Last month, it was all about the firefighters, of which Three Rivers is fortunate to have many from which to choose to honor as Tulare County, State of California, and National Park Service all have personnel on duty in town.
This month — tonight, in fact — the law-enforcement division of local emergency responders will be honored. And, on the last Friday of next month, three military veterans will be recognized.
This is all part of the Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce’s Hero Appreciation Months that have been held for the past nine years during January, February, and March.
On Friday, Jan. 30, at the Three Rivers Historical Museum, there were two honorees who have dedicated their careers to combat fire, both structure and wildland.
First up at the ceremony was Tyson Lewis, a Tulare County Fire Department firefighter who has been stationed in Three Rivers since 2012 and started his career as a paid-call firefighter in 1988. His superiors, including Chief Joe Garcia, honored him at the ceremony with speeches, and a plaque was presented to him, created by local artists Marn Reich and Shirley Keller.
Receiving the same attention, although not present at the ceremony, was Ben Jacobs who retired in October 2014 from the National Park Service at Sequoia and Kings Canyon. After 26 years of government service, Ben retired as the fuels specialist with the Arrowhead Hotshots, an elite wildland firefighting crew.
Dave Allen, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’s fire management officer, accepted the award in Ben’s absence.
Law enforcement luminaries
On Friday, Feb. 27, the honorees will be Mark Frick, Three Rivers deputy sheriff, and Dot Crain of Visalia, a Tulare County Sheriff’s Department VIP (Volunteer in Patrol) who works mainly out of department headquarters, but has also racked up some of her 4,000 volunteer hours in Three Rivers.
Contests and celebrations
Hero Appreciation Months was started by Leah Launey of Three Rivers, a chamber of commerce board member, as a way to stimulate business in Three Rivers during what are historically the slowest months of the year economically. She almost single-handedly organizes the events associated with the three months, which also include family-friendly activities such as the Snowman Contest, Square Dancing Party, and Bathtub Race and Picnic. She is assisted by her husband, Peter Sodhy, SFCC president. Discount cards are also available for anyone who is a past or present firefighter, emergency medical personnel, in law enforcement, or military. Many merchants in Three Rivers and Sequoia offer reduced prices for cardholders during these three months.
The couple owns Three Rivers Bed and Breakfast, so also provides free stays to all Hero Appreciation Month honorees. Leah provides the homemade refreshments, including cheesecake, at each of the award ceremonies. Wine and beer are also available, and everything including admission is free.