A Yadkin County man was honored Saturday at 131st annual conference of the North Carolina State Firefighters Association. Barry McLean was named Firefighter of the Year at the event held in Raleigh.
“Barry received the award for his many accomplishments and leadership abilities,” said Chief Dale Couch of the Forbush Volunteer Fire Department. “While serving as deputy chief of Forbush Volunteer Fire Department, one of his duties is leading our efforts in public education and community risk reduction.”
Couch said McLean is extremely active in his duties within the community.
“Barry is always in the community, churches and schools recruiting personnel, and seeking information to determine the needs of our citizens,” Couch said. “To his credit, we provide one of the best smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector campaigns along with safety tips and information over social media in the state.
“We inspect residences of the elderly and provide guidance and ideas to prevent the risk of falls. While at the home, the resident is issued a packet of cooking safety items. We teach them how to use each of those cooking items and encourage the installation of Stove Top Fire Stop canisters. Those canisters have saved millions of dollars of potential property loss due to cooking fires.”
Fire departments are often seen for their work in fighting active fires or promoting fire safety tips, but it was a slightly different topic that lead to McLean’s selection for the award, Couch said.
“He was primarily selected for the firefighter of the year award for leading a program that enabled Forbush Fire Department to install CO (carbon monoxide) detectors in dwellings in our district. Shortly after one install, a homeowner was pressure washing outside the home and the pulling of the hose caused the pressure washer motor to turn and emit exhaust into the basement. The exhaust filled the house with carbon monoxide. The wife had their grandchildren upstairs inside the home. Unknowing of what was happening, they started feeling the symptoms of CO poisoning. The newly installed CO detector was alerting with a series of beeps and she thought it was defective and called the fire department to come out and remove the detector. Forbush Fire Department responded as requested by the resident. The firefighters did air monitoring to find CO levels inside the house near 300 ppm. A simple program for one district effectively saved three lives that day,” Couch said.
McLean is the first firefighter in Yadkin County to receive this honorable award. North Carolina State Firefighters Association is one of the oldest firefighter associations in the country, originating in 1887, and represents more than 51,000 firefighters in North Carolina.
Couch added that since Jan. 1 of this year, home fires have caused more than 1,600 fatalities, 63 of those were in North Carolina.
Anyone in need of working smoke alarms or those who use alternative heating and cooking methods other than electricity are asked to contact their local fire department to have a free risk assessment of the residence.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-518-3049 or on Twitter and Instagram @RippleReporterK.