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Firefighter honored for involvement in community

By Ed Brock

Walter Barber could have been a lawyer.

Instead, he became a firefighter and a hero.

Barber, a firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician with the Clayton County Fire Department, has been selected as the Safety Personnel of the Year, 2005 by the Knights of Columbus, Tara Council 6352 in Jonesboro.

For 32 years the Jonesboro KOC has held an annual Public Safety Appreciation Day Luncheon at St. Phillip Benizi Catholic Church on Flint River Road, according to KOC member Will Rogers. Prior to the luncheon the county's police and fire chiefs, sheriff's office and 911 supervisors submit nominations for the award.

This year the luncheon was held on Oct. 12 and at that time 28-year-old Barber, who has been with the CCFD for about three years, received his honor.

“Every nominee was a winner but he stood out among them,” Rogers said. “He was active in his community teaching fire safety.”

Barber said he was truly honored by the award.

Before joining the fire department Barber was working for a law firm in Atlanta with plans to go to law school.

“I decided to make a career change and go for a lifelong dream,” Barber said.

Along with his community work, Barber won the award because he has already saved a number of lives. His unit was awarded previously for the number of people they rescued from heart attacks.

“We were blessed, we actually had several cardiac saves,” Barber said.

Rogers said Barber also rescued an 8-year-old girl in a car accident. Barber said saving lives is a “big plus” of his career, but that's not the only reason he chose it.

“I just like to get to help people,” Barber said. “I think it's a great opportunity to help people in the community and be involved.”

Clayton County Fire Chief Alex Cohilas was very proud of Barber whom he has known since Barber was a childhood friend of Cohilas' son.

“Walter is an exceptionally bright and gifted young firefighter,” Cohilas said. “He has accomplished a lot in a very short period of time, which speaks well of his work ethic and his dedication to the department.”

During the luncheon the KOC also honored Christopher Read, a student at Our Lady of Mercy High School in Fairburn, for his essay “Gun Control.” Read received a plaque and a $100 savings bond.