WCFRA honors 2023 Firefighter of the Year

WCFRA honors 2023 Firefighter of the Year

Josh Martell, left, president of the Wayne County Fire & Rescue Association, presents Lt. Kristen Priest of the Wooster Fire Department with the award for 2023 Firefighter/EMT of the Year.


Every year the Wayne County Fire & Rescue Association honors its own and recognizes a community member. After several years’ hiatus due to the pandemic, this year the annual banquet was held in Wooster on March 16.

Josh Martell, president of the WCFRA, said the organization is an association made up of all the Wayne County fire departments. The WCFRA assists each department with networking of members, training, support in the event of a department tragedy, and making Wayne County fire and EMS services better in any way possible. Additionally, the organization maintains the Wayne County Regional Training Facility, the location where the majority of first responders in Wayne County go for fire and EMS training.

Martell said the annual gathering is about promoting Wayne County fire and EMS and the good things first responders do.

“It is a night that first responders and their spouses from all over the county can get together and enjoy each others' company without being sidetracked with fire/EMS calls for service. The networking that takes place at the banquet is invaluable,” he said. “This year I heard conversations about family members, fire/EMS responses and workout routines, among many others. The variety of people that attended this year promoted a variety of conversations.”

Two awards are given by the organization each year. Kristen Priest received the Firefighter of the Year. Martell said Priest exemplifies Wayne County Fire/EMS. “She is involved at the highest level with several organizations that make Wayne County Fire/EMS function the way we do.”

Carlye Cebul received the 2023 Wayne County Fire and Rescue Association Special Recognition Award for her support of Wayne County Fire and EMS and passion toward helping others. When asked about the award, all her comments were directed toward appreciation and praise of the first responders she supports.

“The recognition needs to be given to the instructors and the hundreds of volunteer fire and EMS personnel as well as the paid individuals on departments,” Cebul said. “The training facility is well worth visiting to appreciate the time and training for men and women who want to learn and serve.”

In addition to the first responders and their families present at the gathering, there were several Wayne County commissions, the Wayne County Emergency Management Agency director and representatives from Wooster Community Hospital.

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