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Getting to Know the Family at Station #4



Left to right, Lt. Keith Fitzpatrick, FF Travis Button, FF Isaac Smith, Capt. Brian Rogers, FF Adam D’Alessandro, and DE Michael Poe. (Photos by Kris Bird)

It’s a dream for many women to spend a day in a firehouse. For this author, I will never forget my day of getting to know the incredible servicemen at Station #4 in Peachtree Corners.

As I sat down with them, they were receiving calls and requests. One man walked in asking for jumper cables and was back on his way within minutes. Your local Fire Department really does it all! In fact, when Station #4 was demolished by the tornado in 1998, the crew continued to work out of a trailer in the parking lot.

In the wake of the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and Fire Prevention Week, observed during the first week of October, it’s time you get to know your local firefighters / lifesavers / superheroes.

Busy heroes

Station #4 is one of the busiest fire stations in the county. In fact, Adam D’Alessandro said that some nights, he ends up sleeping on the truck. Last year during COVID, they didn’t even see a drop in calls, just a change in the types of calls they received.

D’Alessandro has been at Station #4 for a year and a half. He didn’t originally want to be a firefighter; instead, he started out in the Gwinnett County Parks and Rec department, in the aquatics sector.

He said that in all the years he would have an emergency and need to call 911, Station #4 would always show up to the pool, so he got used to working with the people he would later call his family.

In case our readers are wondering who answered the call for the “runaway pig” story that swept the nation, Captain Brian Rogers remembers it well. The pigs were on their way to a robotics arm lab to be tested under robot arm surgery before the truck carrying them flipped. He stated that, “that isn’t the only highway runaway animal call we have gotten.”

Captain Rogers lives up to his Marvel superhero name — Captain America’s “secret” identity is Captain Steve Rogers — and maintains that firefighters are humble individuals who don’t like talking to people about themselves and aren’t looking for praise. Still, firefighters are “ordinary people who do extraordinary things.”

Captain Rogers has been at Station #4 since 2015, and he has been a firefighter for Gwinnett County since 1998, so he has seen a change in the types of calls firefighters are responsible for.

“Whoever thought back then that this would be a thing?” he asked, looking back over the many ways the fire department has changed — from fires to EMS to hazmat, then terrorism, and now pandemics and whatever else may come along.

In fact, when he graduated from college, through the firefighter college tuition reimbursement program, one of the papers he wrote was titled, “When the UFOs land, the Fire Department will be the first to arrive.”

As the list of tasks for your neighborhood firefighter gets longer, Captain Rogers has noticed a generational change. The younger generations seem to put more value on being with their families and loved ones than trying to supplement their income with another side job.

Did you know that firefighters work an average of 800 more hours a year than the average American? And most members of the department have young children to go home to and care for once their shifts are over.

Captain Rogers said he thinks it’s because the younger generations watched their parents work hard and dump everything into their jobs, only to have it ripped away in the crash of 2008. He likes to say that “they aren’t in it for the income, they are in it for the outcome.”

More members of the family

Isaac Smith, aka “Tiny Tim,” aka “The Rookie,” knows that he’s part of the family, even though he has only been part of Station #4 for a few months. Smith is fresh out of the academy, having completed “Fire 1 and EMT training,” and looking to go back to school for “Fire 2” shortly. He said that he got into becoming a firefighter because “you get to serve the public and get paid. They also take physical fitness very seriously.”

This author was there to witness the firefighters putting on their full gear and oxygen masks just to work out in the gym! Smith loves the opportunity to work with such a close-knit group, and he has made it his priority to learn and gain experience while “learning his new family.”

When asked whether firefighters really are good cooks, Smith assured me that if you don’t go into the fire department being a good cook, you will certainly leave as one.

Travis Button is one such great cook, and apparently being the “Truck Tailboard” means you also have to be the best chef. Like the front position in a bobsled, Button “has to work harder than anyone; he is the first one to show up, and the last to leave.”

Button checks every inch of the firetruck at the beginning of his shift. He has been hand chosen as the eyes and ears at the back of the truck, and he is the one who cooks and cleans for his crew at the end of his shift. Button said that his biggest struggle, since joining Station #4 a year and a half ago has been “not letting the job become your life.” With over 1700 hours of overtime under his belt, that can’t be easy.

Button has his paramedic certification, on top of his Fire 1 & 2, and EMT certifications, which means he has the highest non-hospital medical certification you can get. He mused that the funniest call he ever got was the “gas leak” they investigated that turned out to be a litterbox.

