The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) is pleased to announce the winners of its 2021 annual fire service achievement awards. Theodore Schroll Jr. will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by ADT; Robert James will receive the Chief James P. Seavey Sr. Health and Wellness Leadership Award, co-sponsored by VFIS and Ward Diesel Filter Systems; Paige Davis will receive the Junior Firefighter of the Year Award, sponsored by California Casualty; and the Colonia Volunteer Fire Department Explorer Program will receive the Junior Firefighter Program of the Year Award, sponsored by California Casualty.
“The past year has tested our nation in many ways, but one thing we can always rely on is the dedication, resilience, and exceptional service provided by our nation’s volunteer firefighters and EMS providers,” said NVFC chair Steve Hirsh. “It is with great pleasure that we recognize the incredible work of our 2021 award winners and highlight the amazing achievements of those who give so much to help their communities.”
A celebration luncheon to honor the recipients of the Lifetime Achievement, Chief James P. Seavey Sr. Health and Wellness Leadership, and Junior Firefighter of the Year awards will take place during the NVFC’s fall meeting on October 15 in Jackson, WY. The recipient of the Junior Firefighter Program of the Year will be presented with their award at their department this fall so that all their junior firefighters may attend.
Learn more about the NVFC’s award program at www.nvfc.org/awards.
The recipients of the NVFC’s 2021 awards are as follows:
Ret. Asst. Chief Theodore “Ted” Schroll Jr.
NVFC Lifetime Achievement Award
Sponsored by ADT
Asst. Chief Ted Schroll has never “just belonged” to anything he has been involved with. Schroll is a dedicated fire service volunteer and works hard on any assignment to make things better. He joined Wethersfield (CT) Fire Department in 1960, working his way up from firefighter to acting chief, and his energy and dedication are just as strong in 2021.
Although Schroll retired as acting chief in 1999, he remains an active member of the department. He has shared his knowledge within his local department, the Connecticut State Firefighters Association (CSFA), and at the Connecticut state capitol. He has served in all the executive positions for the state association, as well as serving as CSFA’s legislative representative for over 25 years. Due to his thorough understanding of the legislative process, he was able to represent CSFA without missing a beat during the COVID pandemic and switch to online meetings.
Prior to the pandemic, Schroll spent countless hours at the state capitol representing CSFA and the fire service. He has been aggressive to secure not only legislation, but also funding for construction and rehabilitation of Connecticut’s regional fire schools. Schroll was instrumental, along with Chief John McAuliffe, in securing state legislation that prohibits career departments from forbidding their employees from volunteering in the communities they live. Due to his legislative expertise, Schroll has been a resource to many other state fire associations as well as the NVFC for legislative questions or concerns.
Schroll also currently serves as CSFA’s assistant secretary and credentials committee chair. He is pivotal in organizing the yearly convention and makes it a family affair with his wife, children, and even grandson assisting the credentials committee at the convention.
Schroll was inducted into the Connecticut State Firefighters Hall of Fame in 2010. In addition to his work in the fire service, he served active duty in the United States Air Force until 1960 and is a past president of the New England Section of the International Municipal Signalman’s Association (IMSA). Schroll has exemplified commitment and dedication to the fire service on the local, state, and national levels for over 61 years and will continue to do so for many more.
Captain Robert “RJ” James
NVFC Chief James P. Seavey Sr. Health and Wellness Leadership Award
Co-sponsored by VFIS and Ward Diesel Filter Systems
Captain Robert James is a 20-year veteran of the fire service. He started as a volunteer firefighter with the Cromwell (CT) Volunteer Fire Department before relocating to Maryland where he joined the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department (RVFD), one of the busiest fire stations in Montgomery County. In addition to volunteering, James is a full-time employee of the Frederick County Fire Rescue (FCFR) Division, Rescue Squad 3, where he leads the Advanced Technical Rescue Team. In July 2021 he was promoted to lieutenant.
As a volunteer, James has received numerous citations and awards from the RVFD and the state of Maryland. He hit the ground running, receiving his first award on his first week on the job after making a life-saving rescue. His service and dedication have not slowed since. He is a mentor to young firefighters and EMTs, making safety his top priority.
James is an expert in many areas, including firefighter survival and rescue and hazardous materials operations, but he is especially proficient in technical rescue and trench operations. He uses his extensive knowledge and skill to mentor new recruits and seasoned professionals. He takes the utmost care in teaching them the necessary skills, while at the same time making their personal safety the primary factor in every aspect of his training programs. James travels across the country teaching, training, and mentoring. In his spare time, he has a podcast where he discusses best practices for firefighter safety.
Because of James’ commitment to his craft and the training that he provides, his fellow firefighters are safer and smarter, which allows them to better deal with the incidents they face. It also makes them safer and better able to protect themselves now to prevent physical or heath issues later in life. He is a natural leader, which is why he is such a successful firefighter, EMT, trainer, and mentor. James is an inspiration to all who know him and always has his fellow firefighters’ safety and wellness at the forefront of everything he does.
