The Mississippi Burn Foundation recently honored outstanding firefighters for exemplary job performance in 2015-2016. Top firefighters and fire departments were recognized during “Hearts for Heroes,” a special awards gala presented by the Joseph M. Still Burn Centers, Inc. Event sponsors included Merit Health Central, Southern Pine Electric Power Association, McClain Lodge, Capital City Beverages, Southern Beverage Company, E&J Gallo Winery, and Soirée, LLC ~ Event Planning & Public Relations. Held at McClain Lodge in Brandon, the event featured cocktails, a seated dinner, and live music by songwriter and firefighter Shannon Sandridge accompanied by Matt Ellis and Rob Lehman. Finalists and winners received awards sponsored by Colonial Pipeline and Emergency Equipment Professionals. Nominations were received from across the state in the following categories – Fire Chief of the Year, Fire Officer of the Year, Firefighter of the Year and Fire Department of the Year. Fire Department of the Year nominees must have demonstrated both spirit and service to the community and state through “courage into the fire.” The Collins Fire Department and Tupelo Fire Department were selected as finalists. The 2015-2016 Fire Department of the Year was awarded to Cleveland Volunteer Fire Department.
Established in 1949, this department maintains a stellar reputation as one of the most aggressive smaller municipal fire departments in the state. Staffed as a combination of Career & Volunteer firefighters, this department is rated a “Fire Protection Class 5” and was one of the very first in the state graded under the new State Rating Bureau guidelines. Collins was also one of the very first in the state to participate in the NFPA “Learn Not To Burn” fire prevention and injury education program geared toward school-age children and was selected as one of 10 “Champion Communities & Departments.” They are very charitable as well and support their local daycares, schools and Boys & Girls club along with hosting their annual “Christmas Cheer” drive providing gifts, blankets and fruit baskets to local nursing home residents and indigent members of their community.