Posted 7/19/16 (Tue)
By Jack Dura
Farmer Staff Writer
High winds and brief horizontal rain battered the Fox Hills Golf & Country Club Tuesday evening, July 12, as the 13th annual McKenzie County First Responders Appreciation Dinner was underway.
Drawing dozens of first responders and emergency agencies from across McKenzie County, the event held a golf scramble before a prime rib dinner and award ceremony honoring Steve Sanford, this year’s Emergency Responder of the Year.
“Lot of changes, lot of good people we’ve worked for. I’ve learned a lot. I love this town. I love this fire department,” the Watford City Fire Department lieutenant said in his acceptance speech. “Thank you all.”
Sanford highlighted the changes the department has seen, with fire calls growing from about 20 a year in the 1990s to 350 in 2014.
“There were times you’d get four or five calls a day,” he said, adding he thanks his family for their support and understanding. “It was a lot of lost time at work. A lot of lost time with the family.”
Sanford joined the fire department in 1991 and was assistant chief for 10 years. He’s been lieutenant for three years now.
In his time, he’s helped bring in monthly truck checks and been an extrication trainer for this area of the state, helping train in Alexander, Arnegard and Keene.
“This means a lot to me. I appreciate it,” Sanford said before applause all around and hugs from fellow first responders.
Karolin Jappe, county emergency manager, said turnout was difficult to peg with spouses in attendance, but the event ordered 125 coats for gifts last year.
Attendees included the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Office, Watford City Police, Highway Patrol, local ambulances and dispatch and seven volunteer fire departments, among other agencies.
“They come together, enjoy an evening and relax instead of being stressed out and going 100 mph,” Jappe said.
The McKenzie County Commission, local businesses and oil and gas companies helped sponsor the dinner, which featured prime rib, baked potatoes, green beans, salad and dessert bars.
Local businesses helped purchase eight pallets of water for the local fire departments and ambulance, Jappe said.
“It was so easy to make a few phone calls and see who would want to buy a pallet of water for our fire department because they are so vital to our community,” she said. “It’s 24/7 on call.”
First responders from nearly every town in McKenzie County were in attendance. Grassy Butte first responders may have been unable to attend due to farming and ranching operations and weather, Jappe said, adding even Fairview, Mont., first responders attended the dinner “in full force.”
“It’s just a good group of people and it’s good to get them all together where they can meet each other out of uniform,” Jappe said.