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Tags: Awards, NVFC

NVFC announces winners of 2023 Fire Service Achievement Awards

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The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) has announced the winners of its annual fire service achievement awards, recognising those who have demonstrated exceptional dedication and service to their department and community.

The awards for 2023 have been presented to LeRoy Koopman for Lifetime Achievement, Chief Mahlon Irish Jr. for the Chief James P. Seavey Sr. Health & Wellness Leadership Award, Kyra Kozey for Junior Firefighter of the Year, and East Norwich Junior Program for Junior Firefighter Program of the Year. The awards are sponsored by California Casualty, VFIS, Lincoln Financial Group, and Ward Diesel Filter Systems.

NVFC chair Steve Hirsch praised the winners for their exceptional contributions, highlighting the ways in which volunteers give back to their communities every day. The winners will receive their awards at an event in May, with Koopman, Irish, and Kozey honored at an awards ceremony during the NVFC spring meeting in Arlington, Virginia, on May 21.

The East Norwich Junior Program will receive their award at a local ceremony to ensure all members can attend. The awards underscore the importance of recognising and rewarding those who serve their communities and promote safety within the fire and emergency services sector.

Lifetime Achievement Award

The Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Lincoln Financial Group, has been awarded to Chief LeRoy Koopman in recognition of his long and dedicated service to the fire and emergency services. Chief Koopman joined the Colton Volunteer Fire Department in South Dakota in 1963 and has continued to serve for more than six decades.

He has held leadership positions in numerous fire organizations, including the South Dakota Fire Chief’s Association, where he was elected as Fire Chief of the Year in 1982, and the NVFC Board of Directors. Koopman is also dedicated to training and mentoring firefighters, providing his expertise across South Dakota.

Health & Wellness Leadership Award

The Chief James P. Seavey Sr. Health & Wellness Leadership Award, co-sponsored by VFIS and Ward Diesel Filter Systems, has been awarded to Chief Mahlon Irish Jr. Chief Mahlon Irish Jr. of the Homer Fire Department, NY, was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer in 2014, which doctors linked to his time in the fire service. Irish has made it his mission to educate firefighters across New York and beyond about protecting themselves from certain types of cancer.

He has delivered presentations to 202 fire departments, reaching 2,886 fire service personnel over 11,734 miles. Irish has made significant changes to his lifestyle since his diagnosis, and in his home department, he assembled decontamination buckets, convinced the village to pay for significant upgrades, and converted an unused apparatus bay into a clean gear storage room.

Junior Firefighter of the Year

The Junior Firefighter of the Year Award, sponsored by California Casualty, has been awarded Kyra Kozey. Kozey, 17, of the Scotts Valley (CA) Fire District has been a junior firefighter for four years. During this time, she has completed over 400 hours of community service, demonstrating a passion for helping others. She has organized and led several community events, including a diaper drive for the Santa Cruz Pregnancy Resource Center, a candlelight vigil for 9/11, and an annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

Kozey has completed the district’s firefighter academy and assists with regular training and maintenance of the department’s tools and equipment. She has also taken the initiative to create and maintain the department’s Instagram account and actively recruits new junior firefighters.

In addition to her community involvement, Kozey is a high school honor student, plays varsity soccer, and is involved in the school’s Interact Club. She plans to pursue a career in the fire service after college.

Junior Firefighter Program of the Year

The East Norwich Junior Program has been awarded the Junior Firefighter Program of the Year Award, sponsored by California Casualty. Established in 1994 to aid in the recruitment of firefighters to the East Norwich Fire Company #1, the program has since evolved into a structured youth program, providing valuable firefighting and safety skills to young leaders on their path to becoming future firefighters, officers, and chiefs.

These juniors have received extensive training in various firefighting techniques, including hose lines, aerial and ground ladders, and forcible entry. Additionally, they have taken part in community activities, such as organizing Safe Kid’s Day, conducting fundraising for sick firefighters, and participating in an international exchange program that brought junior firefighters from Germany to the U.S. to participate in training and fire camp.

The program has produced current chiefs, officers, firefighters, and medics, highlighting the benefits of training and the development of leadership skills from a young age.

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