The Newport Beach Fire Department’s employees of the year include a Coast Guard veteran, a career lifeguard who started as a summer employee to pay for college, the local union president and a lifeguard who knew it was her dream job from childhood.
“We admire your unceasing professionalism and commitment to service no matter how busy and stressful your days may be,” Newport Mayor Diane Dixon told the service members at the sold-out 22nd annual Newport Beach Fire & Lifeguard Appreciation Dinner on Thursday in the Rose Garden of the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa. “You always have a smile, you’re eager to talk. Our residents know our firefighters, our lifeguards and our police officers by name, and that is a tremendous service that all of you give to our community.”
Fire Chief Jeff Boyles said lifeguards make more than 4,000 in-water rescues a year and that firefighters respond to more than 14,000 annual calls, so trying to pick the top performers is difficult.
“Here in Newport Beach we’re striving to treat others the way they want to be treated. That’s the platinum rule,” said Boyles, who called it a “spin-off of the Golden Rule.”
Seasonal Lifeguard of the Year Carly Christian grew up in Newport Beach, started with the Junior Lifeguards at age 9 and became a paid ocean guard at 19. She runs marathons and completes the 30-mile Ben Did Go stand-up paddle from Newport to Catalina Island, the only woman so far to do so.
The paddle is in honor of the late Ben Carlson, the only Newport lifeguard to die in the line of duty. He also was Christian’s mentor, and she dedicated her award to him.
Lifeguard Supervisor of the Year Adam Yacenda started as a seasonal ocean lifeguard in 1995 to help pay for his studies at UCLA. He currently supervises the West Newport division as a permanent staff lifeguard and helps oversee lifeguard training and the CPR outreach program.
Civilian of the Year Raymi Wun enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard in 1997 and served until his honorable discharge in 2002. One of his service stints was on the cutter Narwhal based at Corona del Mar. He joined the Newport Beach Fire Department as a life safety specialist in the fire prevention division seven years ago and currently manages the three vegetation maintenance programs. He also conducts annual inspections of “high hazard occupancies,” including 38 high-rise buildings.
Firefighter of the Year Bobby Salerno is a 17-year NBFD veteran who has been president of the Newport Beach Firefighters Assn. the past five years. He started in fire service as an Explorer while attending Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana and graduated from the fire technology program at Santa Ana College before serving as a Santa Ana fire reservist for two years.
Boyles also presented 12 individual and group citations to firefighters, paramedics, lifeguards and civilians for work in the past year that saved people from cardiac arrest, accidents, drowning and fire.
The appreciation dinner is presented by the Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce.