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Appreciation cookout draws statewide firefighters
MR ChiefCook
Hinesville Fire Chief Lamar Cook speaks at the cookout. - photo by Photo by Mike Riddle
Firefighters throughout the state attended a Firefighter Appreciation Cookout on Oct. 11, organized by the Ware County Commissioners and hosted by Wayne Dasher.
The event was given to show appreciation for all firefighters, first responders, Red Cross volunteers, Department of Natural Resources personnel and law enforcement that worked on the Ware County fires.
It also was to show appreciation to all who currently are working in the public safety sector.
Sonny Dixon was master of ceremonies, and the special guest speaker was Georgia Insurance Commissioner/Fire Commissioner John Oxendine.  
Oxendine spoke to the crowd of about 600, and described how proud he was to be the fire commissioner. He also noted his appreciation for all the people who worked to extinguish the fires in Georgia in April and May.  
Additionally, Oxendine spoke about the people nationwide who came to Georgia to work in the effort.
“I saw trucks from as far as Minnesota down here, and everyone was working together for a common cause, to save communities,” he said.
When asked about the rumors he may pursue a senate run next year or the gubernatorial office once Sonny Perdue’s term is up, he said, “I’ve heard those rumors too ... what I can say is that, I want to do what is in the best interest of Georgia.”  
He noted, “I believe that the most experienced candidate ought to serve, and I will serve the people of Georgia in whatever aspect I can best serve them.”
Local fire chiefs Darrell Ballance of Long/Ludowici Fire Department and Lamar Cook of the Hinesville Fire Department were in attendance with some of their firefighters.
“Most firefighters don’t get the recognition they deserve for what they do. They don’t do it for the money, but to serve their community ... Events like this let them know they are appreciated,” Ballance said.
Cook said, “A cookout like this draws all of us together. Most of the time when we get together it’s for a fire or a disaster. With this, we can enjoy being together; and it allows us to network and make contacts should we ever need to help one another.”
Twelfth Congressional District Rep. John Barrow also spoke during the cookout and praised those present as well as the people who work in the public safety sector.
“It’s a miracle that no one was killed in the fires we had. But I know that miracle is directly attributed to the training and hard work, which all of you do,” Barrow said.
He noted, “There were over a half million acres burned. That’s half the size of Delaware, but people from 44 states, Canada and Puerto Rico all came down to help. But when they got here they saw you, on the front lines, fighting the fires, and a day like today is a tribute to you.”
Long County Commissioner Charles Reddish had a special note of gratitude to those present,
“When the fires in Long County hit, they got as close as 600 yards from my house. I wish I could thank every person, personally, for what they did,” he said. “These guys do a great job. Our department (L/LCFD), with the few we have, I would put up against anyone. All of the public needs to recognize what a tough job firefighters do.”
Two firefighters who attended were from the Macon / Bibb County Fire Department. Their experience level ranged from Pvt. Bernard Freeman who had only been a firefighter for 10 months, to Lt. Ellery Dunn who had bee with the department for 24 years.
“This is a great thing. People in the fire service always come together and work well with each other. I really appreciate what was done today,” Dunn said.
Host Wayne Dasher was asked about this becoming an annual event and he said, “What I hope to do is have a combined law enforcement and firefighter cookout next year. They all work together, and all of them are appreciated.”
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