RICHMOND, VA – Governor Glenn Youngkin today announced the recipients of the 2021 Governor’s Fire Service Awards today as part of the annual Virginia Fire Chiefs Association and Rescue Conference in Virginia Beach.
Established in 2002, the Governor’s Fire Service Awards honor excellence in Virginia’s fire services and are facilitated by the Virginia Department of Fire Programs in collaboration with the Virginia Fire Services Board.
“I am pleased to recognize these outstanding fire service professionals,” said Governor Youngkin. “I’m so grateful to Virginia’s fire service personnel for risking their lives every day to protect us. I’m proud to honor and thank Virginia’s first responders and support staff for their dedication to the Commonwealth.”
“The recipients have navigated the challenges of the pandemic all the while strategically developing new procedures and trainings to stay well equipped for any emergency,” said Virginia Department of Fire Programs Acting Executive Director Garrett Dyer. “We are proud to recognize these courageous men and women who work tirelessly to protect their communities.”
“We celebrate these 13 award recipients from across Virginia,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Robert Mosier. “Each of them has contributed something toward the betterment of Virginia’s fire service and we are grateful for their contributions to the Commonwealth.”
2021 Governor’s Fire Service Awards Recipients
EXCELLENCE IN VIRGINIA FIRE SERVICES
Loudoun County Combined Fire and Rescue High Threat Team
The Loudoun County High Threat Team consists of uniformed members of the Loudoun County Combined Fire and Rescue System and the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. In 2021, this team worked cooperatively across disciplines to develop new levels of integrated training, policy development, and combined response initiatives. The most innovative and successful integrated training is the ‘Act of Violence Unified Command Competency Lab Training’. Conducted in the fire and rescue command lab, police commanders and fire commanders are confronted with a simulated active shooter incident. Together, they form unified command and direct units to deploy into the warm zone for patient care and extraction. Through these trainings, fire commanders and police commanders develop effective working relationships (and handle simulated incidents) before handling actual incidents. This greatly improves the interagency cooperation on all incidents. The daily working relationship and unified command training fostered by the Loudoun County High Threat Team is unmatched. It provides an example of fire and law enforcement cooperation, not just for the active shooter incident, but for all incidents handled together.
EXCELLENCE IN VIRGINIA COMMUNITY RISK REDUCTION
Marlow Jones, Virginia Department of Fire Programs
Marlow is a fire services professional driven to serve people in need and is a creative problem-solver with a healthy dose of entrepreneurial spirit. As a deputy state fire marshal in the eastern region, Marlow regularly seeks opportunities to benefit the community, not only sharing fire prevention strategies but also in creating innovative outreach programs. He recently launched a comprehensive home fire inspection program that is offered free of charge to Petersburg residents. His program addresses an unmet need and reduces resistance to using fire protection tools such as smoke detectors by avoiding cost and cultural barriers.
Henrico Division of Fire, Fire Marshal’s Office
For more than 20 years, the Henrico Division of Fire has offered an invaluable service through the Fire Marshal’s Office for at-risk youth. Recently, the Division has significantly enhanced the program and truly encompassed the ideas of community risk reduction to address the identified hazards around youth-set fires. Each class is different and focuses on the identified individual needs of the participants. The Division works with the Henrico Sheriff’s Office, Virginia Commonwealth University Evans-Haynes Burn Center and other community partners that share the common goal of preventing fire setting and burn injuries.
EXCELLENCE IN VIRGINIA FIRE SERVICE TRAINING
Captain Earl Copes, Lynchburg Fire Department
Captain Earl Copes is a fire service professional that has dedicated his life to improving the Lynchburg Fire Department’s response abilities. Captain Copes developed a Recruit Academy Academic Report Card to assist recruits in being successful through continuous feedback during their academy experience. This comprehensive evaluation system identifies strengths and weaknesses that assists the recruit in prioritizing areas of focus for overall program success. In addition, Captain Copes initiated a Wide Area Search Rope Train the Trainer program for regional responders to increase their knowledge, skills, and abilities on searching large open areas such as schools and warehouses and also developed a Firefighter Assistance Search Team Train the Trainer program for regional responders on firefighter rescue and removal techniques.
OUTSTANDING FIRE DEPARTMENT RESPONSE
Occoquan Woodbridge Lorton Volunteer Fire Department
At an incident on June 27, 2021, Occoquan Woodbridge Lorton Volunteer Fire Department and Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue responded to a residence for a sickness. Due to no response at the door, units made entry where they located and extricated three unconscious victims who all required emergency breathing assistance. The call was soon upgraded to a gas leak. With three unconscious victims and very limited resources, due to the rapid upscaling of the incident, the on-scene units from multiple departments worked together to treat the patients. Timing in this situation was everything and the outcome was a result of the way the units managed the situation.
Stafford County Fire and Rescue Department, et. al
On April 29, 2021 Stafford County Fire Rescue Department responded to a reported commercial vehicle crash. Upon arrival, units found a large flatbed truck hauling a 1000-gallon concrete septic tank that had rear ended a box-style tractor trailer. First arriving units reported major damage to both vehicles and the driver of the flatbed was entrapped and pinned. The on-scene report preempted requests for a second heavy rescue, Fauquier County’s EMS supervisor and a medevac helicopter. An advanced life support provider entered the cab, performed a patient assessment and began treatment. The patient was extricated and turned over to a combination of EMS personnel from Stafford County, Fauquier County and PHI Aircare 2. Once stabilized, the patient was transferred to the nearby helistop and transported to Fairfax Hospital. After a lengthy hospital stay, numerous surgeries and family support, the patient was released from the hospital.
