Imlay City firefighters James Mietling, Jr. and Andrew Kustowski with Firefighter of the Year awards bestowed upon them by their department.
January 07, 2009
IMLAY CITY — When the fire whistle goes off, most of us continue to go about our daily activities, knowing and trusting that our local fire, police and emergency crews are on the job.
Our reliance on these dedicated individuals can easily be taken for granted. But for those who respond to the daily emergencies that affect our lives know full well the commitment such service requires.
Each year, the Imlay City Fire Department recognizes one of its own for exemplary service and allegiance to duty.
This year, two Imlay City firefighters were acknowledged as co-winners of the department's Firefighter of the Year Award, noted Fire Chief Kip Reaves.
The recipients of the prestigious award for 2008 are Andrew Kustowski and James Mietling Jr.
Reaves said the pair demonstrated extraordinary service during the past year, worthy of the respect of their peers on the fire department.
"Both Andrew and James spent a lot of unpaid time working at the department and in the community this past year," said Reaves. "We feel that peer recognition is very important. Being chosen by the firefighters in this department has meaning to these award winners."
Kustowski joined the Imlay City department in 2005, having served with the Marysville Fire Department before moving to the area. He is employed by the State of Michigan.
Mietling spent four years with the U.S. Navy, serving as a firefighter specialist aboard his ship.
After completing his active duty, he took firefighting training in Macomb County. He is also an EMT with the Lapeer County EMS service.
"2008 was a very busy year for our fire department," Reaves pointed out. "We had one of the worst years ever for fire damage (about $1.2 million in fire losses).
"We also had some really great 'saves,'" added Reaves, referring to fires at the Hickory Square and Colonial Hills apartment dwellings.
"James suffered a slight injury working one of the Hickory (Square) fires and Andrew saved a cat from another apartment fire," said Reaves.
Reaves added that all fires are labor intensive and potentially injurious to firefighters.
"They not only have to suppress the fire," he said, "but have to clean up and get back into emergency-ready service afterwards."
Reaves pointed out that the most recent honor is the second time Kustowski has been the recipient of a Firefighter of the Year Award.