Esko Fire Department, first responder take top honorsIt was a year of accomplishment and loss for the Esko Fire Department.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
It was a year of accomplishment and loss for the Esko Fire Department. Volunteers in the department became key players in dealing with rescue and recovery during the June flooding that devastated the area. In October, however, the department lost one of its brightest rising stars when volunteer firefighter Zak Gamache died tragically in a car accident that also took the life of his county co-worker, Mitch Lingren.
Last week, the rest of the county recognized the accomplishments of both the department and Gamache by awarding them the highest honors afforded by the Emergency Medical Service.
At Wednesday’s meeting of the Carlton County Board, the local EMS organization presented the Esko Fire Department and their first responders with the “Unit of the Year Award.” The department was nominated for the honor by Carlton Fire and Ambulance.
“This year has been a rare year for Carlton County with the Northland Flood of 2012,” stated the nomination. “Esko Fire Department and first responders stepped up to the plate and were the stronghold in their community. They opened their facility to the public to provide a place for shelter, food, and simply friendship. It became a place of fellowship and support as so many were going through a turbulent time.”
During and after the flood, the men and women of the Esko Fire Department completed tasks “above and beyond their line of duty,” the nomination stated. They sand bagged homes, checked up on residents who were trapped in their homes, and helped community members pump out water and haul debris out from their homes.
In addition, they helped their neighbors in the city of Thomson, as they lost all sources of water as a result of the waterline being swept away with the flood.
“Esko Fire Department was there bringing them food and water, while also aiding them in getting them back up on their feet again,” the nomination continued. “They also helped aid Minnesota Power with making the hydroelectric dam safe for their workers again.”
In addition to their flood victim support, the department was also lauded for their response to other emergencies throughout Carlton County, ranging from motor vehicle accidents to individuals with severe medical conditions.
“They continue to prove their commitment to the township and surrounding communities with their immediate, proficient, and quality medical care while responding to these emergencies,” the nomination read. “Through the good times and the bad times of 2012, Esko first responders and firefighters have held their heads high. They are an example for other departments to follow. Their pride and commitment to the township and surrounding area is second to none.”
Gamache was nominated posthumously as “EMS Person of the Year,” also by Carlton Fire and Ambulance.
“When Zak was available, he responded to every type of emergency call,” the nomination read. “It didn’t matter if it was a fire, car accident, or an elderly person falling in the middle of the night, he was there. He was a person that could be relied upon to follow through with any and all responsibilities of a volunteer fire department.”
The nomination pointed out that Esko and Carlton’s fire departments have been partners for many years and have responded to numerous calls through mutual aide.
“With those kinds of partnerships, lifelong bonds and friendships are made between members within other departments, and Zak was a prime example of having those types of connections. He was a friend of so many within the fire service. He was a joy to see on calls and he always had a willingness to help with a smile on his face. It was clear that Zak loved what he did.”
The award cited Gamache for his devotion, passion, and commitment to his community.
“He is, and forever will be, a celebrated firefighter among all fire department members of Carlton County,” the nomination concluded. “He is sorely missed and it is an honor to nominate Zak for this award.”