Valley fire department wins Emmy

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

MESA, Ariz. -- Emmy awards are usually reserved for the world of TV: actors, anchors, reporters, producers, photographers and editors.

But the Mesa Fire Department is now the first fire department in the country to become “Emmy award winning.”

Mesa fire was awarded a 2013 Rocky Mountain Emmy on Saturday for a public service announcement the department produced about drowning prevention.

“We definitely didn’t think we would win an Emmy, much less get nominated,” said Laura Mcelhatten, Mesa Fire Department.

Mcelhatten, a former news reporter who now works for Mesa fire, was the creative force behind the “I Remember” PSA campaign. Working with a firefighter who dabbles with cameras and video as a hobby, the two came up with the concept and videos.

The three one-minute-long videos feature mothers who’ve lost children to drowning. The powerful PSA uses interviews with those mothers recalling the day their children died.

“The message of the PSA was to always remember to watch your kids around water, but also to remember these two little boys who passed away from drowning,” said Laura.

The mothers in the videos are chillingly straight forward and movingly emotional.

“I remember seeing a small, lifeless body floating in the pool,” Stephanie Burkett says in one of the PSA spots. She’s the mother of Calvin, a smiling baby boy who drowned in a backyard pool in 2009.

“I remember being angry because I had done the very best to protect my kids and it was just a matter of a minute or two and my baby was gone,” says another mother whose baby boy, Ian, drowned in 2010.

“I think what set this PSA apart was these mothers were so brave to be able to share their stories with the audience members,” said Mcelhatten.

Mesa fire says no other fire department in the country has ever won an Emmy. After all, they have to compete with the pros – people who do TV for a living.

“We’re still shocked that it happened,” said Laura.

But Laura also said the real winner is any child whose life is saved thanks to the “I Remember” message.