Wheeling Police and Firefighters Honored at Ceremony

Photo by Alex Meyer Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger presents the award for Officer of the Year to Pfc. Kevin Kuca.

WHEELING — Dozens of officers in the city’s police and fire departments were honored for their service in 2018 at the city’s Public Safety Recognition Ceremony.

Fire Chief Larry Helms and Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger presented awards Wednesday to members of their respective departments, including naming officer and firefighter of the year.

“Seven years ago when I started working at Wheeling, I felt it was very important to have ceremonies like this to allow Wheeling and the greater community to get to know their officers and firefighters,” Schwertfeger said. “I felt it was important for the community to truly see what these men and women are doing.”

Helms named Assistant Fire Chief Ed Geisel Sr. as Firefighter of the Year. Geisel saved a fellow firefighter’s life after the man choked on a piece of food.

Schwertfeger named Pfc. Kevin Kuca Officer of the Year for his overall service in 2018.

“He’s a solid performer and teammate. He’s here every day and every night,” Schwertfeger said of Kuca, a third-generation law enforcement officer. “Everything he does is done well and he has an even better attitude.”

Throughout the ceremony, Kuca received several other awards including the meritorious performance award and a medal of merit. Schwertfeger spoke about how Kuca handled a dangerous situation in which he followed a suspect in a hit and run to a local business and the man pulled a gun on him.

“Officer Kuca quickly drew his weapon, but we’re very happy to report that he’s still here and the subject is still here,” Schwertfeger said. “He performed very valiantly and very professionally.”

Schwertfeger began the ceremony by expressing his thanks for the work of both departments in the three-alarm fire at The Ziegenfelder Co. in East Wheeling last week.

“I wanted to say how very impressed, how very grateful and how appreciative I am for what you did, Wheeling fire and Wheeling police officers, at the fire,” Schwertfeger said.

Next, Helms presented the awards for his department, including numerous milestone awards for number of years served. Assistant chiefs Larry Murphy and Tony Campbell and Fire Engineer Chris Kreitzer all received awards for serving on the department for 40 years.

∫ Numerous firefighters received commendations for their work, including several who helped with a vehicle accident in which a car fell into a 40-foot ravine. Campbell, Capt. Winston West, Lt. Jay Anders, Lt. Eric Touvelle, Fire Engineer Chuck Ransom, Fire Engineer Donald Costello, Firefighter Dan Hughes, Firefighter Tristan Pace and Firefighter Mark Schimnoski were commended for their help in that accident.

Helms also presented commendations to Lt. Jason Milton, for his help with a house fire and an automobile accident, and Fire Engineer Alex Cotrell, for providing CPR to an individual and quickly notifying the crews.

More than 35 members of the fire department were commended in total, many for their help in a large brush fire that occurred in Wheeling last April.

∫ The ceremony also commended work of civilians in aiding the fire department. Tyler Harto was recognized for his help in a fire on McColloch Street, Zachary Herron was recognized for helping the department conduct searches after flooding, and two 911 dispatchers, Scott Himrod and Mark Scherrer, were recognized for successfully providing instructions to someone trapped in a fire.

∫ In addition, the ceremony recognized the fire department’s new hires and promotions. New hires included Nick Carson, Justin Bull and Tristan Pace. Promotions included Capt. Bernard Davidson, Capt. Greg Funari, Lt. Bob Heldreth, Lt. Eric Touvelle, Lt. Chad Baker, Fire Engineer Donald Costello, Fire Engineer Clayton Dietrich and Fire Engineer Michael Clawson.

Later in the ceremony, Schwertfeger presented awards for the police department. He recognized Sgt. William Criswell, who is retiring after serving with the department for 23 years.

Schwertfeger presented commendations to Pfc. Robert Agostino, Patrolman Korey Recinella and neighborhood assistance volunteer Craig Collins for volunteering to help the fire department with the East Wheeling fire last week.

The chief presented a community service award to Cpl. Sean Brantley, Pfc. Ryan Moore, and Pfc. Gage Parker for their work to increase the amount of DUI arrests in the city. He also presented a lifesaving award to Pfc. John McKenzie and Recinella for their work in handling an overdose situation and providing Narcan to an individual.

Schwertfeger further thanked Kuca and Cpl. Jason Hupp for their work in uncovering a methamphetamine lab, presenting them with a medal of merit. He also presented several medals of merit and meritorious performance awards to numerous officers who helped during President Donald Trump’s visit to Wheeling last September.

∫ Those who received meritorious performance awards included Sgt. John Raddish, Sgt. Russ Campbell, Cpl. Rob Safreed, Cpl. Jason Martin, Cpl. Sean Brantley, Pfc. Robert Scott, Pfc. Ryan Moore and Kuca.

∫ Those who received medals of merit included Deputy Chief Martin Kimball, Lt. William Noice, Sgt. Doug Howell, Sgt. Josh Sanders, Sgt. Rick Robbins, Campbell, Hupp, Kuca and nine neighborhood assistance volunteers.

In addition, Schwertfeger presented the Chief’s Eagle Award to Cpl. Ryan Ferrell, Pfc. Robert Agostino and Kuca. That award goes to individuals who demonstrate the department’s vision, goals and core values, Schwertfeger said.

∫ New hires for the police department recognized at the ceremony include Kevin Cowan, Scott Page, Josh Bolyard and Robert Kovalyk. Those who received promotions include Sgt. Marcus Narehood, Cpl. Brent Ruby, Cpl. Bryan Wilson, Cpl. Erick Burke, Cpl. Daniel Holmes, Hupp, Pfc. Gage Parker and Pfc. Cody Schwertfeger.

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