Ken Knapp was named the 2016 Firefighter of the Year Jan. 28 at the Wellington fire district’s annual awards dinner.
The 26-year-old Wellington native and resident has been with the WFD since 2012, which is also the same year he started as an EMT with the South Lorain County Ambulance District.
In addition to those duties, he’s worked full-time as an engineer since 2014 at the Ohio Department of Transportation and enrolled last year in LifeCare Ambulance’s paramedic program.
He took home the award over three other finalists in a vote among his peers.
“They based it on leadership and initiative both on and off the district grounds,” said Knapp. “I was honestly surprised and humbled. It’s a true honor. I’m in paramedic school right now. Fire doesn’t run EMS with an ambulance. We run first responder calls. It means a lot to me that these guys have been so supportive of me in doing it. I’m very appreciative.”
The Ohio State University graduate is also Wellington’s representative on the Lorain County hazardous materials team.
During a January meeting of the SLCAD board, where it decided to cut its ambulance crew sizes from three to two EMTs, Knapp spoke up on behalf of the WFD, which could be asked to take on additional medical calls.
“I don’t know if that meeting itself swayed things much with the award,” he said. “I’m one of two guys in the fire department that runs with both services. I’d say running with both might’ve had something to do with winning.”
WFD chief Mike Wetherbee said Knapp has distinguished himself since arriving at the district.
“He’s enthusiastic and has a passion for what he does,” he said. “He made a considerable amount of our calls, which is something we look at. That’s on top of working his full-time job with the state of Ohio and going to paramedic school. That’s the type of person we like to have. He’s always ready to give his time and juggle his schedule for the community’s benefit.”
Knapp said he’s happy his wife is a nurse because she understands his demanding and unpredictable schedule.
“The paramedic classes themselves are a minimum of 900 hours in one year,” he said. “That’s just classroom time and doesn’t include studying. It’s rough. My wife understands. My mom understands. I’ve been spreading myself pretty thin but I guess the guys at the station think I’ve been doing a good job with it.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.