Not one, but two women were crowned the Dolores Fire Department's biggest honor Saturday night: Firefighter of the Year.
Cindy Ramsay and Gina Kotarski were given the honor for a variety of reasons, but mainly for putting in so many hours last year getting the department ready for the Tri-State Firemen's Association Annual Convention. The event, held in early August in Dolores, drew over 300 firefighters into Dolores.
With a combined 32 years of service on the Dolores Volunteer Fire Department, both Kotarski and Ramsay were thrilled about the honor.
Both Kotarski and Ramsay have been named firefighter of the year before, but this is the first time the women have shared the honor.
Prior to the Tri-State convention, both Kotarski and Ramsay put in hours and hours of work.
"It was a lot of work," Ramsay said. "And Gina knew the rule book from front to back."
Ramsay is the secretary for the department, Kotarski is the EMS Captain.
Both ladies have an always present pager and go to every call.
"It doesn't matter what is going on in our lives, we drop everything to go on those calls," Ramsay said.
The 30-plus volunteers at the station would all do the same.
"You can't get better family than the family on the fire department," Kotarski said. "This family loves and cares for you."
Ramsay said she is thankful to employers who allow the volunteers of the department to run on calls.
"I have to give a horn toot to employers who support employees on our department. It could be them we run on, it could be their family," Ramsay said.
Over the years, both Ramsay and Kotarski have some stories to tell.
Most recently, Kotarski showed her dedication when she arrived at a call in Dolores, a 10-year-old boy had been hit by a car. She responded, knew the boy, treated him and sent him to the hospital, despite his protests.
She likely saved his life. When the boy arrived, he didn't want to be there, but it was found that he had a skull fracture. He was immediately sent to a children's hospital.
But the story didn't end there for Kotarski.
Later, the family's dog was hit and killed, shortly after the first accident and after the dog had given birth to puppies.
Kotarski helped the family bottle feed the puppies and even took one of them home.
Ramsay remembers saving a dog from the river.
"We brought it to the department and dried it off," she said.
Nobody claimed the dog, so they made an announcement at the school. A student came running to the office, ecstatic the dog was safe.
It is the little things that they talk about, but what they don't talk about is all the lives they save and the others they could not, or the familiar faces they see in need of help.
"Invariably, it is going to be someone you know," Kotarski said.
Ramsay agreed, "We do this, not for the money, but because we really love the community."
Kotarski said that there is a host of new rookies this year at the department, but they could always use more.
"We have open arms."