Crystal Potter is Hay River’s Firefighter of the Year for 2020, and she says it is special to be chosen for the honour by other members of the fire department.
And she says it is also special for another reason.
She is the daughter of Fire Chief Ross Potter.
“I feel like I made him proud, for sure,” said the younger Potter.
She added that it was special to be presented the award by her father.
“That was really good because I think he has high expectations of his members, and in particular of me. His expectations might actually be higher for me,” she said with a laugh.
Crystal Potter has only been a member of the Hay River Fire Department since March of 2019, when she joined during the month-long battle against a landfill fire.
Joining at that time of intense activity for the fire department was more than just a coincidence.
“Honestly, it was more so I could spend more time with my Dad, because he wasn’t home much and I wasn’t seeing him much,” said Potter. “And I had been thinking about joining for quite a while, and the timing just kind of worked out. The members were getting burnt out, so I offered to help out where I could.”
Chief Potter said it was a proud moment to see his daughter named Firefighter of the Year.
“She worked really hard and she was definitely top responder for the year,” he noted. “She became very interested in the fire department and has really done an outstanding job of becoming a strong member.”
The Firefighter of the Year was announced at a fire department gathering on Dec. 12, which would have been the date for the annual Firefighters’ Ball until it was cancelled because of Covid-19.
At the gathering, the top five firefighters of the year were recognized based on the number of functions they attended – anything from responding to a fire or accident scene to attending meetings to participating in training – and the total number of hours they dedicated to the department.
Crystal Potter attended 298 functions and committed 383.5 hours to the department.
“I do really enjoy it, mostly just helping people,” she said of that commitment. “And you kind of form a bond with the other members.”
The four other top firefighters of the year were Trina Swan (201 functions, 324 hours), Capt. Ralph Sanguez (176 functions, 211 hours), Capt. Kirsten Fischer (130 functions, 184 hours) and Stacey Barnes (120 functions, 178.5 hours).
Long-service awards were also presented to a number of firefighters – Terence Fischer (15 years), Darryl Buhler (10 years), Ian Thiesson (five years), and recognition for two years of service to Desmond Courtoreille, Omar Hajam, Julia Janicki, Daniel Slade and Jayden Smith.
Chief Potter said that, instead of a Firefighters’ Ball, there was an informal, Covid-safe gathering to present the awards.
Not being able to have the Firefighters’ Ball was a huge disappointment, he said. “It would have been our 62nd-annual ball, uninterrupted, and 70 years of service to the town of Hay River.”
Chief Potter updated town council on the award presentations during its Dec. 14 online meeting.
“It’s a real pleasure for me to be able to recognize these people for their contribution to the fire department,” he told council. “They’re all great people to work with.”
Mayor Kandis Jameson offered congratulations from the town to all of the award recipients.