Haviland resident Don Stewart was named Sedgwick County Firefighter of the Year by the Insurance Women of Wichita at a May 17 banquet.

Haviland resident Don Stewart was named Sedgwick County Firefighter of the Year by the Insurance Women of Wichita at a May 17 banquet.

Stewart was selected by an internal committee who recommended him for the award. His recommendation came after a Dec. 1, 2011, incident when he attended to the victim of a car crash on his way into work.

“I was near Kingman eastbound on U.S. 54,” recalled Stewart. “It was about 6:30 in the morning and I saw a bunch of cars stopped and bunched together.”

Stewart recalled the incident in detail. Two vehicles had collided when one suddenly changed lanes in the dark of an early December morning. One passenger was lying facedown in the grass with an apparent head injury after being thrown from her vehicle. That victim later died, but Stewart, being careful not to move her for fear of spinal damage, placed his fingers inside her mouth and cleared her breathing passage. He said he sat there with her for 7-9 minutes until the ambulance arrived.

“It felt like an eternity,” said Stewart. The other passenger, as far as Stewart could recall, was not injured.

Fifteen years earlier Stewart says he had never though about becoming a fireman.

A self-described “outgoing Christian” and youth pastor, he shared honestly that although he has come to love his job as a firefighter, initially he had been uninterested in it.

“For a month everybody and their dog was letting me know that Sedgwick County Fire was hiring and that I should go apply,” he recalled. “It got to the point where I had to stop and say ‘OK lord, this is more than a coincident, why are you bugging me about being a firefighter?’ It was relentless. I finally went in, dropped an application off on the last day, put my hands in the air and said ‘there I did it. I did what you asked. They’ll never call me, now leave me alone.’”

A phone call, an interview and 15 years later, Stewart says he has come to accept and love a job, which he feels he was put on the earth to do.

“The longer I walk with the Lord Jesus, the longer I am amazed. There is not a drop, not a drop wasted. When I obey and follow scripture I have seen how glory is brought to him and people are drawn to him,” said Stewart.

The Insurance Women of Wichita and his fellow firefighters saw his actions as an act of selflessness and bravery, actions that deserved honoring.

“I think our profession, whether volunteer or paid, we’re never off duty,” said Craig Leu, Deputy Chief of Operations for Sedgwick County Fire District One. “If we see someone needing assistance we’re going to stop and give them assistance and do what we are trained to do. For Sedgwick County, we see that as another gleaming example of how many good people we have working for us. We would expect all of our people to do that, and Don did what we would expect and he did it well.”

Stewart shared the sentiment, including his fellow emergency responders as an integral part his personal accolade.

“There were a bunch of firefighters and EMS personnel [at the honor banquet], said Stewart. “The truth of the matter is that I did what anyone of those others would have done, it just happened in front of me. They would have done what I did. That’s who they are. Essentially it goes to all of us. It’s not about me, I did what we do and I happened to get recognized for it.”