Firefighters honor their own, essay winners
Released/Published: Oct 8, 2013
CANTON - About 280 firefighters and other emergency responders celebrated two of their own and three area schoolchildren Tuesday morning at the 48th Annual Fire Prevention Week Kickoff Breakfast.
The event, held at Skyland Pines Golf Club and Banquet Facility on Columbus Road NE, is administered by the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by the Canton Fire Prevention Bureau, Exchange Club of Canton and the Stark County Safety Council.
The annual breakfast begins a week designed to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire on Oct. 8, 1871, during which more than 250 people were killed, more than 100,000 people were rendered homeless and more than 17,400 structures were destroyed as more than 2,000 acres burned, according to the National Fire Prevention Association website at www.nfpa.org.
Canton Fire Prevention Officer Lou Johnson was honored as the Canton Fire Department's 2013 Firefighter of the Year, and Perry Township's part-time District Chief Tim Gatchell was honored as 2013 Stark County Firefighter of the Year.
Gatchell joined the department in June 1969, retiring Sept. 11 of this year with 44 years of service to township residents. In June 2011, he was awarded a commendation letter for his part in saving a patient suffering a heart attack, said John P. Bacon of the Stark County Fire Chiefs Association. Bacon also recognized Gatchell's years volunteering for Stark and Wayne Counties Meals on Wheels program.
Johnson was recognized for his work as lead investigator for the arson fire that destroyed the Good Times Bar & Drive-Thru in February 2012.
Canton Fire Chief Stephen Rich noted that the fire was part of a conspiracy to burn the business to collect about $1.4 million in insurance money. The investigation included Canton fire and police, the Alliance Fire Department K-9 Unit, the FBI's Canton bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
"That was a truly exceptional investigation," said Joanne Lambert, special agent for the ATFE bureau. She was the keynote speaker for the kickoff breakfast.
Bar owner Ziad H. Rawahneh of Dublin, and an employee, Christopher McNutt of Canton, later pleaded guilty to federal arson-related charges. Rawahneh was sentenced in April to three years in federal prison while McNutt is serving a 30-month prison term, according to federal court records.
The breakfast also annually recognizes fourth-grade students who compete in an essay contest. Zion Moore, who attends Canton City Schools' Belle Stone Elementary, was named the city's fourth-grade essay winner and Morgan Hannon, who attends Massillon Intermediate, was named the county's fourth-grade essay winner. Each child read essays advising ways to prevent a kitchen fire.
Another student not involved in the essay contest was also honored for her charitable work.
Madison Zakham, a seventh-grader at Plain Local's Oakwood Middle School, gathers aluminum cans, washes, bags and donates them for Akron Children's Hospital's burn and cancer patients.
Zakham donated hair to Locks of Love for cancer patients and "two years ago on Christmas donated all of her new unopened toys to children in need." She also jokingly thanked her mother for drinking Diet Coke.
Read more: Firefighters honor their own, essay winners
Another story from the CantonRep.com: Canton officials review inspection procedures after fire
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Contact Information: Reach Lori at 330-580-8309, email@example.com, Twitter: @lmonsewiczREP
History made in the Canton Fire Department (Jun 22, 2012)
New response strategy allows City to do more with less (Jun 15, 2009)
Fire investigators arrest second house explosion suspect (Nov 20, 2008)
Canton welcomes 15 new firefighters (Aug 15, 2008)