Monroe firefighters burning with pride

Every year, Monroe Fire District No. 3 recognizes firefighters and administrative staff that have excelled at their jobs. Whether someone has been newly promoted or held the same position for years, all have the opportunity to be honored and recognized.

The 2015 awards included Career Firefighter of the Year, Volunteer Firefighter of the Year, Administrative Staff of the Year and the Chief's Award, and were handed out during an end-of-the-year banquet. Award recipients were selected after a careful nomination and evaluation process by Chief Jamie Silva and Assistant Chief Steve Guptill.

The process could change in 2016, Guptill said, depending on the status of District 3's ongoing efforts to merge with District 7. No decisions have been made regarding how the awards program might evolve in the future, but it is anticipated that the departments could do a banquet together.

Career Firefighter of the Year


The 2015 Career Firefighter of the Year award went to Battalion Chief Erik Liddiatt for his leadership skills, high degree of accountability and excellent work ethic, Guptill said. Liddiatt has been with the Monroe Fire Department for 20 years and a battalion chief for just more than two.

Liddiatt started as an EMT for a private ambulance company, which paid his way through paramedic school. He worked as a paramedic in Medford, Oregon for about a year and a half, before he decided he was ready for something more. He began testing for a career firefighter position, and was hired by Monroe in 1996.

"I didn't know anything about firefighting when I got hired here,GÇ¥ Liddiatt said. "They hire you as a paramedic and then they send you to the state academy and they train you to be a firefighter.GÇ¥

He immediately fell in love with firefighting, he said. He worked as a firefighter/paramedic for nine years before being promoted to captain, working on C shift and in the training division. For the last nearly 2 1/2 years he's been the battalion chief on A-shift, and is the incident commander for serious events including motor vehicle accidents and residential fires.-á

He is also in charge of the department's special operations program, including hazmat, technical rescue, rescue swimmers, swift-water technicians and boat operators.

The Firefighter of the Year honor was a welcome surprise, Liddiatt said.

"I've been here 20 years, and there's a lot of people that work hard here and do great work,GÇ¥ he said. "It was nice to be recognized because we all work hard and try and do the best we can here.GÇ¥

Volunteer Firefighter of the Year


The 2015 Volunteer Firefighter of the Year award went to Brian Resch, who has been with the department for a little more than 14 years. Volunteer firefighters are more commonly referred to as part-time or part-paid firefighters, as the fire service has evolved over the years. A 19-year Monroe resident, Resch has a career in the IT industry, and enjoys the opportunity to serve his community.

"Being a volunteer firefighter here in Monroe just might have to be the best thing anyone can ever do,GÇ¥ Resch said.

He calls the EMS side of being a firefighter his passion.

Resch is a two-time volunteer of the year award recipient. This time around, he was recognized for his consistently good attitude and positive mindset, Guptill said, plus the fact that he is great with the public.

"He's just a pleasure for the guys to work shifts with,GÇ¥ Guptill said.

Resch said that it was a surprise to be recognized. There are some outstanding volunteer/part-time firefighters in the department, he said.

"Each and every one of them deserves this honor as well,GÇ¥ Resch said.

Administrative Employee of the Year

Administrative Employee of the Year went to Monroe Fire Marshal Michael Fitzgerald, who heads up the Community Risk Reduction Division. A 21-year Monroe Fire veteran, Fitzgerald was interested in prevention from the very beginning.

"I figured if we could do something to prevent fires from occurring, that meant a much better chance that all my fellow firefighters would go home at the end of their shift,GÇ¥ Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald started as a firefighter/paramedic in 1995, transitioning into a newly-created fire inspector position in 2002. In 2004 he was promoted to fire marshal, a position he has held ever since. As the fire marshal, Fitzgerald's primary job is to make the community safer, he said. This is accomplished in a variety of ways, including prevention education, code compliance, risk assessment and increased access to preventative equipment like helmets and life jackets.

The Monroe Fire District shines in the area of prevention education, having invested in a comprehensive collection of prevention education equipment that it showcases throughout the year. Every October the department hosts an open house, where kids are taught how to escape a smoke-filled room through a window, how to tell if it's safe to open the door, how to operate a fire extinguisher and how to identify fire hazards.-á

What Fitzgerald loves the most about his job is the opportunity to truly make a difference in the community, he said. He is hopeful that through his efforts, both firefighters and communities are that much safer.

Fitzgerald was given the Administrative Employee of the Year award for his work on the recently implemented New World project and everything he does for the department, Silva said.

Chief's Award


Assistant Chief of Support Services Steve Guptill was given the 2015 Chief's Award. He was recognized primarily for his involvement in the New World project, the county's new unified command system implemented last October. The new system allows over 4,000 users from 53 law enforcement, fire and emergency medical service agencies, three jails and two 911 dispatch centers to utilize the same system.

"Steve spent almost seven years on the New World project,GÇ¥ Silva said. "He put in countless hours on that project, along with keeping up with his duties as the head of the operations and support services divisions for the department.GÇ¥

Guptill is a third-generation Monroe firefighter, but his pathway into the fire service was a nontraditional one. In the late 1980s, he was recruited by his father to do some mechanic work at the department, which he found he enjoyed. Guptill's father, Gene, was a long-time volunteer with the department, who served as the assistant fire chief in the 1980s.

Guptill started volunteering as both a firefighter and a mechanic in 1989, working on department equipment and caring for the fire trucks when needed. In 1991 Station 31 on Village Way was built along with a shop, and Guptill was hired full-time as a mechanic.

A couple years later, administration made the decision to eliminate one of the mechanic positions and turn it into a firefighter position, and Guptill was hired.

"I was qualified, so they offered me a lateral hire, which is pretty rare that you get hired from a mechanic civilian job directly into a firefighters job,GÇ¥ Guptill said.

Guptill was promoted to captain in 1994, and was eventually put back in charge of the shop. When the shop program expanded to include other fire districts in 2004, he was promoted to deputy chief. He was next promoted to assistant chief of operations and support services, a position that he's held for about 10 years.-á

Currently, Fire Districts 3 and 7 are consolidating administrative services in preparation of a possible merger. This has enabled Guptill and District 7 Assistant Chief Eric Andrews to divide and conquer in their respective positions, Guptill said.

He has been involved in New World since its inception. Initial discussion about New World implementation occurred in 2008, Guptill said, and the contracts were signed in 2009. The project had various layers, and Guptill held a position within each of them. -á -á

"That's essentially a third of my career that has been wrapped up in that project, and I wouldn't have done that if I wasn't committed to the importance of it,GÇ¥ Guptill said.

While the New World launch was not without a few hiccups, the project was considered a success. In its first seven days of operation, a total of 14,791 incidents were dispatched in Snohomish County without outages or failures. By consolidating a number of computer systems that didn't communicate, New World has already served to improve efficiency and increase overall public safety, Guptill said.

"Obviously we're proponents of consolidation, because we're doing it,GÇ¥ Guptill said.

Guptill's son is a fourth-generation firefighter with District 3, and his young grandson is already eyeing the job.

"But he's only nine, so he's got to wait a while,GÇ¥ Guptill said.

Photo by Chris Hendrickson The 2015 Career Firefighter of the Year award went to Battalion Chief Erik Liddiatt, who has been with Monroe Fire District No. 3 for nearly 20 years. Liddiatt was one of many District 3 first responders deployed during the Oso landslide. Photo courtesy of Steve Guptill


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