NVFC announces 2024 Fire Service Achievement Award winners

March 15, 2024

The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) has revealed the winners of its 2024 Fire Service Achievement Awards.

These awards honor fire service volunteers for exceptional contributions to their departments and communities.

Winners of the 2024 NVFC Fire Service Achievement Awards

The recipients for 2024 include Stephen Austin, awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award sponsored by Lincoln Financial Group; Chief John Swan Sr., receiving the Chief James P.

Seavey Sr.

Health & Wellness Leadership Award, co-sponsored by VFIS and Ward Diesel Filter Systems; Joseph Valentino, named Junior Firefighter of the Year, sponsored by California Casualty; and the Inver Grove Heights Fire Department Explorer Program, recognized as the Junior Firefighter Program of the Year, also sponsored by California Casualty.

NVFC chair Steve Hirsch expressed pride in honoring these individuals and programs: “We are honored to recognize members of the volunteer fire service and junior fire service each year for the amazing contributions they make to their departments and communities.

“This year’s award winners showcase the many ways our nation’s volunteers give back, help their neighbors, and make their communities and departments safer, stronger, and better prepared.”

The award ceremony for Austin, Swan, and Valentino will occur during the NVFC spring meeting on April 26 in Arlington, VA.

The Inver Grove Heights Fire Department Explorer Program will be celebrated in a local ceremony.

Celebrating the achievements of Stephen Austin

Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Stephen Austin has made significant contributions to the American fire service.

Beginning his journey in 1963 with the Rouss Fire Company in Winchester, VA, Austin has since served in four states and advocated at various levels for critical issues impacting first responders.

He has played a pivotal role in the establishment of key fire service legislation and leadership positions in several fire service organizations.

Austin is known for his dedication to promoting safe operations for fire, law enforcement, and other responder groups.

His extensive work includes founding the CVVFA’s Emergency Responder Safety Institute and leading initiatives like the Assistance to Firefighters Grant and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant programs.

Chief John Swan Sr. and the Health & Wellness Leadership Award

Chief John Swan Sr. was inspired by the Lavender Ribbon Report to initiate the “Go Green Clean” program, which focuses on on-scene, gross decontamination to reduce cancer risks among firefighters.

His innovative approach led to the creation of the Go Green Clean Initiative, aimed at developing and promoting health intervention programs at local, state, and national levels.

With the help of Alexis Fire Equipment and the Illinois State Fire Marshal, Swan launched a neon green fire engine wrapped with graphics promoting the Go Green Clean Initiative.

This initiative has distributed decontamination kits and reached over 100,000 people, showcasing Swan’s commitment to firefighter safety and health.

Recognizing Joseph Valentino as Junior Firefighter of the Year

Joseph Valentino, a third-generation member of the volunteer fire service, has made a remarkable impact in his community.

His efforts in a volunteer recruitment drive for the Long Branch (NJ) Fire Department resulted in a significant increase in the department’s volunteer force.

Valentino’s dedication extends beyond firefighting, involving leadership roles in the Boy Scouts of America, his church, and school, where he is a member of the National Honor Society.

Inver Grove Heights Fire Department Explorer Program: Shaping the Future

The Inver Grove Heights Fire Department Explorer Program in Minnesota has revitalized interest in firefighting among young people.

Deputy Chief Eric Bergum and Lieutenant Dan Bernardy’s collaboration with a local high school led to the creation of the Cadet Pathways Program.

This program provides certifiable training and direction toward a career in firefighting, offering students a path to join the fire service upon graduation.

FSJA Comment

The 2024 NVFC Fire Service Achievement Awards highlight the exceptional efforts of individuals and programs within the volunteer fire service.

These awards not only recognize personal achievements but also emphasize the importance of community service and innovation in addressing critical issues like firefighter health and youth engagement.

The commitment and creativity of awardees like Stephen Austin, Chief John Swan Sr., Joseph Valentino, and the Inver Grove Heights Fire Department Explorer Program are essential in driving positive change and ensuring the safety and preparedness of both the fire service and the communities they serve.

Their contributions reflect a broader commitment to the well-being and future of the fire service, inspiring others to pursue similar paths of service and innovation.

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