NVFC Honors Recipients of 2020 Fire Service Achievement Awards

The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) has honored outstanding members of the fire service with its annual achievement awards. While these awards are typically presented in person at the NVFC board meeting, this year they were presented locally due to the COVID-19 pandemic. NVFC Chair Steve Hirsch was able to speak with award winners through video conferencing, and NVFC representatives were also on-site at the presentations when possible.

“While we had to present the awards a little differently this year, we are thrilled to recognize these remarkable individuals for the impact they have made on their departments, communities, and the volunteer fire service,” said Hirsch. “Now more than ever, the commitment and service that these recipients showcase serve as an inspiration not only for their fellow volunteers, but for the nation and world.”

NVFC Massachusetts Director Michael Bird was recognized posthumously with the E. James Monihan Director Award. This award is bestowed upon board members who go above and beyond in their service to the NVFC and is not necessarily given out each year. Bird’s wife, Kathy, accepted the award on his behalf. (Watch video.)

The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Chief John Brooks (watch video), the James P. Seavey Sr. Health and Wellness Leadership Award was presented to David Lewis (watch video), the Junior Firefighter Program of the Year award was presented to the Westhampton Beach Fire Department Junior Program (watch video), and the Junior Firefighter of the Year award was presented to Donald Cieciuch (watch video). In addition to his award, Cieciuch will also receive a $500 training/education stipend.

David Lewis

Donald Cieciuch

Westhampton Beach Fire Department Junior Program

The NVFC commends all of our award winners and thanks award sponsors California Casualty, Provident, Rosenbauer America, Ward Diesel, and VFIS for their support.

Read on to learn about the 2020 NVFC award recipients.

Captain Michael Bird
E. James Monihan Director Award
Award sponsored by Provident

Captain Michael Bird’s dedication to the NVFC and fire service community are a testament to his lifelong passion for the fire service. After first becoming a firefighter in 1962, Bird joined the Wareham Fire Department in 1972 and served as station captain for 35 years. He worked to further the fire service at the local, national, and international level and was a founding member of the Massachusetts Call/Volunteer Firefighters’ Association as well as a founding member/president of the New England Volunteer Fire & EMS Coalition.

Bird represented Massachusetts as a director on the NVFC board from 1993 until his death in 2019. He served on several committees during his tenure, including the Executive Committee and Nominating Committee. As chair of the Bylaws Committee, Bird was a guiding force in transitioning the Nominating Committee to a standing committee, incorporating EMS fully into the NVFC’s bylaws, and creating the NVFC’s EMS/Rescue Section. He was a strong proponent of expanding dialogue and idea-exchange throughout the worldwide fire service and led the efforts as chair of the International Relations Committee. He was always looking for ways to strengthen the NVFC community, and he did so through membership, governance, and relationships with partners and allies.

Bird’s dedication to his community extended beyond his contributions to the fire service. In addition to working as a self-employed manufacturer’s representative, he served as a police dispatcher and mentor for new hires. He was also a charter member of the Knights of Columbus Vincent A. O’Brien Council #5254 and a founder of Wareham Youth Soccer.

Chief John Brooks
NVFC Lifetime Achievement Award
Award sponsored by OnStar

John Brooks has been a member of the East Windsor (NJ) Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 since April 1979, when he joined as a junior firefighter. Throughout his 41 years with the department, Brooks has served in various key positions of leadership including trustee, president, vice president, lieutenant, captain, assistant chief, deputy chief, and chief. He was on the Committee of the East Windsor Township LOSAP in 2000; the LOSAP program was approved by referendum for East Windsor’s four volunteer emergency services organizations in 2001. He currently serves as chair of the bylaws and awards committees and is a member of numerous other committees, in addition to remaining a dedicated volunteer firefighter.

Brooks is constantly looking for ways to improve the services and operations of his fire company for the benefit of the residents of East Windsor. He has been instrumental in procuring and designing the township’s fire apparatus including the engine, rescue, tele-squirt, mini pumper, and ladder. He is consistently a top 10 responder for the company, answering several hundred calls annually. In addition to serving as the longest active riding firefighter in East Windsor, he also holds the distinction of being the youngest elected fire chief in Mercer County, NJ.

