Sonora, CA — The Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office held its annual awards ceremony yesterday afternoon in the Board of Supervisors meeting room.
It was also a time to swear in new members of the office. This was the sixth year that Sheriff Jim Mele has put on the event. It was attended by most members of the department and several of their family members. Mele says, “It has blossomed from an event that recognizes employees for their years of service, to one that also recognizes the good things that they have done throughout the year. It is a fun and nice way to say ‘thank you’ for the service that they have done.”
The event was emceed by Sheriff Mele and Lt. Neil Evans. Several special awards were given out this year. The information below was provided by the Sheriff’s Office.
TCSO Community Services Unit – Unit Citation
Many of the men and women of the CSU volunteered countless hours during the Rim Fire helping with a number of tasks, such as road blocks, security, Red Cross Shelters, and providing valuable information to the evacuees.
The Recruitment Team – Unit Citation
These men and woman have been instrumental in the last year of recruiting quality people to staff the Sheriff’s Office. They spend many hours actively recruiting, testing, interviewing and completing numerous background investigations that are required in the hiring process, to qualify them to work for the Sheriff’s Office.
TCSO Search and Rescue – Unit Citation
Many of the men and women of SAR volunteered countless hours during the Rim Fire helping with a number of tasks: evacuation plans, their knowledge of the area, maintaining and running the Tuolumne Command Post, obtaining housing, food for the mutual aid officers, and countless other logistical assignments.
TCSO SAR members Jonathan Rodriguez and Paul Carlson – Outstanding Citizen Awards
During the Rim Fire Jonathan Rodriguez and Paul Carlson were tasked to develop an evacuation plan for the Tuolumne Road North Corridor, from Tuolumne City all the way through Pinecrest. They put together a plan utilizing a GIS tracking system along with detailed maps and instructions for the more than 150 Police Officers and Sheriff’s Deputies that responded as mutual aid for evacuations and security.
They then put together a plan and maps for the Groveland corridor. These plans were utilized for the notifications and evacuations throughout the region. Without their expertise in this area, it would have been a monumental task for the Sheriff’s Office to deploy efficiently.
Rodriguez and Carlson spent about two weeks of the Rim Fire on the job, working 15 hours days. These were all volunteer hours.
Kasey Leonard – Outstanding Citizen Award
On September 12 of 2012, Kasey Leonard was working as a clerk at the Candy Kitchen in the Junction Shopping Center. A suspect came in and robbed the store at knifepoint. Her ability to remain calm, give an accurate description of the suspect, and to answer the questions the 911 dispatcher had for her, enabled responding deputies to find the suspect and arrest him.
Deputy Matt Stuart – Sheriff’s Certificate of Commendation
Deputy Stuart took it upon himself to research training and products to outfit the Sheriff’s Office with trauma kits for each vehicle. Deputy Stuart was able to get this idea approved. He then made arrangements to purchase the products and put together the training plan. He then administered the training, department-wide.
Deputy Stuart completed this self-initiated project without letting it interfere with his normal duties as a patrol deputy because he recognized the importance of increasing the chance to save lives in the community.
Deputy Richard Champlain, Deputy James Gragg and California Peace Officers Anthony Alegre and Steven Oriol – Live Saving Award
On September 26th of 2012, dispatch received a call from a suicidal subject who was threatening to light himself on fire at Columbia State Park. Deputies Gragg and Champlin arrived and were assisted by Officers Alegre and Oriol.
After an extensive search they were able to locate the suspect hiding in a cave in a wooded area of the park. The subject was uncooperative, and told them if they tried to come in and stop him, he would shoot them. The subject then began to poor a liquid onto himself, lit his lighter, and set himself on fire.
Deputy Champlin sprayed the subject with a fire extinguisher he had retrieved from his car. Deputies Champlin and Gragg put out the fire that had spread to a wooded area. They then provided emergency first aid to the subject until Emergency Medical Services arrived. These actions most certainly saved his life and stopped a fire from spreading into the surrounding area.
Deputy Oliver Imlach – Live Saving Award
On February 23 or 2013, Deputy Imlach was dispatched to a suicidal subject that had overdosed. Deputy Imlach arrived and saw through a window that the subject was unresponsive and not breathing. He requested Emergency Medical Services to respond. He forced entry into the home and gave the subject CPR. The subject regained vital signs on several occasions, only to go into a seizure and become unresponsive. Deputy Imlach would administer CPR each time. Deputy Imlach’s actions undoubtedly saved her life.
Sgt. Bob Bogelea, Corporal Kelly Dickson, Corporal Paul Speers, Deputy Jared Christiansen, Deputy Dan Newman, and Deputy Oliver Imlach – Life Saving Award
On June 23rd of 2013, in the early morning hours, the patrol division was advised that there was a structure fire at an apartment complex in Jamestown. Corporal Dickson, Deputy Christiansen, and Deputy Newman were the first on scene, shortly followed by Deputy Imlach, Deputy Speers and Sgt. Bogolea.
There was a trailer next to the apartment building that was fully involved, and the fire was quickly spreading to the nearby apartment building. There was a power line down and arcing. The deputies immediately began to evacuate the apartments. Many of the occupants had been asleep and were completely unaware the building was on fire. As they evacuated, the building was becoming engulfed in smoke. Sheriff’s personnel were able to evacuate three sets of duplexes in the area, and account for the residents before the fire department units arrived on scene. These deputies risked their lives to save the lives of these residents.
Rim Fire Awards
Sheriff Mele created a ribbon to commemorate all Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office staff that were employed at the time of the Rim Fire.
Several members were also recognized for recently receiving promotions, and reaching milestones such as 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years of service.