NVFC Junior Firefighter of the Year
Sponsored by California Casualty
“Servant Leadership” was the title of one of Paige Davis’ recent speeches to her cadets, and that leadership philosophy is befitting for her. She is the first to step up, help, pitch-in, and teach – even if there is no recognition. Davis always cheers for her competition, does the right thing, and acts with honesty and integrity.
When Davis joined the junior program at Hackberry Township Fire Department (Bartlett, KS) on her 12th birthday, it was amid a major transition of juniors graduating into regular firefighter positions. This gap created the need for someone to step up and learn to lead, and Davis answered that call. Throughout this period, the community suffered from a prolific arsonist and experienced several of the worst fires in its history. Keeping safety at the forefront, Davis and other juniors were called upon to assist the department in many ways during this intense time until the arsonist was caught. Davis then helped the junior program transition back from “busy” to “normal” by keeping members active and involved. When the COVID pandemic hit and everything changed once again, Davis was a vital force in helping the department respond to the new challenges.
Davis has led the department’s Cadet & Junior Apprentice Firefighter Program since 2019. She is actively involved in many department activities, including training, mentoring, and recruiting cadets; installing smoke detectors; assisting with fire prevention education; maintaining the department’s PPE inventory tracking system; and managing department technology including Active911, group chats, and video meetings. She is also a member of an advisory board that is developing a 25-year plan for the department’s future.
Even off-duty, Davis always does what she can to help others. On May 10, 2020, her quick actions saved the life of a toddler who was wondering in the middle of a roadway when she and her father were driving by. She is actively involved in organizations that work to strengthen and reinforce a sense of community, responsibility, and service, including 4H, FFA, and Civil Air Patrol. As an incoming high school senior, accomplished athlete, and barrel racer with world standings, she encourages others to be involved with their communities during her travels.
Colonia Fire Department Explorer Program
NVFC Junior Firefighter Program of the Year
Sponsored by California Casualty
The Colonia (NJ) Fire Department’s Explorer Post is a vibrant, long-running program that has provided numerous benefits to the fire department and the community. The program is also the primary source of new members for the department, with many of the current members being former Explorers.
The Explorers learn firefighting methods, equipment, and apparatus through training and drills. By participating in community service activities, these young people have become ambassadors of their community and the department as they prepare for college and life after high school.
For the past 11 years, the Colonia Explorers have participated in the Ohio Youth Fire & EMS Training Academy (OYFETA), a weeklong event that takes place at Hocking College in Nelsonville, OH. Taking a group of teenagers raised in New Jersey to a rural college campus several hundred miles away and embedding them with a similar group of teenagers from Ohio and other states has helped them develop communication skills and behaviors expected of older young adults. Department leaders, academy staff, and parents have consistently said that attendees have returned as responsible teenagers with improved outlooks on life and education, enhanced social and behavioral skills, and a recognition that effort results in success and reward. They quickly learn to behave like a firefighter – work collectively as a team, support those that fall behind, and learn from those who know more.
In addition, the Colonia Fire Department’s Junior Fire Academy program is a recruitment/community activity that highlights the OYFETA attendees. Designed to spur interest in the Explorer program, 7th and 8th grade students are invited to experience the physical skills and activities of a firefighter over two days. OYFETA graduates are paired with firefighters to serve as instructors.
The success of the Colonia Explorer program has led to other fire departments seeking out their assistance in creating or improving their own junior/Explorer programs. However, the greatest measure of the program’s success can be seen in the substantial number of former Explorers who are now in full-time fire and emergency services positions in communities in New Jersey and across the country.
About the National Volunteer Fire Council
The NVFC is the leading nonprofit membership association representing the interests of the volunteer fire, EMS, and rescue services. The NVFC serves as the voice of the volunteer in the national arena and provides critical resources, programs, education, and advocacy for first responders across the nation. Learn more at www.nvfc.org.
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About California Casualty
Founded in 1914, California Casualty provides auto and home insurance to firefighters, peace officers, educators, and nurses in 44 states. The company routinely maintains a 99 percent customer service rating and a 96 percent claims rating. Learn more about their exclusive coverage and discounts at www.calcas.com.
VFIS is the largest provider of insurance, education, and consulting services to emergency service organizations such as fire departments, ambulance and rescue squads, and 911 centers. We have a long history of helping the emergency service community protect their assets and manage their exposure to loss. We pioneered the first tailored insurance package and formed a program for emergency service organizations. VFIS drafted the first specialized insurance policy in 1969 and continues to be the leader in the industry, insuring more emergency service organizations than any other provider. www.vfis.com
About Ward Diesel Filter Systems
Automatic and vehicle-mounted, Ward Diesel NO SMOKE Systems offer diesel exhaust protection on scene, in the station – anywhere you need it. Building modifications are not required for installation and there are no mechanical pieces to be attached by the firefighter when exiting and returning to the station. NO SMOKE is the only diesel exhaust removal solution on the market today that provides complete protection against harmful diesel exhaust both inside and outside the fire station. Visit us online at www.warddiesel.com or call 800-845-4665 to learn more.