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Marietta Firefighters Nominated for Public Safety Awards

They’ve saved babies, fought fires and started innovative programs.

Next week, the Cobb Chamber of Commerce will announce the winners of its 13th annual Salute to Public Safety.

Among the nominees is a team from the Marietta Fire Department who traveled to South Georgia in May to fight the wildfires there.

Marietta assistant fire Chief Chris Whitmire, who nominated the Wildland Fire Response Team, said the members volunteered to work in a tough environment.

They were in South Georgia for about a week, where they faced more than fires. There were also falling trees, wild animals and the danger of falling into “burning pits,” ground that had already been burned.

“They lived in extremely hazardous conditions,” Whitmire said. “They lived outdoors and had to fight the fire in extremely treacherous and dangerous conditions. They went above and beyond the call of duty to help their fellow Georgians.”

The team’s experience ranged from assistant Chief David Dickenson, who had 35 years on the job, to firefighter Josh Renninger, who had two years, Whitmire said.

Other members of the team were: Lt. Forrest Bean; Lt. Cynthia Nalley; and firefighter engineer George McKeehan.

Dickenson retired in June.

The awards are for acts between June 1, 2006, and May 31, 2007.


* James D. Arrowood, the public safety director for Cobb County schools, Among his many initiatives, Arrowood oversaw the installation of security cameras at the district’s middle and high schools. He also developed a key card access system for the district’s elementary schools. During the 2006-2007 school year, Arrowood and his officers worked with school and police officials to catch three vandals who caused extensive damage to Pope High School’s football field.

* Lt. Mark D. Chenoweth, Cobb County Police Department. When he arrived in east Cobb’s Precinct 4, Chenoweth developed the Police E-mail Notification System (PENS) because some neighborhoods were experiencing many auto break-ins. The system allowed him to update residents about crime in their communities and offered crime prevention tips. The PENS program was eventually expanded to the other precincts in Cobb. A PENS Web site was also established.

* Leigh Dooley, paramedic and the lead field training officer for Metro Atlanta Ambulance Service. She reorganized the company’s recruitment, pre-employment testing and retention methods. She also established a mentoring program for new medics.

* Sgt. Grant Foster, Marietta Police Department. Foster organized two safety checkpoints in the city, coordinating the effort with 80 state and local police officers, deputies and troopers. The checkpoints led to 143 arrests and more than 350 citations.

* Officer Mark Gresham, Powder Springs Police Department. He is credited for his quick action on June 5 to revive a 2-month-old baby. The baby was not breathing, turning blue and not responding when he arrived.

* Lt. Mike Guerrero, Southern Polytechnic State University Police. On April 25 he saved the life of a university employee who was choking by dislodging an object that was obstructing his airway.

* Deputy Chief Sam Heaton, Cobb County Fire and Emergency Services. He leads the county’s 28 fire stations and responds to the 911 center to coordinate response when severe weather results in multiple fires in the county.

* Crime Suppression Unit, Cobb County Police Department. The unit worked in the county’s busiest precinct in southeast Cobb. The five officers and their sergeant made 334 felony and 500 misdemeanor arrests, caught 184 fugitives and issued 1,632 citations. It was disbanded in February.

* Engine 2, Smyrna Fire Rescue Department. The members responded to a fire on April 27 at the Arbors of Hickory Lake apartment complex at Windy Hill and Old Concord roads. They rescued an elderly woman from a third-floor balcony.

* Sgt. Jim Van Alstine, Acworth Police Department. Van Alstine was shot in the chest by a suspect on March 22. Van Alstine, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, returned fire, killing the suspect.

* Work Release Program, Cobb County Sheriff’s Office. The program allows inmates to work while they serve their sentences in a minimum security facility. They pay board fees, child support and restitution. As of April, officials collected more than $1 million in fees and fines, $64,000 in child support and $11,000 in restitution.


* The Cobb Chamber of Commerce kicks off its 13th annual Public Safety Appreciation with a breakfast Monday. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle will be the keynote speaker.

* The chamber will present its award to the Public Safety Employee of the Year winner, among others.

* The breakfast is at the Cobb Galleria Centre at 7:30 a.m.

* The public is invited to attend. The cost is $15 for chamber members and $50 for nonmembers. For more information, call 770-980-2000 or go to

* ON THE WEB: For the complete list of nominees: