The Orange Volunteer Fire Association hosted its annual dinner and swearing in ceremony at Grassy Hill Lodge on Tuesday evening.
Historically, the officers are announced, then sworn in, awards and service pins are presented and then the most coveted honor, the Firefighter of the Year is announced.
This year, Fire Chief Charlie Gagel broke tradition to accommodate a family member who had been brought in to surprise this year's honoree.
First, Gagel called firefighter Lisa Kaplan to the front of the room, then, Asst. Chief. Vaughan Dumas stood nearby and made sure that she did not see anything that was going on in the rest of the room as her family, husband, Paul, son, Stephen and daughter, Danielle — who made the trip home from college for the presentation — lined up behind her.
Kaplan listened closely as Chief Gagel talked about Lisa's involvement in CERT, her willingness to help the department and community in any way she can, and how great she is when teaching children about fire safety.
"She does relate very well to young children," Gagel said. "I guess that's because she's a kindergarten teacher here in town."
"A month ago, the line officers got together and took a vote and it was unanimous," Gagel said. "This people, is your 2012 Firefighter of the Year."
The room erupted in wild applause as she got a standing ovation. Lisa turned slowly, and only then did she realize that her son, Stephen, was standing behind her and she squealed with excitement when she saw Danielle.
Asst. Chief Dumas presented Paul Kaplan with a bumper sticker that read, "It's not easy being a firefighter's husband."
Then Paul had the honor of pinning his wife with the Firefighter of the Year pin.
Lisa told Patch that her family's support makes it possible for her to do everything she loves to do, including being a firefighter.
*** EDITOR'S NOTE: Lisa Kaplan is the third woman to be named Firefighter of the Year in Orange. Polly Knight was first and Stephanie Knight was second.