They’ve taken different paths to Sequim but firefighter/EMTs Travis Anderson, 32, and John McKenzie, 65, stand together among the top first responders in the area.
Anderson and McKenzie were announced as 2018 Career and Volunteer Firefighters of the Year at Clallam County Fire District 3’s annual banquet on Jan. 18 at 7 Cedars Casino.
Peers in the fire district, including career and volunteer firefighters and administrators, selected the two men for their achievements and surprised them with the awards.
“This is the biggest honor of my life,” McKenzie said. “I’ve been in the service before, and to be nominated and chosen by your peers is an incredible honor.”
Anderson echoed the sentiment.
“I feel honored,” he said. “It was a surprise. Like anybody would tell you, there are tons of people who deserve it. I didn’t expect it.”
Dsitrict 3 Fire Chief Ben Andrews said he and fellow district leaders are proud of all team members and they’re all worthy of recognition, and that Anderson and McKenzie’s accomplishments are notable because they were nominated by their peers.
McKenzie said he loves being a firefighter.
“It makes my life worth living,” he said. “There’s nothing better than serving people.”
Aside from the recent accolades, Anderson and McKenzie are distinct in that they serve Fire District 3 with their wives, too.
Anderson’s wife, Stef Anderson, was named Career Firefighter of 2017, and McKenzie’s wife, Chaela Sumner, EMS, volunteers with him in Diamond Point.
Both men said in their years of helping people, serving the community with their wives stands out among their many memorable moments.
“Now I can go to calls with her and discuss what we’re going to do when we get there,” McKenzie said.
Anderson said he met his wife while on duty.
“When I was hired, I was 21 and she was 23, and combined there were people in the fire service who had more years in than how old we were combined,” he said.
Travis and Stef worked together on a medical unit together and “had a lot of fun together,” he said.
The couple dated four years before marrying and now they work opposite shifts with him currently in Carlsborg and her in Blyn.
The Andersons can work together so long as one isn’t the direct supervisor of the other, but Travis said it works well right now as they care for their 3-and-a-half-year old son. Stef is due in May with the couple’s second child.
Focus on Anderson
Anderson, originally from Lynnwood, started as a student firefighter after being drafted through Olympic College’s firefighter program to work in Sequim in January 2007.
After a year-and-a-half he was hired as a career firefighter, and is now one of 34 career firefighters in Fire District 3.
Anderson now rotates each three months between Blyn and Carlsborg stations.
Andrews said Anderson is passionate about firefighter safety and always looks for ways to improve the overall health of the district’s team.
Right now, Anderson oversees all of the personal protective equipment for the district and plays a large role in firefighter training.
He formerly participated on various teams, including technical rescue and wildland, but he’s withdrawn from those to spend more time with his family.
Being named Career Firefighter of the Year, does not come with pay increase, Anderson said, but rather with “a lot of ribbing and comments from everyone.”
More about McKenzie
McKenzie and his wife moved to Diamond Point about three years ago from Kingston where they continue to operate the computer consulting company, Sumner McKenzie Inc.
He joined the volunteer firefighting team after he inquired if “they needed more people.”
“They asked if I wanted to join, and I said ‘Sure,’” McKenzie said. “At my age, it was rough going through academy, but I wasn’t even the oldest one in the academy, either.”
He said he went on about 200 calls his first year across the district and has joined the technical rescue and fire investigation teams.
Previously he served as a volunteer from 1972-1982 in Pennsylvania and even worked six months on an interim basis as a career firefighter.
McKenzie, who holds an associates degree in fire science and administration, also served as a fire protection specialist for a 700-bed hospital.
“McKenzie has become an invaluable in many areas including training and responding as a firefighter and EMT, holding positions on committees, station safety inspections, fire investigations and CERT to name a few,” Andrews said.
McKenzie is one of 60 volunteers in Fire District 3 and also has a background in scuba diving instruction.
Along with accolades for Anderson and McKenzie, fire officials handed out Years of Service awards — including one for Ron Becker’s 35 years of service.