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Rowan honors top volunteer firefighters

By Jessie Burchette

Salisbury Post

The Rowan County Fire & Rescue Association has selected five men for special honors as being at the top of their class among county volunteers.

Franklin, Locke and Scotch Irish volunteers took the top spots.

Jason Cottingham of the Franklin department was selected Firefighter of the Year.

Darrell Spry, also of Franklin, is the Rescuer of the Year.

Ron Yates with Locke is the First Responder of the Year.

Wesley Steele, who has served 28 years with the Scotch Irish department, is the Chief Officer of the Year.

And Chris Kluttz of Locke was selected as Rookie Firefighter of the Year.

Kluttz joined the Locke Department in January and is working on his Firefighter I, Firefighter II and rescue tech certifications.

A U.S. Marine for four years, Kluttz started his own plumbing business with his brother — Kluttz Brothers Plumbing.

Chris is the third generation of his family to serve with the Locke Fire Department.

Cottingham, the Firefighter of the Year, has received extensive training and certification in his five years with Franklin.

In nominating him, fellow Franklin firefighters wrote that he is the type of person all fire departments need.

“If something is going on, then he will be there to be involved. Jason is really committed to helping the fire department be the best that it can be and provide the very best service to the taxpayers in our fire district.”

Cottingham is an employee of Time Warner.

Yates, the First Responder of the Year, has numerous certifications in firefighting, Hazmat, CPR and as an emergency medical technician.

An employee of General Electric, Yates also works as a part-time engineer with the Locke Department.

In nominating him for the First Responder award, the nominating committee from Locke wrote that he volunteers 35 to 40 hours a week and has answered 319 calls this year. “Ron is the most dedicated member of the Locke Fire Department.”

He has won several awards within the Locke department and was Rowan County Rookie of the Year in 2004 and County Firefighter of the Year in 2005.

Steele, Chief Officer of the Year, has served as assistant chief for two years and chief for three years. He has numerous certifications in firefighting, Hazmat, arson detection, fire inspection, electrical, plumbing, mechanical and building inspection and is also a licensed electrician and building contractor. Steele was the first person in the department to receive a firefighter Level II certification, instrumental in obtaining Class 7 ISO rating.

He is an electrical and building contractor and a code enforcement officer for Iredell County.

Steele joined the Scotch Irish Department in 1978. He helped design, build and wire the new fire station in 1989. In 1995, he was named County Fireman of the Year.

Steele wrote applications for grants totaling $400,000 that have been used to buy equipment including a new engine, thermal imaging camera, turnout gear and computers.

Scotch Irish received a Class 7 ISO rating in 2003.

Spry, the Rescuer of the Year, has three years of experience and numerous certifications in dealing with different emergency situations.

A third generation firefighter, he is employed with Johnson Electric in Lexington.

In nominating Spry, the Franklin department cited his training and his devotion to the community. In addition to his volunteer work with the fire department, Spry is an assistant coach with the Franklin Ellis Pee-Wee League and the Spencer Little League.

Spry’s son, Alex, has been tapped as Little Fire Chief by the county association.

Alex is a third-grader at North Rowan Elementary School.

Alex Spry was one of three youngsters picked by the Fire & Rescue Association to represent it in the various Christmas and Fourth of July parades.

Holly Maree Beaver, a third-grader at Hurley Elementary, was selected Junior Miss Flame.

Natasha Collen Boger, a junior volunteer firefighter with the East Gold Hill Department, was selected Miss Flame.

She is a student at Gray Stone Day School and is a member of the student government, National Honor Society and the tennis team.

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