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Turlock Fire honors those serving the department, community
Turlock Fire Capt. Casey Cockrell won the departments annual Firefighter of the Year award. - photo by SABRA STAFFORD/The Journal

Fire fighting is a team effort and on Tuesday the Turlock Fire Department made time to recognize all the people who help make their team a success in the community.
The Turlock Fire Department held their annual Awards and Recognition ceremony Tuesday and handed out a number of certificates and awards to those individuals in and out of the fire department who have contributed to the overall mission to serve the community.

“Day to day you guys work so hard to make the City of Turlock look good,” Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth said to the firefighters and the invited guests. “I’m so proud of the courage and compassion that you show each day.”
The most prestigious award handed out was the Fire Fighter of the Year award, which was bestowed upon Capt. Casey Cockrell, who happened to be marking his 15th anniversary with the fire department on Tuesday. Cockrell joined the department in 2001 as a fire fighter. He became an Engineer in 2002 and was promoted to Captain in 2010.

“Casey goes above and beyond with his time and efforts,” said Battalion Chief Gary Lunsford, who nominated Cockrell for the award.
The Turlock Fire Department named City Attorney Phaedra Norton an honorary fire fighter, marking the first occasion the department has given such an award.

In presenting Norton with the award, Turlock Fire Chief Robert Talloni praised her efforts to better the city and empower and assist the fire department. Instead of seeing problems, Talloni stated Norton “opts to create opportunities.”

“There are no words to express how much I appreciate this and how honored I am,” Norton said.
The ceremony also was an occasion to recognize the service of Turlock's fire fighters to the greater area outside the community. During this year's wildfire season the Turlock Fire Department dispatched crews to eight different fires, with personnel having to leave at a moment’s notice and spending days or weeks away at a time. The fire department gave special recognition awards to: Battalion Chief Bill Becker, Capt. Larry Mouw, Engineer Tony Nascimento, Firefighter Dale Melden, and Firefighter Justin Rossiter, who all responded to the Erskine Fire; Capt. Kain Packwood, Engineer Eric Boyd, Firefighter Kyle Frenzel, and Firefighter Steven Kramer, who all responded to the Sand and Soberanes fires; Battalion Chief Bill Becker, Capt. David Bickle, Engineer Kevin Tidwell, Firefighter Dale Melden, and Firefighter Justin Rossiter, who all responded to the Blue Cut and Cedar fires; Capt. Kevin Forsythe, Engineer Kevin Tidwell, Engineer Nate Benner, and Firefighter Daniel Timko, who all responded to the Saddle Fire; Capt. Kain Packwood, who was sent to the Gap Fire; Capt. Kevin Forsythe, Capt. Shaun Walker, Firefighter Justin Rossiter, and Firefighter Daniel Nenni, who all responded to the Little Valley Fire.

The fire department handed out certificates recognizing the performances and help from several individuals within and out of the department. Awarded were: Turlock Fire Department Administrative Assistant Vanessa Hubbell; Donny Kelso from Kelso’s Towing; City Tow; Ken Taylor and Brian Faria from the City of Turlock; Public Safety Administrative Assistant Mary Souza; Turlock Police Lt. Joey Mercado; and Turlock Police Capt. Steve Williams.

Turlock Fire Marshall Mark Gomez handed out awards to those individuals who have done a lot to help Turlock from being blighted. For 2015, Neighborhood Services collected 51 tons of debris, recovered 1,328 shopping carts, covered over 5,445 graffiti spots, and took down 3,016 signs.

“Imagine all the trash that would be in our community without this team,” Gomez said.

Those presented with the certificates of recognition were: Casey Williams, Wayne Rodgers, TPD Officer Tony Argueta, and TPD Officer Katie Manica. Presented with a Chief’s Commendation certificate was Yesenia Del Real, who Gomez credited with playing a significant  role in  removing the trash, graffiti, signs, and shopping carts from the city.

The fire department’s Honor Guard gave a recognition award to Randy Francis for his years of service as a bagpipe player for the department and other area agencies. Francis, a former deputy with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, started playing the bagpipes after seeing a client at practice during his time as a real estate agent. He has played for several years and started performing with the fire department’s Honor Guard when they formed in 2013. Since that time he has performed at 20 different events with the Honor Guard.

Talloni bestowed a certificate of recognition for retired Turlock Fire Capt. Manuel Drumonde. Drumonde served with the Turlock Fire for 33 years before retiring in 2013. He has continued to play an active role in the community and with the fire department, including cooking the breakfast for the first Retiree and Active Duty gathering.

Presented with Chief Commendation awards from Talloni were: Firefighter Daniel Timko, Capt. David Bickle, Capt. Shaun Walker, Capt. Jason Bernard, and Capt. Larry Mouw. Awarded the Customer Service Award was Firefighter Steven Kramer.