Two members of the 100-member Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department were recently honored for their outstanding performance, dedication and commitment.
Jake Faires, 21, was presented the Andrew Woods Memorial Award, given annually to the Department's firefighter of the year.
Zach Thomas, 23, was presented the EMT of the Year award.
"These are two of the most prestigious awards given because they are voted on by their peers," said Department Chief Jeremy Russell.
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Faires, who works as a mechanic in his paying job, joined the department in 2008 after a deacon in his church brought a firetruck to homecoming.
"I got in the truck and it just looked like so much fun," Faires said.
He has since earned his Firefighter 2 certification and is also trained as an EMT. He tries to give at least 12 hours a week in service to the station, and many times gives much more.
"If I'm not at work, I'm usually here. I like the atmosphere, I like the people that I work with, and I enjoy helping in the community," said Faires.
Over the past three years, he's been involved in many different situations, from fighting fires to helping retrieve a little girl stuck high in a tree after climbing to rescue her cat.
Thomas, who is employed as an EMT with Union County EMS, joined the department in 2009. Service runs in the family.
His father, William, who works at MEDIC, volunteers at Mint Hill as well. His brother Mark works full time with Mint Hill and also volunteers there. His other brother, Robbie, is employed at MEDIC and works and volunteers at the Hemby Bridge Fire Department.
"We've been in it together for a couple years, we enjoy it, we even go to training together," said Thomas.
Just last week Thomas and his dad graduated with their Paramedic certifications from South Piedmont Community College.
Since Jan. 1, Thomas has put in about 1,200 volunteer hours. He admits it's time consuming and physically and emotionally draining at times, but he wouldn't have it any other way.
"I love helping people," he says. "That's how I was raised. When a family member comes and thanks you for helping their loved one, you know you've done a good job. It makes all the time and training worthwhile."