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Deputies bravery during fire rewarded – Photo gallery included

Robyn Moormeister
Staff writer

Everyday heroes of public safety were recognized for their hard work and sacrifice at a well-attended award ceremony hosted Thursday morning by the Nevada County Sheriff.

To resounding applause, Sheriff Keith Royal, Undersheriff John Trauner and RSVP Director Sara Morrison handed out three bronze medals, a commendation, presidential awards and some special recognition to paid deputies and volunteers.

Deputies Raymond Kress, Mike Walsh and Justin Martin each received a rare bronze medal for saving a North San Juan woman from injuring herself March 22, 2005.

The woman was allegedly throwing knives at imaginary people, locked herself in her mobile home, set her living room on fire and hid in the closet.

Kress and Martin kicked in the front door, Walsh broke in the back window. Breathing in smoke, the three men wrestled the kicking, screaming woman out of the closet to safety.

They were all treated for smoke inhalation.

“Because of their courage and resourcefulness, that woman is alive today,” Royal said.

Kress also received a sheriff’s commendation for saving another woman’s life on Oct. 31, 2005, in Penn Valley. He was responding to a call for a suicidal person and arrived before the paramedics, who took a wrong turn.

He cleared the woman’s airway, restored her breathing and didn’t tell anyone about it until a superior officer read about his actions in a report.

“He went above and beyond his regular duties,” Royal said.

Other award recipients were volunteer crisis intervention officers Derry James, Jim Redfield and John Alspaugh, all pastors who volunteer their counseling services to crime and accident victims and public safety workers.

“When there’s a need, these folks are always willing to help,” Royal said. “They bring with them a tremendous amount of talent and we’re honored to work with them.”

Corporal Jeff Morris was awarded a pin for making 14 drunk driving arrests in 2004 ” 16 percent of the total drunk driving arrests in that year, the leading number of such arrests in the department.

Retired & Senior Volunteer Program Project Coordinator Sara Morrison handed out presidential awards to 27 volunteers, including Jan Scott, a sheriff’s volunteer who received her lifetime award for more than 4,000 hours of service.

Sheriff’s Volunteer Coordinator Corporal Walt Jones said each hour of volunteer service is worth $16.50 to the sheriff’s office. The volunteers worked a total of 11,380 hours last year, or $187,770 worth of labor.

“We wouldn’t be able to function without these folks,” Jones said.

In addition, former deputy Jim Casci was promoted to the rank of sergeant.

“Promotions are rare in a small department,” Trauner said before Royal pinned Casci with his sergeant’s pin and presented him with a plaque.

Enjoying the reception that followed, 87-year-old volunteer Larry Kraig largely credited his volunteer work for his good quality of life.

“This is what keeps me going,” he said. “It’s wonderful to be recognized.”

To contact staff writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail robynm@theunion.com or call 477-4236.

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