2 Barrow Fire Department members nad state awards

WINDER -- Two Barrow County Emergency Services members were heralded as exceptional leaders by the Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner's Office this month.

At the 19th Annual Fire and Life Safety Awards Luncheon in Forsyth County on Oct. 18, Barrow Fire Lt. Aaron Fuller was named Fire Official of the Year for his innovative implementation of a fitness program; respectively, his colleague Royce Bottoms was named Firefighter of the Year for his hazardous material expertise and work to raise community awareness to potential hazards.

"We're very proud of the two of them and all they do for our department and the citizens we serve," Barrow Chief Dennis Merrifield said in a release.

In Fuller's case, he recognized the need for firefighters to be physically fit and set fitness goals for his crew to achieve.

"He even challenged others in the department, as well as a neighboring department, to strive for this goal," said department spokesman Lt. Scott Dakin.

Fuller worked with his crew regularly to improve their fitness and endurance. In late July, his entire crew, as well as several others that he challenged, met their goal: Racing together in the annual Summers End 5K.

Fuller has also helped implement the department's wildfire mitigation plan, working with several others to identify areas in the county that are susceptible to wildfires and the structures that could be at risk.

"Fuller is well-deserving of this award," said Merrifield. "He's a true leader in the department."

Firefighter Bottoms was nominated for the dedication he's shown to the department, specifically with the Hazardous Material Response Team. Firefighter Bottoms came to the department with knowledge and experience in the field of hazardous material response. He worked with leaders in the department to replace outdated equipment and to organize all equipment, Dakin said.

"He started working with the training officer in preparing training classes for the department," Dakin said. "This included making the team members better familiar with the equipment they would utilize and techniques needed when responding to a hazardous material emergency."

Firefighter Bottoms also worked with several local businesses to organize combined training between the department and the business' own hazardous material response teams. He's also spoken several times at the Local Emergency Planning Committee to inform them of the department's preparedness in hazardous material emergency responses.

"Bottoms' hard work and dedication has earned him this recognition," said Merrifield.