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Boreal Community Media

Emergency Services Awards Presented at 29th Annual Conference

May 02, 2018 12:31PM ● By Editor

On Saturday evening, April 28, the Cook County Emergency Services Awards were presented at the annual dinner banquet and awards ceremony. An important part of the Cook County Emergency Services Conference is recognition of our many dedicated Emergency Services personnel. Each year, nominations are sought through responder organizations and the public for the Outstanding Emergency Service Provider and the Dolly Johnson Friend of Emergency Services Award.


The Outstanding Emergency Service Provider of the Year Award goes to an emergency responder who provided outstanding, notable service this past year or for going above and beyond over the course of through their career. This year’s award was presented to Keck Melby, long time member of the Ambulance Service, pioneer of the Hovland and surrounding STOP teams, and member of the Hovland Fire Department/First Responders. When on call, Mr. Melby has even been known to sleep in the ambulance bay to be readily available to respond due to distance from his home in Hovland. 

Strategic Traffic Operations Program (STOP) responds to emergency incidents and manages vehicles and traffic to prevent injury to responders, victims, and damage to property. The very first all-volunteer emergency incident traffic control team in Minnesota was formed right here in Hovland team was founded in 2008 when Keck Melby and Shawn Perich recognized the danger firefighters and medical responders face when responding to incidents along Hwy 61. They saw the need for traffic management while emergency responders are focused on the actual emergency. Keck developed a training program for emergency incident traffic control, and has since taught many people how to keep an emergency scene safe for everybody. He also outfitted the department and several local volunteers with complete safety equipment. His STOP team has become an important part of the Hovland Volunteer Fire Dept.

The Dolly Johnson Friend of Emergency Service Award was initiated in 2003, to recognize the people who are not on the frontlines of emergency response, but who lend consistent support to our emergency workers or who play crucial roles behind the scenes in times of crisis. The first “Friends of Emergency Services Award” was initiated in 2003, by former Emergency Manager Nancy Koss who presented it to long-time Dispatcher Dolly Johnson. Johnson served Cook County for more than 25 years and received the award in April, but passed away in June of that year. From then on, the award was deemed the Dolly Johnson Friend of Emergency Services Award. This award continues to have meaning for Dolly’s family, and her daughter Kelly Johnson Roberts was on hand to present the award this year to Rose and John Schloot.

Rose and John Schloot originally hale from Missouri, but have had a cabin on Gunflint Lake for decades and now own the Crossriver Lodge (formerly Moosehorn). There hasn't been an incident or fund raiser up the Trail that they haven't offered their services or accommodations. At every search and rescue or structure fire they have provided EMS and Fire personnel with food and beverages. Most of the time without request, they drop what they were doing and made themselves available.

The Schloots volunteer to do most of the cooking for all the fundraisers up the Trail for the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department (GFTVFD. Often, they donate the food as well as the labor. For the Ham Lake Fire Commemoration, they opened their lodge weeks early and offered to house any out of the area guests a place to stay free of charge. The GTVFD insisted they become Associate Members of the Department for all they do, and were provided with radios and pagers. Since then, they have been helpful volunteers on searches, medical, fire calls and other EMS events. The Schloots also recently made a donation through their medical 501c(3) charitable organization to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office to provide all Deputies with Narcan to protect against exposure to deadly opioids like Fentanyl and Carfentanil. Deputies are undergoing training with the North Shore Health Grand Marais Hospital this month as a result.

A special Outstanding Career Recognition Award was presented to Nancy Koss, who attended the ceremony with husband Clayton Koss from Duluth where they now reside. Nancy served as the Cook County Emergency Management Director for 17 years (1991 – 2008) and made a significant contribution to the health and safety of the County in that role. Nancy was the emergency management director during some of the most difficult times in Cook County’s history—during the 1995 Sag Corridor Fire, the July 1999 blowdown, the Alpine Lake fire of 2005, the Famine and Cavity Lake fires off 2006 and the devastating 75,851-acre Ham Lake fire.

During all of these events, she calmly fulfilled her duties as emergency management director, serving as a liaison for the County with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Forest Service and local volunteer fire departments. She put in far more hours than she was paid for, ensuring that everything that needed to be done had been done before going home.

In addition to her work during disasters, Nancy was a strong advocate of training, Nancy worked diligently to ensure that local responders completed the training they needed. She pushed for more training and structure in the search and rescue division. She established protocols for response to hazmat incidents, and she initiated the Emergency Services Conference.

Another special recognition award was presented to Renee and Garry Gamble, who from 2007-2017, coordinated the food service and/or cooked for the Emergency Services Conference and emergency responders. After 10 years. the Gambles passed the reigns on for others to have an opportunity this year and Emergency Management Director Valerie Marasco, presented them with a plaque to recognize their dedicated service to the Conference.

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