Brian Gaeth had been a firefighter for 11 years for the Gwinnett County Fire Department. Just two months ago, he transitioned into his role as Public Information Officer. Gaeth handles breaking news requests from the press and social media presence. He said the biggest struggle from the past year was navigating the nuances associated with COVID, since a fire department is essentially a family unit, and they spend the same amount of time together as a real family.

Working closely with the Gwinnett County Communications Department, Gaeth is gearing up for Fire Prevention Week and just got finished coordinating for Gwinnett Fire to observe the 9/11 anniversary at the Gwinnett County Fallen Heroes Memorial, where they can be found every year.

Keith Fitzpatrick, who is the current Lieutenant for the C-shift at Station #4, opened up about some of the less gratifying parts of the job. Fitzpatrick has worked at Station #4 for a year and a half. Before that he earned nine years of experience as a medic.

He is a member of the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) program, which offers regular counseling to help combat the trauma that firefighters are exposed to. The organization meets with firefighters who have experienced extreme emotional strain in hopes of preventing depression and suicide.

Fitzpatrick spoke of the firefighter gene that ran in his family. At the age of 17, he got to go on his first ride-along with his cousin. His father begged him not to become a firefighter, knowing how dangerous the job was. But, he said, years later his dad came around when he saw how much the job meant to him.

Captain Rogers let me in on a Station #4 tradition: whoever is featured in the press has to buy ice cream for the rest of the crew. Well, guys, looks like you’re having an ice cream party this week!

What you need to know about Fire Prevention Week

According to Adam D’Alessandro, “Families need to make a plan, especially families with young kids. And don’t forget that we install smoke detectors for you for free.”

Keith Fitzpatrick added, “This Fire Prevention Week will focus on knowing the sounds of fire safety. If your smoke detector is beeping, have the batteries replaced. If the fire alarm is going off, don’t think it is a drill, just get outside.”

Kris Bird is an Atlanta-based freelance writer who specializes in Marketing and Communications. After earning her degree from Stony Brook University, Kris has been working as a science fiction and fantasy novelist for the past decade.

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City Government

Town Hall Hosted by Peachtree Corners Councilman Phil Sadd



Peachtree Corners Councilman Phil Sadd held a town hall meeting at the Winters Chapel United Methodist Church on Nov 2. It was attended by a group of approximately 75 residents.

As part of the presentation, Sadd invited Gwinnett County Police Department’s Major Edward Restrepo and Dunwoody Councilman Tom Lambert to be part of his panel.

The presentation included information regarding a variety of topics. They included:

  • The Forum current state / future vision,
  • Key Construction Project Updates (including Spalding Drive widening; Winters Chapel / Spalding Drive; River Exchange / Holcomb Bridge; New Town Farms neighborhood; and Winters Chapel intersection at Dunwoody Club Drive),
  • Multi-use trail update,
  • Peachtree Corners Town Center update,
  • Curiosity Lab Innovation Center update,
  • What is on the November 8 ballot, and
  • Peachtree Corners Crime Prevention Initiatives.

The audience had the opportunity to ask questions of each panelist. Major Restrepo gave them greater insight on how the use of technology has enabled the police to quickly apprehend criminals and prevent future crimes.

According to feedback from one of the attendees, Major Restrepo’s explanation of how law enforcement works to contain and control crime in our area was not only helpful but very encouraging. They said they went home feeling more secure and less concerned about crime control in the area and in the entire county.

Councilman Sadd began holding these town hall meetings in 2013. He believes that they are an important part of representing the city’s residents.

“I believe that it is very important to meet with constituents and residents to provide them with information regarding the city,” said Sadd. “These types of events not only allow me to provide our residents with information and answer questions, but also allow me to hear directly from them about their concerns, appreciation and what they expect from the city in the future.”

From left, Councilman Phil Sadd, Gwinnett County Police Department’s Major Edward Restrepo and Dunwoody Councilman Tom Lambert

In addition to the audience, there were several local leaders and elected officials that attended the town hall. Attendees included:

  • Georgia House Representative Beth Moore,
  • Peachtree Corners Councilman Eric Christ,
  • Peachtree Corners Councilman Joe Sawyer,
  • Board of Education District 3 Representative Mary Kay Murphy,
  • Georgia State House Candidate Scott Hilton,
  • Georgia State House Candidate Ruwa Romman,
  • Georgia State Senate Candidate Austin McDonald,
  • Peachtree Corners DDA Representative Tim Le,
  • Peachtree Corners Planning Commission Member Alan Kaplan,
  • Peachtree Corners Zoning Board of Appeals Member Marcia Brandes, and
  • Winters Chapel United Methodist Pastor Steve Ring.

