David Caulk Named Shoal Creek Firefighter Of The Year In August

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The volunteer firefighters that make up the Shoal Creek Fire Protection District (FPD), serving Sorento, Panama, Donnellson and Walshville, and their families gathered for their annual awards ceremony on Saturday night, Aug. 28, at the Sorento Fire Station.

After a social hour, the attendees were treated to a meal catered by FEMA.  Following the dinner, Kim Houchlei, trustee/secretary on the fire district’s board, shared the district’s statistics for 2020. Shoal Creek Fire District reported 49 incidents (14 providing aid to another district, ten where aid was received and 25 served within the district with no aid). They responded to 25 fires (16 structural fires, one vehicle and eight other calls), nine EMS calls, and 15 non-EMS/non-fire calls. During 2020, the district responded to calls in Sorento, Panama, Donnellson, Walshville, Litchfield, Greenville, Hillsboro, New Douglas and Smithboro.  

Houchlei explained that the information from the reports are turned into the National Fire Institute Recording System, and are used to help determine the district’s grant eligibility. She thanked the firefighters for being so diligent in filling out reports and Amanda Voyles for keeping track of and electronically recording them for the district. Houchlei also thanked Amanda Voyles and Rachel Sturgeon for decorating for the event. 

“A lot of districts do not fill out reports and they are disqualified for grants that would help them better serve their communities,” said Shoal Creek FPD President Brett Kunkel, who is also vice-president of the IL Association of Fire Protection District. “You guys do a great job of making sure your reports are filled out. Small fire departments still need to do the job the right way and you all do. We (the board) appreciate everything you do, day in and day out, because it takes a lot. We are really blessed to have every one of  you serving the district.”

Kunkel went on to explain that the district has applied for several grants for the 2021 year, and that they have received a grant they applied for last year (2020) from the Office of the State Fire Marshal in the amount of $25,909, to be used for small equipment. The district recently applied for a COVID-19 relief grant through the IL Fire Marshal’s office. 

The district’s new chief,  David Caulk, Sr., was awarded Firefighter of the Year, for his steady leadership and ability to keep a calm environment during intensely stressful calls, such as the field fire that consumed nearly 15 square miles in October of 2020, and the train derailment in Panama in November 2020. 

Special recognition also went to firefighter Daniel Revell, for his commitment to the fire district and consistency in attending meetings, training and responding to calls. Certificates of achievement were awarded to Rich Applegate, Callie Caulk, Bubba Caulk. David Caulk, Sr., Steve Hassenmyer, Jesse Jarman, Justine Joiner, Brett Kunkel,Steve Langheim, Kent Priddle, Daniel Revell, Tyler Storm, Donald Sturgeon, Jr., Tyler Tarran, Asst. Chief Kelly Voyles, Jeff Warner, Mike Wilkinson (retired), Caleb Daniken and Sabrina Daniken.

The District’s board also took time to recognize (former) Fire Chief Kent Priddle for his years of leadership and service to the district. The Shoal Creek firefighters gave a standing ovation for Priddle, who stepped down from the role of chief earlier this year but remains active as a firefighter. 

Trustee Gerald Knight spoke briefly about the need to recruit more members and some of the district’s upcoming plans to engage younger members. He also asked his fellow firefighters to share their ideas for recruitment. Knight concluded the ceremony by thanking the families of the district’s firefighters.

“All things considered, we have had a great year. We have a really great group of people serving the Shoal Creek Fire District,” said Knight. “To have a good department you have to have good families. Our families are the backbone of this department and you all pick up a lot of slack while we are out on calls. Thank you, we appreciate everything you do.”

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