MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga -- They walk by your office every day. You see them buying a soda at the 7-Day store or out in town eating lunch.
Nobody really knows who they are except those who have had reason to call.
They train every day. They put on puppet shows, safety demonstrations, set up static displays and invite anyone into their ?second? home who asks.
They are the Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany Fire Department firefighters.
Recently, the fire department received three different awards for their superior performance in operations and prevention.
On Oct. 12, at the Atlanta Airport Hilton, assistant chief Errol V. Hart received an award for Fire Officer of the Year from John Oxendine, the Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner.
Hart, a Sumter County native and 24-year veteran of the fire service, attributes the award to his staff.
?We have a great group of people here, especially my four fire inspectors,? Hart said.
?The DoD has stringent requirements on fire safety, education and prevention, so we?re constantly busy.
?We inspect every building on base every month, and have a fire drill for each building at least twice a year Ñ except for the Dispensary and the Child Development Center, which has one every month.?
The fire department also has recently completed National Fire Prevention and Education Week, which was established in 1922 by the National Fire Protection Agency.
This year?s theme was the final phase of the three year campaign entitled ?The Great Escape,? and focused on family dwelling hazards and escape routes in case of fire and was primarily targeted towards younger children.
According to Hart, the department put on numerous displays and held an open house for more than 500 children and teachers from seven surrounding counties that week.
?That?s the kind of stuff we like to do,? said Mel Lane, a fire inspector and Lee County resident.
?If we get the word out to younger children about the dangers of fire and what they need to do in the event of a fire, such as having a fire escape route, even more lives could be saved.?
In addition to Hart being named fire officer of the year, the fire prevention section received an award, also from the GISFC, for Fire Prevention and Education Program of the Year.
?We like to be with the public and pump as much information out as possible.
?It makes the job a little easier for the boys on the other side of the house [fire operations and suppression],? Lane said.
Lane has 12 years as both a federal firefighter and volunteer firefighter.
?In all the time I?ve been involved with fire and emergency services, I can?t think off the top of my head of another department with such a good prevention program,? Lane added with a slight grin.
?Look at the base?s track record. There hasn?t been a reported fire with any loss to property or life in nearly a decade.?
According to Lane, members of the fire prevention ?team,? as he likes to refer to it, perform 30-40 prevention and education shows a year for the surrounding community and have traveled as far north as Atlanta.
The base?s fire department, as a whole, also received special recognition from the International Association of Fire Chiefs. The Fire Service Award for Excellence is an annual award given only to departments whose chief is registered with the association.
?I am pleased beyond all belief,? said Chief William King, who hails from the Washington area.
?My guys do a lot of hard work Ð day-in and day-out. I am glad they finally are getting a little recognition that is so richly deserved.
?I attribute their knowledge of fire and emergency services primarily to Capt. Jack Colby,Ó King added. Colby, a Sylvester resident and 20-year veteran of the emergency services, serves as the department?s training officer.
?I am all about training and ensuring our personnel and other personnel in the area are well trained and well prepared,? Colby said.
The base?s training ground is considered by the emergency services community to be the foremost training center in the entire Southeast.
?We have departments all over the Southeast come to train here, including the Georgia Fire Academy and the Georgia Public Safety Training Center,? said King.
The MCLB Albany firefighters recently completed a series of classes that stretched more than seven months.
The classes included Firefighter I and II; Pumper Operator; Aerial Apparatus Operator, Fire Inspector and Instructor I and II; Fire Officer I and II; and will soon begin specialized training in hazardous materials handling, management and clean up.
Once the classes were completed, the personnel who attended were certified by the National Professional Qualification board and the DoD.
According to Colby, of those personnel who have superior endurance and athleticism, he will send a group of firefighters to Columbus, Ga., for the Self Contained Breathing Apparatus Survivor?s School in November.
?SCBA Survivor is kind of like the recon is for the Marines,? Colby said with a stern look.
Colby completed the school a year ago with other firefighters and strongly believes it?s an elite school, only for the best.
?It challenges your mental and physical endurance and strength,? Colby added.
?It?s probably one of the hardest schools I have ever gone through in all my years.?
The consensus throughout the department is that everyone is well trained and prepared for almost any emergency that may arise, both on base and in the local community, if needed.
?We have a great group of nothing but pure professionals. I?ve worked here for only two years, but it?s been a wonderful two years, and I could think of nowhere