always working on the next project.
Mays started as a volunteer firefighter with the Mesa del Caballo fire district more than 25 years ago. When his family moved into town, Mays was hired on with the PFD full time.
“According to our fire chief (Marty deMasi), and I happen to agree, hiring Sam was one of the best decisions the department ever made,” Bramble said. “He is a firefighter’s firefighter, one who knows how to fix anything that is broken.”
Of Buckner, who started with the PPD just three years ago, Police Chief Don Engler said he exemplifies the drive and work ethic of a model officer.
“He is always ready to assist with any task,” he said. “On the street he is aggressive as an investigative officer. He also helps with graffiti abatement and National Night Out.”
He makes a sergeant’s job easy, he added.
While Mays was honored as this year’s firefighter of the year, last year’s honoree was given a merit award for his continued service.
Firefighter/paramedic Lubetz has continued to blaze a path of excellence, Bramble said. Lubetz’s work ethic and effort with the department’s reserve firefighters has raised the bar of expectation for all of our firefighters.
“Jerome leads by example, and for that and his exemplary service he receives this award of merit,” Bramble said.
While not a firefighter, administrative secretary Savage was honored for putting out a few blazes at the firehouse.
“She fills many roles for the fire department, of which, most have been of her own initiative,” Bramble said.
Savage acts as the department’s counselor, scheduler, CPR instructor, rehab/support group director and Public Safety for Kids advocate.
Two firefighting units were also honored for handling two difficult calls.
The first was engine 121 A-shift for a call on Nov. 15. When firefighters arrived, they found no flames, but a slight odor of smoke. After a thorough search, including the attic, firefighters found a small fire near the furnace.
“Had the crew of engine 121 not been on top of their game and taken the extra time to thoroughly check the residence, a tragedy could have ensued,” Bramble said.
On Jan 13, 2010, engine 121’s B-crew also narrowly averted a disaster.
A child choking at Calvary Chapel was saved after firefighters performed a Heimlich maneuver.
“There is no doubt that the quick response, accurate and immediate application of professional assessment and treatment skills resulted in saving the child’s life,” Bramble said.
Engler honored PPD records clerks Lacey and Ortiz for helping the department straighten out its records division. Even when the department was without a records supervisor, Lacey and Ortiz worked diligently to fill records request.
The Rim Country Rotary Club of Payson morning club sponsored the evening at the Mazatzal Hotel and Casino, said Rotary member Debra Isaac.
This is the 12th year Rotary provided a venue for the awards.
“Through our fund-raising we have been able to do this free of charge to the employees of those departments,” Isaac said.