By Brenda Erdahl
Kirk Larson was named Firefighter of the Year, Monday Feb. 8, at the Maple Lake Fire Department’s regular monthly business meeting.
The award is usually given out at the department’s annual banquet, but the event has been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, Fire Chief Steve Peterson surprised Larson with the honor Monday evening.
According to Peterson, the Firefighter of the Year is picked each year by a committee made up of past award winners going back five years. They look for members who put fourth extra effort as part of the volunteer fire department. Besides his normal duties, Larson is the department treasurer, a part of the Ambulance Committee and a key component in the Heart Save Program. As part of that program, Larson worked with a group from Wright County to teach high school students CPR. Unfortunately, his work never came to fruition because of the pandemic.
Since he joined in 2014, Larson has always been willing to lend a helping hand whether that means serving food at a pancake breakfast or volunteering to clean the fire trucks. He always puts forth an effort above and beyond what’s required, Peterson said.
The fire department’s annual banquet is also the time to recognize retirees. Tom Neu is this year’s lone retiree. Neu leaves the department after 31 years of service. A firefighter/EMT, Neu joined in 1989 and has served many roles over the years. He was president of the Relief Association for many years and headed up the 1997 station addition. He was part of the budget committee, served as treasurer for 10 or more years and is a two-time recipient of the Firefighter of the Year Award. He received the award in 2002 and 2019.
If this had been a normal year the Fire Department’s banquet would have taken place last weekend. Peterson said the department hopes to hold the event sometime this summer.