PRIVATE SECTOR EXCELLENCE IN VIRGINIA FIRE SERVICE SUPPORT
For the past six years, United Rentals has supported technical rescue training at the Virginia Public Safety Center. United Rentals provides equipment such as a large excavator and specialized transport service to and from the trainings due to the size of the equipment. Additionally, United Rentals, in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Fire Programs, has supported events, such as the Trench Safety Stand Down, to educate utility contractors about the importance of trench safety and how first responders systematically work to mitigate trench rescue scenarios.
CIVILIAN EXCELLENCE IN VIRGINIA FIRE SERVICE SUPPORT
Rebecca Brewster, Tazewell County
Rebecca Brewster has worked tirelessly throughout the year to provide support for the fire and EMS personnel of Tazewell County. She provides support to the Tazewell County Chief’s Association by keeping the minutes, as well as supporting the individual fire departments. She has assisted with grant writing, designed multiple fire department forms and has assisted in training members in computer skills. She has volunteered her time for all COVID-19 vaccination clinics throughout the year, as well as many other events. The firefighters of Tazewell County are truly blessed to have her support.
Chesapeake Amateur Radio Services
Chesapeake Amateur Radio Services is comprised of a dedicated group of amateur radio operators who provide back-up emergency communications for the City of Chesapeake and surrounding areas during times of natural disasters. The team ensures the City of Chesapeake, as well as the region as far as Richmond, will have worldwide emergency communications even when all other systems are down. While their members are not affiliated with the fire service, the critical service they provide greatly enhances the capability of both the fire and police departments should normal communication systems be disabled. They are a group of highly skilled, community-minded volunteers working diligently to help protect the citizens of Virginia from the devastating effects of environmental disasters. Not only do members donate their time and expertise, they often donate equipment that will improve the function of the radio system.
VIRGINIA FIREFIGHTER OF THE YEAR
Lieutenant Andrew Zysk, City of Newport News Fire Department
Colleagues say there is no finer training officer and no person of higher character than Lieutenant Andrew Zysk. His passion for physical fitness inspires his students to dedicate themselves to become stronger firefighters, and it shows as they progress through the academy. When it comes to fire ground skills, he believes that “every rep is a gift,” a chance to do things better and more efficiently. He asks nothing of his students that he does not do himself. When he demonstrates a skill, he is able to break down the mechanics of it so that the students clearly understand. He upholds the belief that you shouldn’t train until you get things right, you train until you can’t get it wrong. He does not treat every evolution as a test upon which his students should feel judged or embarrassed if they are unsuccessful. He allows them to recognize the mistake, learn from it, and move on. Lt. Zysk takes a holistic approach to dealing with the stresses and hardships his recruits as part of the program. He maintains an open-door policy, and is accessible and approachable to offer advice or assistance. His genuine care for the well-being of each recruit is obvious, and is a natural expression of his high character and altruism. Beyond his work with the fire academy, he participates annually at a camp for children who have received burns in house fires.
Russell Stevens, Town of Bedford Fire Department
Since joining the fire service in 1974, Russell Stevens has been a hallmark of the central Virginia fire and emergency services and a stable force in the volunteer fire community. He has served as a Bedford County Fire training officer for many years and is one of the original Deputy Hazardous Material Coordinators, which is a role that he continues to serve in today. Many of the roles that Russell has performed have greatly evolved over time with the advent of technology and Russell is a true believer and user of technology. His willingness to aid any person regardless of their need is so uncommon that he is not only a tremendous example of the Virginia’s fire service but he is a family man, spouse, church member and dear friend and mentor to so many. His actions and dedication to the fire service are examples of a man that truly reflects the mantra of “service above self.”
VIRGINIA FIRE CHIEF OF THE YEAR
R. Scott Garber, City of Staunton Fire & Rescue
Under his leadership, Chief Garber has demonstrated for many years how greatly he cares for the community that he serves. He has continued his support of the Firefighters for Literacy program that was developed by the department in 2019. Chief Garber enables the department to interact and form pivotal relationships with the community. Leadership and inspiring confidence are common themes with Chief Garber. He has not only dedicated his time to the department, but also to educating others around the Commonwealth, as he instructs more than 20 classes each year around the state. He goes above and beyond to advocate for members of the department and works tirelessly to ensure that staffing needs are met. Colleagues say they know Chief Garber has the entire department’s best interest at heart and that is something they all benefit from.
Brad Creasy, Town of Bedford Fire Department
The amount of leadership, comradery, and passion that Chief Brad Creasy has brought to the Bedford Fire Department is unimaginable, and truly impossible to put into words. Leadership for Chief Creasy comes naturally, and his drive and determination are contagious to those around him. Since walking into the department in 1996, Chief Creasy has kept up with the history and core values established before him and has remained committed to instilling them into the members of the department. Chief Creasy is an advocate for continuous improvement and encourages training through classroom workshops, drills, cross training with other organizations, and peer-to-peer education and coaching. He recently completed the Chief Fire Officer program which he can now add to the long list of accolades achieved over the years.