On December 8, 2022, surrounded by family and friends, the Knob Noster Fire Department kicked off its annual Holiday Dinner. Each year, KNFD gathers for food, laughter, awards, and sometimes promotions. This year, the contest theme was Ugly Christmas Sweater, and the delicious feast was provided by Belly Down BBQ, a local business out of Knob Noster. The dinner consisted of their famous pulled pork, burnt ends, cheesy potatoes, and many more tasty sides. As the firefighters arrived with their families, the first thing they were greeted with was the amazing smell of BBQ and many of the firefighters could hardly wait to dig in.
After everyone arrived, the first order of business was of course the food. The firefighters and their families spent time throughout the dinner chatting and telling stories of calls they ran throughout the year. The seasoned guys were telling the new ones some of the best calls they have run, some of the worst, and a few of life’s lessons. The families that came with the firefighters were able to hear some of the situations their loved ones have gone through. Situations that may be the firefighters don’t share with them once they return home and kick their boots off.
Once all of the hungry bellies were full to the brim, Assistant Chief Ben Fundaburg opened the festivities by sharing the progress that has been made within the department over the year. Things like new equipment and grants the department received, a recap of new or changed procedures, and the number of calls the firefighters have run throughout the year. So far, the KNFD has completed over 550 calls for the year with no sign of slowing down. This number of calls puts KNFD on par with last year’s numbers as well.
Next came the annual awards. Each year, the KNFD officers choose firefighters that have gone above and beyond throughout the year. The first award that Chief Rick Johnson and Assist. Chief Fundaburg awarded was the Rookie of the Year award. This award went to someone new to the department that the officers believed to be the most charismatic, showed up whenever he was needed and when he wasn’t, and had the best positivity both on scene and during training. Rookie of the Year was awarded to Rookie Firefighter Victor Riberio. The second award that the Chiefs awarded was the Top Performer award. This award goes to the firefighter that attended the most training, and work sessions, and responded to the most calls over the year. This year’s Top Performer award went to Firefighter Brian Gilman. The third award and final award the Chiefs presented was the Firefighter of the Year award. This award is presented to the firefighter that the KNFD officers felt gave the most for every situation, training, and work session throughout the year. Assist. Chief Fundaburg stated, “If there was a firefighter that I would want to be like, it’d be this guy.” This year’s Firefighter of the Year award went to Firefighter Pedro Asebedo. After everyone thought the awards were over, the Firefighter’s Association of Knob Noster announced they had a couple of awards to pass out of their own.
The Firefighter’s Association of Knob Noster (FAKN), which is a brand-new association this year formed by the firefighters of KNFD, wanted to present an award for Officer of the Year. The officers of KNFD worked tirelessly to ensure that the firefighters were well-trained and had the equipment and tools necessary to protect the members of their community safely and effectively. This year, there were two officers that the firefighters thought deserved the award but could not pick one over the other because while one went above and beyond obtaining new gear, equipment, and PPE, the other had the same dedication when it came to training the firefighters and ensuring they were prepared to effectively mitigate any situation they responded to. Since both officers equally benefited the productivity of KNFD, FAKN decided that this year two officers would receive this award instead of one. The two officers that received the Officer of the Year award were Assistant Chief Ben Fundaburg and Captain Tim Merrill. Now that the awards were officially presented, there was still another significant event to address.
This year, the KNFD officers decided to split the department into two divisions, one being the Fire Division and the other the Medical Division. This meant there was a change in the order of command as each division needed a chief. While KNFD Assist. Chief Fundaburg took on the challenge of the Medical Division Chief, the Fire Division was left open and needed to be filled. It was a no-brainer that to fill this position a promotion from the existing KNFD officers needed to be made. Having served KNFD and the Knob Noster community for over 25 years, Captain Steve Ashbridge was more than deservedly promoted to Fire Division Chief a few months before the holiday party. After all of the commotion of the awards was finished, Chief Johnson, Assist. Chief Fundaburg and FAKN presented Division Chief Ashbridge with his new badge and a personalized KNFD winter coat, something he has always wanted. There was not a person in the room that could not feel the emotion from Division Chief Ashbridge as he stood for his photo to be taken and each firefighter was proud of and happy for him.
With all official business done and the evening winding down, there was still one matter left to attend to. Who won the Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest? Three prized pendants were awaiting to be claimed: Ugly, Uglier, and Ugliest being the 1st place prize. Throughout the evening and after the awards, every person in attendance was encouraged to vote for their favorite ugly sweater. The first round of voting ended in a three-way tie! Another round of voting quickly ensued with the only sweaters you could vote for being one of the three. After a few nail-biting moments, a determination had been made. Firefighter John Watts was awarded Ugly in third place, Firefighter Brian Gilman received Uglier in second place, and Firefighter Pedro Asebedo won the contest, receiving the Ugliest award without even having an ugly Christmas sweater to wear.
At the end of the night, after hours of fun and laughter, each firefighter left feeling the love their brothers and sisters shared for each other and knew that this family was meant for them. The Knob Noster Fire Department would like to thank each of its firefighters, their families, the Knob Noster community, and small businesses for trusting KNFD to protect and serve them whenever they are in need. KNFD takes pride in fulfilling its promise by “Being There.”