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Harris, Castillo top Sunnyside firemen

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Sunnyside Firefighter Bill Harris was selected, for the second year in a row, as the Sunnyside Fire Department paid Firefighter of the Year. Harris has headed the adopt-a-family program for the Sunnyside Fire Department for the past two years.

In 2002 the Sunnyside volunteer firefighter started honoring paid fire department staff for their work in the department at the end of the year banquet held in December. For 2003, they chose firefighter/paramedic Bill Harris. It was the second consecutive year Harris won the award.

Harris, 28, has been with the Sunnyside Fire Department for the past five years. He moved to the community after working as a volunteer with another fire department as he went through paramedic training.

By training as a paramedic, Harris said job opportunities with fire departments open up.

With the Sunnyside Fire Department, Harris has headed up the Christmas Adopt-a-Family project. This year 55 families were helped by the fire department.

"Bill is a competent medic," said Sunnyside Fire Chief Jim Stanton. "He strives hard to do the job right and get ahead."

Also honored at the banquet was Tony Castillo, who received the Volunteer Firefighter of the Year award from his 35 volunteer peers.

Castillo, 31, has been a volunteer with the local fire department for the past three years.

"I do what I can to help put up lights and take them down and put up flags," said "Mr. Tony" as he is known to the pre-schoolers he helps with at the United Methodist Pre-school. "A lot of the guys do as much as I do. They are all deserving."

This past year Castillo also served as secretary for the local organization.

Castillo made the third highest number of responses to aid and fire calls for the Sunnyside volunteer association. He was presented with a separate award for the number of calls he responded to.

Volunteers are asked to work one day (24 hours) a month, said Castillo.

"I really enjoy it so I like to stay there a lot," he said.

He tries to spend about 10 days a month volunteering at the fire department. He has had as many as 17 days in a month.

"The more days I spend there the more likely I will be able to go out on a call," he said

Working at the pre-school, Castillo mixes his work with young children with his volunteer work at the fire department. He gives the pre-school students tours of the fire department and during the adopt a family program Castillo's students helped collect items for needy families.

"To be picked out of a group of really special guys is a pretty big deal," said Castillo.

As a volunteer for the Sunnyside Fire Department, Castillo is an emergency medical technician.

"If we go to an aid call I help in any way I can. It can be doing anything from CPR to bandaging wounds," said Castillo.

He has also helped with extradition at accident scenes, which involves cutting up motor vehicles and strapping patients to backboards.

Last year, Castillo helped with a call when a woman fell off a horse and hurt herself.

The ambulance couldn't get to where the woman was, so aid call responders had to ride in a 4x4 pickup to get to the call.

At the scene of a fire, as a volunteer, Castillo said he can be seen helping pull hoses and cleaning up, but last year he was able to drive the truck to the scene on two calls and be the engineer.

"As you get more experience the paid guys allow you to drive to the scene and be the engineer," he explained.

Yakima County Fire District #5 Chief Mark Kimm also was honored at the banquet for his 18 years of service to the Sunnyside Volunteer Fire Department. He retired from the volunteer association at the end of 2003.

. Melissa Browning can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or e-mail mbrowning@eaglenewspapers.com

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