Fire Department selects Troy Firefighter of the Year
By Terry Oparka
Gary Wood, a volunteer firefighter at Station 5 for 33 years, was named Firefighter of the Year for 2017.
Posted May 17, 2017
TROY — Troy volunteer firefighter Gary Wood said the help and guidance of the more seasoned department members he’s served with for the past 33 years were invaluable to him.
“The old guys took me under their wing,” he said. “I never forgot that.”
Now a self-professed “older guy,” he said he aims to mentor the newer firefighters at Station 5 — on John R Road, north of Square Lake Road — where he’s served all of his 33 years.
The Troy Fire Department has named Wood its 2017 Firefighter of the Year.
Wood joined the Troy Fire Department on April 11, 1984. At the time, he had been principal of Costello Elementary School in Troy for three years. Don Mouch, a now-retired fire inspector, inspected Costello Elementary and encouraged Wood to get involved with the Troy Fire Department.
Wood retired in 2013 after 39 years with the Troy School District.
Troy Fire Chief Dave Roberts said Wood has dedicated “countless hours” to teaching, mentoring and working with new probationary volunteers.
“He certainly leads by example,” Roberts said.
“I’ve always enjoyed that aspect,” Wood said of mentoring. “Now that I’m retired, I have more time to do that. I’m very fortunate.”
Wood has received several awards, including Station Member of the Year for Station 5, two safe driving awards, two merit awards and a unit commendation. He is a top responder from Station 5 and has held the ranks of station lieutenant, station captain and station assistant chief.
He said the incidents that particularly stand out for him from his years of service are the tragedies, including an incident in which a volunteer died due to a medical condition during a training session.
“It’s very sobering,” he said.
As the principal of Costello, which is in the area that Station 5 serves, Wood sometimes knew the family where a fire incident occurred.
“You go into this because you want to do something positive,” Wood said. “You don’t do this unless you like and trust the guys you’re with.”
He added that he considers his award to be recognition for the entire station of 30 firefighters.
“I’m very grateful for the officers that did this,” he said of his nomination. “It’s humbling.
“We get great administrative support from the top. We need that as well,” he said.
Wood credited his family for his ability to serve as a volunteer firefighter. He said his wife, Joan, “the best wife in the world,” is very involved.
“It’s a network for families as well. Without the support of your family, you’re not going to do this.”
Their son, Will, now works in public safety for the city of Farmington after serving on the Troy Fire Department as a volunteer for 10 years. Wood said his grandson, Noah, 3, loves to visit the station.
Roberts said the firefighters train every week and spend one day each week taking care of administrative matters at each station.
“The public doesn’t realize what these folks give up, leaving family dinners and events. It makes these folks so amazing, all they give back to the community,” Roberts said.
Roberts explained that award nominations are received and reviewed by a committee.
“They (the nominees) were all fine examples. It’s never an easy decision. The supporting information was so compelling. Gary has shone a little brighter than the others this year.”
Roberts commended all of the volunteers.
“They support me,” he said. “That’s what makes it (the department) as good as it is.”
“It’s been a fantastic experience,” Wood said. “It’s been a wonderful 33 years. I’ll miss it when I leave it.”
Wood will be recognized at an awards banquet this month.
The Troy Fire Department is looking for new volunteers now at Station 2, 5600 Livernois Road. People can apply at troymi.gov, on the Troy Fire Department page.
About the author
Staff Writer Terry Oparka covers Troy and the Troy School District for the Troy Times. Oparka has worked for C & G Newspapers since 2000 and attended Oakland University and Macomb Community College. Oparka has won an award from the Michigan Press Association and four awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Detroit Chapter.
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