Kilgore Fire Department honored several of its firefighters at Tuesday’s city council meeting. Firefighters were recognized with promotions as well as commendations for bravery and life-saving actions in the line of duty.

KPF Chief Johnny Bellows and Assistant Chief Mark Henderson presented the promotions to Driver/Engineer Robert King, who was promoted to Fire Captain, and Firefighter Matthew Wedgeworth, who was promoted to Driver/Engineer.

“This evening, we’re excited because we’re going to be able to present to you our two newest promotees. They’ve worked very hard by studying their exam books and taking the test and passing an interview to be able to receive these promotions,” Bellows said.

“Robert is pretty well-known all around the city and his crew, when they go into the store, they always say that Robert never gets past the front door because he’s always meeting and greeting everyone there and he knows everyone in the city. He’s a great representative for our department,” Bellows said as he invited King to the podium in the council chamber.

King is a paramedic, certified wildland firefighter and has worked with Champion EMS and EMS services at Laird Hospital.

 Wedgeworth is a member of KFD Honor Guard, is a certified wildland firefighter, Army veteran, a swiftwater rescue tech and rescue boat operator.

“We’re very proud of him and very proud of what he’s done to attain the Driver/Engineer position,” Bellows said.

Following the promotion ceremony, Bellows and Henderson presented CPR Save Awards to Captain Robert Crues, King and Wedgeworth. The award is bestowed on firefighters who are directly responsible for saving a human life while performing CPR.

“I think that says it all right there. You save a life. It’s pretty important and definitely very touching, not only to the firefighters that are involved but you think about the person that was involved and it extends out even further to their families,” Bellows said.

The trio received the awards for responding to a call in which a person had no pulse and no respiration. They were able to revive the person, who has since recovered.

The final awards presented Tuesday were Swiftwater Rescue Lifesaving Awards. Driver/Engineer Jovane Rossum, Firefigher/Paramedic Bryan McLaughlin and Firefighter Mason Barrett received the honor for their actions during a harrowing rescue on a flooded road.

“May 2, 2019, the Kilgore Fire Department responded to Rusk County, assisted some organizations in that area and we responded with our Swiftwater Rescue Team,” Bellows said, gesturing to a projector image showing a vehicle on the side of a washed-out road nearly completely covered by water.

“As they made the approach upstream, as they started across the roadway, my heart definitely stopped for awhile. They were actually shot across that roadway. They lost complete control because of the waters and how swift they were running. They slammed up into the trees and they were caught in the hydraulics. They had one hand on their equipment and one hand on the boat.”

The rescue crew made two trips to the submerged vehicle, rescuing four individuals and bringing them to safety.

The Lifesaving Award is granted to firefighters directly responsible for saving a human life without the use of CPR.

“I’m very proud of these personnel,” Bellows said.


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