Georgia Firefighters Named Best In Army

Updated: 06-02-2006 11:22:39 AM

The Augusta Chronicle

Fort Gordon is not blowing smoke when it brags about having the best firefighters in the Army.

Last month, the post's fire department was named the best small department in the Army for 2005.

"They are ecstatic," Fire Chief Lester Porter said about his department's reaction. The post's unit had been named the best in the region in March.

"It was a team effort that helped get this award," said Lt. Col. Richard Karlsson, Fort Gordon's director of emergency services.

One reason the post won at the Department of the Army level was the crew's involvement during the Graniteville train wreck and chlorine spill Jan. 6, 2005, that killed nine people and caused about 5,400 residents to be evacuated.

Fort Gordon has the only mobile decontamination unit in the area, and a team of 14 firefighters took the unit to Graniteville to set up the facility.

The Fort Gordon personnel stayed on the scene from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. the day of the accident, decontaminating victims and workers.

That accident was the first time the department was able to use the decontamination unit in a real-life situation, Lt. Col. Karlsson said.

"They've proven themselves in the real world," he said.

Other areas of consideration for the award include how the department has been able to save money.

Fort Gordon firefighters also are involved in teaching fire safety in the community.

"That was part of the award," Lt. Col. Karlsson said. "We're part of the community, and we're here to serve."

The fire department now will be considered for the Department of Defense Award, which will be announced in September. The department will compete against fire stations in the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.