Merced County honors firefighters with awards

mnorth@mercedsunstar.comApril 4, 2013 

Several firefighters from departments across Merced County were honored for exemplary service during the annual Firefighter of the Year Awards on Wednesday.

Awards were given to firefighter John Rice of the Atwater Fire Department, volunteer firefighter Anthony Figuera of the Dos Palos Fire Department, volunteer firefighter Steve Lanfranco of the Gustine Fire Department, Juan Aguilar of the Livingston Fire Department, firefighter Eddie Vierra and volunteer firefighter Rob Barajas of the Los Banos Fire Department, firefighter Joey Felix and volunteer firefighter Roy Lowen of the Merced County Fire Department and firefighter DeWayne Young of the Merced City Fire Department.

Merced City Fire Chief Mike McLaughlin said the award winners are nominated and selected by their peers for going "above and beyond" their typical duties.

Firefighter DeWayne Young of the Merced City Fire Department is one of those individuals.

McLaughlin said Young was selected for the award for his commitment to the organization as his active work to help the department out through difficult times resulting from budget and staffing cuts.

"DeWayne is an incredible human being," McLaughlin said.

Young is involved with nonprofit organizations such as the Special Olympics, and volunteers a lot of his private time to those programs.

"He does it because he loves it and he does it because he believes in it," McLaughlin said.

Merced County Fire Chief Nancy Koerperich said the work of those recognized this week includes community involvement and internal efforts.

"We really appreciate the opportunity to recognize the individuals every year who add an extra bit of something to their departments," she said.

Two examples from Koerperich's area include volunteer firefighter Roy Lowen and firefighter Joey Felix.

Lowen, who works with the Winton Volunteer Company, has been with the department for more than 20 years, Koerperich said. He's responded to almost 700 calls during each of the past two years.

Felix, a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection-Merced County Fire employee, has been heavily involved with extracurricular activities and has played a big role in the department's technical rescue team, which provides help during unorthodox or difficult rescue missions, Koerperich said.

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or

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