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ASHLAND -- The Ashland Fire Department recognized three exemplary men earlier this month at its annual awards banquet. 

Captain Ben Burrer was honored as the officer of the year, Matt Spaniel as the firefighter of the year, and Corey Sprang as the EMT of the year. 

"We have a great trio of award winners here this year," said Fire Chief Rick Anderson.

The annual awards ceremony has been going on as long as he can recall. Once it only recognized the firefighter and EMT of the year, but the officer award was added at some point. 

"It's about peer recognition. All of it's determined by their peers," Anderson said. "It's a nice way to recognize above and beyond efforts." 

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The officer of the year award is given to a sworn officer who presents a professional image to the public and peers, demonstrates leadership and supervisory skills and successfully encourages and demonstrates both personal and professional career achievements. 

Burrer's peers described him as a "very good communicator who keeps everyone informed" and someone who "demonstrates exceptional leadership" and "listens and makes changes to the protocol."

"It's definitely an honor, especially given all the good officers we have here," Burrer said. "Anyone of them deserves it just as much as I do. Everyone cares and does a good job."

Burrer began firefighting in 2006 as a volunteer for the Shiloh Fire Department. He was hired at the Ashland Fire Department in 2008 and promoted to an officer role in May 2019. 

"My dad was a full time firefighter, so I grew up around it and decided that this was what I wanted to pursue," Burrer said. 

He resides near Ganges, Ohio with his wife and two daughters.

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The firefighter of the year, Spaniel was chosen by his peers who called him "calm and professional" and "very knowledgeable in a variety of situations." Further, they said he is "always willing to help with the training of new employees" and "always working and thinking about the future of the department." 

Chief Anderson highlighted these same characteristics when speaking about Spaniel.

"He's very deserving. He's always willing to help with the new guys," Anderson said. 

The firefighter of the year award is intended for an individual with a minimum of three years of service with the Ashland Fire Department. The winner is someone who demonstrates exceptional fire service skills, a positive attitude towards their position and the department and an excellent knowledge of fire service and its history. 

"It's humbling. Pretty significant that our peers would think that we're worthy of getting the award," Spaniel said. 

He started his firefighting career at the Spencer Fire Department in Medina County. He was hired at the Ashland Fire Department four and a half years ago. 

He's also the fire chief at the Polk Fire Department.

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Like the firefighter of the year, the EMT of the year must also have a minimum of three years experience with the Ashland Fire Department. This individual is expected to have a professional image to the public, medical community and peers, exceptional EMS skills and a positive attitude towards all aspects of their duties. 

His coworkers acknowledged Sprang's knowledge of protocol and pride in his work. They also commented that he is "very polite" and "always acts in the best interest of the patient."  

Sprang of Loudonville started volunteering at Perrysville out of high school and later worked part time with the Mifflin Township Fire Department.

He was hired by the Ashland Fire Department three years ago. He is also the assistant chief of the Perrysville Fire Department.

"All the paramedics are very highly trained and very highly qualified, so I think to be even nominated for something like that, it's very humbling," he said. 

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