Florida Volunteer Fire Chief Recognized

Chief Mike Copenhaver of the Lake Jackson Volunteer Fire Department says that giving back to the community is second nature to him.

Like other volunteer firefighters, the 33-year-old is "on call" 24 hours a day. Last month, as he was going home after running a few errands, he heard about a car crash on the dispatch line. The crash was on Magnolia Drive, not in the Lake Jackson area.

"It was right there in front of me," he said about the scene. Copenhaver said he went to the crash site and saw the victim "still in the vehicle slumped over." Recognizing immediately that the man was in cardiac arrest, Copenhaver took him out of the car, performed CPR and used a defibrillator. When the ambulance arrived, the man had a weak pulse.

"He called me a week later and said that now he had a pacemaker, but other than that he was fine," Copenhaver said Thursday.

Because of the volunteer fire chief's efforts, he was nominated and won the 2004 Florida Volunteer Firefighter of the Year award given by the Florida State Firefighters' Association.

C.W. Blosser, the past president of the association, called "all firefighters heroes," but Copenhaver's actions were "a little more than extraordinary."

"We stress teamwork, but he was acting by himself, took charge and made a positive outcome," Blosser said.

Leon County EMS Director Richard Smith, who supervises area volunteer firefighters, said Copenhaver "epitomizes the volunteers throughout Leon County." Copenhaver has been a member of the Lake Jackson Volunteers since 1996 and became chief two years ago.

"He shows the type of dedication not to just respond at any hour of the day or night, but he's dedicated to undergoing rigorous training," Smith said.

Copenhaver, his wife and other members of his volunteer department will travel to Orlando for the award ceremony today. Copenhaver has four children and works full-time as a Subway restaurant manager.