By Dedra Cordle
Jackson Township Fire Chief Randy Little says one of his favorite traditions within the department is the annual awards ceremony, which celebrates and honors those who have shown exemplary service throughout the year.
“We have so many deserving men and women in this department and recognizing all the things they do, all the sacrifices they make, is one of the most important things we can do,” he said.
He said overseeing the ceremony made him feel like a proud father – “a much younger and handsomer father,” he quipped – which is why these last two years have been so challenging for him personally.
Due to restrictions on public gatherings caused by the pandemic, the department has had to postpone its awards ceremony. Although firefighters say members of the department have continued to demonstrate exemplary service within their units and throughout the community, they have not been able to be “appropriately recognized” for their contributions and the impact they have made.
“The last two years have been difficult for many reasons,” Little said. “The fact that our department could not host this ceremony was just one of many difficulties.”
Recently, however, the department was finally able to publicly celebrate the return of the ceremony and the accomplishments of its members.
On May 5, hundreds of Division employees, their families and members of the community gathered at Station 202 on Hoover Road to attend the Division of Fire’s annual awards ceremony. In addition to swearing in 19 full-time firefighters and promoting five to the rank of lieutenant, they also honored those who have gone “over and over” the call of duty.
According to Little, the annual event’s most coveted awards are Firefighter of the Year and Officer of the Year.
“These are not awards chosen by me and (the assistant fire chief) Shawn Quincel,” Little said. “At these awards, nominees are nominated by their peers and their unit commanders, and then selected by their peers and commanders.
“When you receive these awards — and we have so many men and women who truly deserve these awards — it means you’re doing something right in the department and outside of the community.”
Due to the two-year pandemic hiatus, the department has named four recipients of these prestigious awards. The 2020 Officer and Firefighter of the Year recipients went to Capt. Dan Tilley and the newly promoted Lt. Dan Levesque, and the 2021 Officer and Firefighter of the Year recipients went to Lt. Mark Flowers and Christopher Fraley, respectively.
Both Levesque and Fraley were nominated by Flowers, who has built a reputation as a prolific feature writer.
“We can always count on receiving a letter from Mark when it comes to awards,” Little said.
In his nomination letters, Flowers said Levesque and Fraley deserved their awards because both had shown a tenacious commitment to the department and the public.
He mentioned that Levesque volunteered his time “to run the logistics for the department” and often caught him restocking items late at night to improve the department.
“Dan shows responsibility, dedication, organization and passion.”
Fraley, he wrote, is someone who takes pride in his job and has a constant concern for others.
Flowers recalled an incident last year where Fraley sat by the bedside of a sick patient for hours, waiting for her family to arrive so they weren’t alone.
“This was a request that Chris didn’t have to fulfill, but he did because he cares,” Flowers said. “These types of actions set JTFD apart.”
Levesque, who has been with the department for 17 years, said he was honored to receive the 2020 award.
“I love my job,” he said. “I love serving the public, being able to help people on their worst day, and I love being around a great group of people who think the same way as me.”
Fraley, a 10-year veteran of the department, said he had no words for receiving the 2021 Firefighter of the Year award.
“I don’t even know what to say,” he said. “I’m honored and honored. I work with so many people that I look at and think they are so much smarter and so much better at their jobs than I am.”
He said the reason he received the award was because of them.
“I learned so much from them. You make me a better firefighter.”
Tilley and Flowers were named Officer of the Year by Firefighters Greg Richards and Greg Rudduck.
Richards said Tilley was worthy of the award because he cared about the health and safety of his crew, while Rudduck said Flowers was worthy of the award because he is a “fantastic example of what I think a lieutenant should be. ”
“Lt. Flowers is an outstanding example of caring for his people,” he wrote. “He takes firefighting development personally. Every day, Lt. Flowers a way to train and develop the firefighters in his command.”
Tilley, a 26-year veteran of the department, said he was “honored and humbled” to be named the 2020 officer of the year.
“It was great that I got a nomination at all, because this nomination means that I changed someone’s career,” he said. “And that just means so much to me.”
Flowers, a 27-year veteran of the department, also said his 2021 officer of the year election was humbling.
“I honestly never expected that,” he said. “We have a lot of good officers here and it’s just very humbling for me to be chosen from all of them.”
He credits “everybody within the department” with his efficiency as an officer and as a clerk.
“You make me look good,” he said.
Others recognized at the ceremony include Richard Eisel, who took home the Meritorious Service Award; Flowers and Battalion Chief Jim Parmenter, who took home the Chief DH Reese Safety Award; and Lt. Robert Schneider, who was named a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award. The department also honored parishioners Michael and Jacob Glaze with the Outstanding Public Safety Award and recognized the department team that responded. Michael and Jacob Glaze were diving into a retention pond in March when they noticed a vehicle submerged in the water. They kept the driver’s head in an air pocket while waiting for the responding crew to arrive. The driver survived as a result of their actions.