Pleasant Grove Firefighter of the Year lives his live in service

Kevin Dickerson, facing away from the camera, shakes Mayor Bruce Call's hand after receiving the Firefighter of the Year award. To Call's right is Chief Marc Sanderson and to the mayor's left is City Administrator Scott Darrington. Pleasant Grove Fire Department courtesy photo .
..Not many people enjoy wandering through cemeteries. But it's where Kevin Dickerson clears his head.

"I get rejuvenated or pumped back up by hanging out in a cemetery," Dickerson said. "To read about these good people and their lives is motivating."

Rejuvenation is just what Dickerson needs after a long day of work. He works as a part-time paramedic firefighter, volunteers for the search and rescue team in Utah Valley and is a junior high school science teacher.

Dickerson's hard work was recognized last month when his fellow firefighters at the Pleasant Grove Fire Department chose him as 2010 Firefighter of the Year. He received his award at the fire department's beginning-of-the-year kick-off dinner in January.

"It was completely unexpected," said Dickerson, who has worked for the fire department for 16 years.

"I was just hoping for a good dinner, but they caught me off guard," he said.

His co-workers were not surprised by Dickerson's recognition.

"He is a really great employee," said deputy fire chief Dave Thomas. "His willingness to serve and his abilities and skills are exemplary."

Dickerson is constantly challenging himself to be a better firefighter. He recently finished a year-long paramedic program, giving him more life-saving skills and requiring more than 2,000 hours of hands-on training.

"It's challenging, but it is one of the most rewarding jobs," said Dickerson, a Pleasant Grove resident.

He is used to administering medical attention in high-pressure situations. He joined a volunteer search-and-rescue team 17 years ago, which he said inspired him to get his emergency medical technician license.

Not all volunteers for search and rescue are EMT certified, making Dickerson an asset to the team. He is also a quick mountain climber. He was able to hustle up the mountain his first year volunteering with another new rescue teammate when a young hiker had fallen on the ledge of a waterfall.

Fearing the hiker had broken his femur, he knew they had to spring into action before any of the more-seasoned teammates arrived or the hiker would freeze in the falls. Dickerson harnessed the young hiker to his own body and swung him across the ledge to safety.

"Being able to make a difference when it was just us new guys, it was a big confidence builder," Dickerson said.

While some think he was destined to save lives, Dickerson almost took a different career path.

Dickerson was a junior at Brigham Young University preparing to follow in his father's footsteps and become a dentist when he decided to pursue a different path.

He became a teacher at American Fork Junior High School, where he has taught science for more than 20 years. He also teaches a class on how to save lives by using first aid.

"You never know when you will be under pressure and have to use that stuff," Dickerson said.

Last September those skills helped his students save the life of a fellow classmate. After a student stopped breathing in gym class, two of his ninth-grade students put Dickerson's teachings to good use. The two girls grabbed a defibrillator, completed chest compressions and hooked their classmate up to oxygen, all before the paramedics arrived.

After wrangling with junior high students, administering medical attention to accident victims and finding lost hikers, Dickerson earns some peace and quiet.

"I read the obituaries every night to read the good things people have done," Dickerson said. "I wish I was that good or someone who has had the opportunity to help others in their greatest time of need."
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