Matt Dey has been chosen by his peers as the SHAES Firefighter of the Year. A member of the department’s paid-on-call staff since 2018, Dey exemplifies through his actions the selfless commitment to community by SHAES responders.
“Matt came to us having served as a firefighter in Buchanan,” said SHAES Executive Director Brandon Hinz. “When he moved to the South Haven area he sought us out which is a pretty good sign. He has not let us down.”
Three times during the 2020 summer season he was a key responder during water-rescue responses by the department. In June, after receiving a report of kayakers being blown out into Lake Michigan and spotting them through binoculars, he commandeered a nearby jet ski and was able to reach the distressed parties and render assistance until the SHAES boat arrived on scene. Later in the summer, he assisted kayakers who became swamped in the Black River while attempting to venture out into the lake. As the summer concluded and while on duty as part of the department’s Beach Safety Flag patrol, he witnessed two people being washed off the South Pier into the lake. He reached an unconscious male and was able to bring him to shore where the victim was revived.
“2020 was hard,” he said. “We experienced increased call volume, a pandemic, we lost two friends (retired firefighters Stanley Wakild and Tom Leva), record high water levels, employees retiring, new employees, new command staff…a lot of changes. Throughout all of that we were still here, providing service to our area to the best of our ability. I’ve always known this is a great organization and am proud to be a part of it. I can’t tell you the comfort that comes from knowing every call is covered and it’s covered right.”
Years of service awards: Gerald Sajewski, 35 years; Ronald Wise and Tom Renner, 30 years; Brad Filbrandt, Brian Horan, Sr., and Donald Quinn, 25 years; Dustin Guminski and Mark Kaput, 20 years; Cesar Garcia, 15 years; David Griessel, Drexal Haner, Phillip Quinn, Shawn Smith and Tim Vanholt, 10 years; Zachary Kenreich, Cody Sedlak and Jon Vandenberg, 5 years.
Three members of the SHAES governing board were recognized for their service – Casco Township supervisor Allan Overhiser, 35 years; South Haven Township supervisor Ross Stein, 25 years; and Geneva Township Supervisor Nancy Whaley, 20 years.
New paid-on-call members are William Brennan, Jacob Clemons, Zachary Hanner, Phillip Poole, Aaron Sawyer and Kevin Wildey. Tim Forker and Amanda Quinn were promoted to fulltime firefighter/paramedic and Drexal Haner was hired as fulltime assistant fire inspector.
Firefighter 2 and Haz-Mat Operations Certification: Jacob Clemons, Zachary Hanner, Kevin Wildey, Phillip Poole, Aaron Sawyer, William Brennen, Amanda Quinn
Fire Officer 2: Tim Forker
Fire Officer 3: Zachary Kenreich
Fire Instructor 1: Cody Sedlak, Tim Forker, Steven Cavadas, Drexal Haner, JD Quinn, Johanna Quinn, Phillip Quinn, Brian Horan, Jr., Brandon Hinz
Fire Inspector: Steven Cavadas
EMT Basic: William Brennen, Kevin Wildey, Phillip Poole, Nina Flintoff, Jacob Clemons
EMT Paramedic: Amanda Quinn
Rescue Diver: Cody Sedlak, Drexal Haner, Phil Poole, Kevin Wildey, Phillip Quinn, Aaron Sawyer
Honor Guard: Zachary Kenreich, Amanda Quinn