Martin Mercado is an avid traveler, surfer and hiker. It’s only fitting that his love of the outdoors trickled into his professional life.

Mercado has been with the Harker Heights Fire Department since 2002. He is a paramedic, fire investigator and wildland firefighter. Monday, he was honored by the Exchange Club as the Harker Heights Fire Department’s firefighter of the year.

“Lt. Mercado is the type of person you would charge into a burning building with,” a news release from HHFD said. “His motivation to better himself creates an atmosphere for those around him to do the same.”

Mercado dedicated a tremendous amount of time, money and resources into the Dana Peak trails, a local hike-and-bike trail that is a destination for out-of-town visitors.

He has coordinated with other agencies to improve trails, and set up markers that will allow emergency personnel to quickly find those who might need help.

“His enthusiasm has been displayed every day,” said fire Chief Paul Sims.

At the same award ceremony at Yank Sing Monday afternoon, Yesmarie Burgos Figueroa was named the Harker Heights Police Department’s police officer of the year.

Right before Figueroa learned she was going to be honored, she thought she was in trouble.

Not for anything specific she did wrong, she said. But she was asked to sit down and talk with her superiors, and at first, she thought it must be because of something she did.

“It’s an honor; everyone works so hard, and just to be mentioned by my peers, to me that means a lot,” she said Monday.

The Exchange Club of Killeen honored the two first responders voted to be the best of the best by their peers on Monday afternoon.

For Figueroa, Monday was the first time she had received such an honor, but she was told she was a runner-up in years past.

She has worked with the Heights police since 2010, and works as a patrol officer during the day, as well as a field training officer and field supervisor.

Originally from Puerto Rico, Figueroa is a Spanish speaker, and helps other members of the department when they need Spanish language translations.

On top of all these duties, Figueroa is a crime scene specialist and a hostage negotiator.

Figueroa came to Texas nearly eight years ago, because she had a few friends in the state.

She joined the police academy at Temple College immediately, and didn’t even get the chance to apply for a job with another police department before she was hired in Heights.

sullivan@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7552

254-501-7552 | sullivan@kdhnews.com

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