As it is an election year, Sadd spoke about the importance of voting. Sample ballots were made available to those in the audience at the completion of the program.

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Gifts We All Want Holiday Market Pops Up Again at The Forum



Gifts We All Want Holiday Market is back for its second holiday season at The Forum Peachtree Corners. The pop-up will be open through Dec. 30.

Market hours are Mondays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., and Sundays, 12-6 p.m. It’s located next to Sugar Coat Nail Salon and across from La Parilla Mexican Restaurant in The Forum.

“All the community support was appreciated last year,” said Margie Hix, owner of Gifts We All Want. “We look forward to being here to delight the community again with unique, high quality and highly desired gift giving items.”

She noted that this year’s Holiday Market is bigger and better than last year, with 9+ locally owned businesses offering handcrafted and selectively sourced products. Eight of the businesses are owned by women.

“Everyone will have many opportunities to buy ‘Made in the USA’ products while shopping at the market,” Margie added.

Favorites from last year have returned, like the Braves National Championship and college team bourbon barrelhead signs from Konn Kreations and the Makeup Junkie bags from Gifts We All Want that was seen on Shark Tank.

Handmade jewelry is available from makers Lemon Street Box, Edgy Boho Jewelry and ali & bird jewelry. Holiday dresses, sweaters and jackets are offered by Nadia’s Boutique.

Sustainable items, like custom-designed sweatshirts and tees, as well as vegan leather/plastic bags that can be customized, are brought to the market through Right by Earth.

Arts and crafts are well-represented with artworks such as the repurposed glass on painted canvases by Art by Lainey. Other pieces include hand painted ornaments and canvas paintings by Heaven and Nature By HV and hand painted woodwork items by Southern Inspiration.

The aromas of the holidays are found in candles, sachets and home and spa products by Béau Vie, Tyler Candle Company, HydraAromatherapy and more. There are also gourmet food and drink specialties available.

“The Holiday Market is a great place to find items for yourself and for the gifts you have in mind for others,” Margie said. “We’re looking forward to seeing all the familiar faces and meeting new folks, too.”

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The Forum Annual Tree Lighting Set for November 18



With the holidays fast approaching, The Forum has announced the return of its annual tree lighting, scheduled for Friday, Nov. 18, 6-9 p.m. The event is free and open to the public and will occur in a new format with Forum Drive closed off so guests can stroll along street. The Forum is located at 5155 Peachtree Pkwy. in Peachtree Corners.

Everyone is invited to enjoy the start of the holiday season with a family-friendly activity row that includes face painting, holiday crafts and retailer and restaurant pop-ups. There will also be musical performances on the main stage as well as the arrival of Santa.

Gwinnett County Media Relations Manager Deborah Tuff will serve as host for the evening. Deborah and Mr. Claus will help the crowd count down to the lighting of The Forum’s tree. Then a live band will return to the main stage and perform holiday classics.

More holiday events at The Forum

Following the tree lighting, holiday happenings continue throughout the month of December. They include:

Cookies & Milk with Santa

Thursdays, December 1 and 15, 4 and 5 p.m.

Spend time with St. Nick at Peterbrooke. Tickets are $12 and cover the cost for one child and one adult.

Christmas Crafts with Santa

Thursdays, December 8 and 22, 4 and 5 p.m.

Create a custom work of art alongside Santa Claus while enjoying treats inside Swoozies. Tickets are $12 and cover the cost for one child and one adult.

Storytime with Santa

Fridays, December 2, 9, 16 and 23, 4 and 5 p.m.

Holiday stories are read by Santa Claus inside Pottery Barn. Be sure to bring a camera for photo opportunities. Tickets are $12 and cover the cost for one child and one adult.

Pancakes with Santa

Saturday, December 10, 8:30 and 9:30 a.m.

Start the morning with a pancake breakfast with Mr. Claus inside Mojitos. Tickets are $15 and cover the cost for one child and one adult.

All experiences with Santa events require tickets purchased in advance. Tickets go on sale Thursday, Nov. 10 at 9 a.m.

Menorah Lighting at The Forum

Sunday, December 18, 4-6 p.m.

Celebrate the first night of Chanukah with the Chabad Enrichment Center of Gwinnett during a traditional Menorah lighting ceremony featuring activities for the whole family to enjoy. The event is free and open to the public.

Throughout the holidays, shoppers can also explore seasonal retailer pop-ups from Gifts We All Want and Go! Calendars at The Forum.

For more info on upcoming events at The Forum, visit theforumpeachtree.com/events. To stay up to date on the latest property news and happenings, follow The Forum on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or visit theforumpeachtree.com.

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