Christofer Contreras was chosen Firefighter of the Year (the night’s top honor) by his peers. Pictured from left, Jerry Ickes of ESD#14 board , Mr. Contreres with Fire Chief Harvey Little.
Christofer Contreras was chosen Firefighter of the Year (the night’s top honor) by his peers. Pictured from left, Jerry Ickes of ESD#14 board, Mr. Contreres with Fire Chief Harvey Little.

By Lewis Spearman

BAYTOWN– The Highlands Fire Department held their annual Recognition and Awards Banquet last Saturday evening, at the Baytown Youth Fair & Rodeo pavilion.

Firefighter of the Year award was presented to Christofer Contreras. This award is given in memory of Cecil Kelly, who volunteered with the Highlands VFD for over 42 years before retiring in 1996. The recipient chosen by vote of the membership is a firefighter who performed above and beyond the call of duty.

Chief Little reviewed the history of the department for 2020 against 2019. There were a total this year of 2,670 against 2,838 service calls. Of these 1976 were EMS calls compared with 1991 the previous year. Life Flight was called 24 against 27 times. Fire responses declined to 694 from 847. Motor vehicle accidents were down from 201 to 161.

The department can boast of keeping their response times low, strong staffing, receiving grants for insurance, purchase of a 16 foot inflatable power boat for high water rescues, quality training, using other facilities and combined training with nearby departments. The department now has a dozen firefighters complete FF1, 9 finished FF2 and 4 are TCFP Certified. They paid off their 800 handheld radio lease in October. Tanker 27 was paid off a year early.

Top Responders for 2020 were Tanner Scarbrough, 296, Christofer Contreres, 265, Ryan Lopez, 256, Ruben Lopez, 206, Chad Lower, 191, Nate Scott, 165, Thomas Coward, 159, Waye Speaks, 149, Ryan Hotchkiss, 126, and Patrick Brown each received a cash award. Door prizes were awarded. Year Service Pins went to Tanner Scarbrough, Christopher Lewis, Pablo Camargo, Jessica Kenning, Bee Johnson, and Jeremiah Starkey.

In memory of Mary Louise York, who passed in 2012 after serving for 20 years as a medic in the Highlands Community. The Rookie of the Year Award is presented to a person that has served less than two years and has been active since joining with the department.

Current membership is comprised of 30 regular members, 6 apprentice firefighters, 16 junior firefighters, 16 retired members (active, not total) 6 EMS full time paid members, 20 EMS part time paid members for an overall total of 62 members. The Board of Commissioners includes Jim Strouhal for 21 years, posthumously, Chester Stasney devoted 21 years, Johnny Gaeke with 14 years, Jerry Ickes with 4 years, Mark Taylor 2 years, and Elane Marshall.

Chief Little also recognized Jeanette Thompson and Tommy McMorrow.

Citizen of the Year is Johnny Gaeke.

Business of the Year went to Napoli’s Italian Grill. They also served the dinner at the Baytown Youth Fair Pavilion of surf and turf.

Firefighter of the Year is presented in memory of Cecil Kelly who devoted 42.5 years to Highlands.