A two-time recipient of the township’s Firefighter of the Year Award, Brooks takes pride in being a volunteer firefighter and spends countless hours annually training the next generation of responders. ln 2014, he joined the East Windsor Rescue Squad District II as assistant chief to guide the organization’s development. He actively rides multiple nights a week on the ambulance and serves as a mentor to newer and younger members. He is also a life member of the New Jersey State Firemen’s Association and an active member of the East Windsor Township Firemen’s Relief Association.

David Lewis
NVFC James P. Seavey Sr. Health and Wellness Leadership Award
Award co-sponsored by Ward Diesel Filter Systems and VFIS

As a member of the fire and emergency medical services for more than 40 years, David Lewis has always been an advocate for firefighter health, wellness, and safety. However, his passion and commitment have become more evident in recent years as his leadership roles in state and national initiatives has grown.

At the state level, Lewis has served on a number of committees within the Maryland State Firemen’s Association, culminating in his term as president from 2011-2012. While president, he reorganized the association’s Safety Committee with increased responsibilities to advocate for health and safety practices across the state of Maryland. He also created the Cancer Support Committee, which partnered with the Firefighter Cancer Support Network to provide a support structure for firefighters and their families who are going through cancer treatments.

As a member of the Maryland Fire Chiefs Association Training Committee, Lewis advocated for the delivery of awareness programs on health and safety matters. In 2018, he became co-chair of the Health and Safety Committee. Through this role, he continues to press for further education on the dangers of cancer and suicide in the fire service.

At the national level, Lewis serves as one of two Maryland directors to the NVFC, an appointment that has given him an even wider-reaching platform to advocate for the health and safety of today’s firefighters. As a member of the NVFC’s Health, Safety, and Training Committee, he seeks opportunities to develop and deliver health, wellness, and safety programs across the country. He has been a presenter at three of the five health and safety Training Summits hosted by the NVFC. He was also one of the authors of the NVFC’s textbook, Volunteer Fire Service Culture: Essential Strategies for Success, which teaches department members and leaders how to embrace healthy and safe practices in all areas of department operations and culture. Following its publication, Lewis was contracted by the NVFC to develop a corresponding full-day classroom training based on the content of the text.

Lewis also serves as a member of the team of representatives from the NVFC and International Association of Fire Chiefs’ Volunteer and Combination Officers Section that developed training programs to accompany the Yellow Ribbon Report on mental wellness and the Lavender Ribbon Report on actions to reduce exposure risks and prevent occupationally-caused cancer. He has delivered training programs across Maryland and the country to help spread the messages of these two critical firefighter health and safety issues.

Donald Cieciuch
Junior Firefighter of the Year Award
Award sponsored by California Casualty

When Donald Cieciuch turned 16, he became a junior firefighter for the Secaucus (NJ) Fire Department. Although there was already a junior firefighter program in place, he realized that the program could use some improvements. He sat down with the department’s leaders and the town attorney to revise and update the program’s rules and regulations. He also modernized the department by creating a web site and several Facebook pages. On the web site, he listed all of the training courses available to new junior firefighters so that they could obtain some basic firefighting knowledge prior to attending the fire academy.

One of the major changes that Cieciuch assisted in instituting was an incentive program for the junior firefighters. After they receive their Firefighter I certification, and if they make 35 percent of the fire calls, cleanings, and any fire department functions, they are entitled to receive an incentive.

Cieciuch has recruited over 25 members to the junior firefighter program and has been given permission by the chief of the department to oversee the program. He goes out of his way to remind participants to attend training drills and department functions. Although juniors cannot participate in interior operations, he encourages them to respond to as many calls as possible so they can aid in basic exterior operations and learn as much as possible. He goes above and beyond to help junior members advance, assisting in enrolling them in the Fire Academy, helping them with homework and studying if necessary, and even driving junior firefighters to the academy when they do not have a ride. Additionally, he has encouraged members to take specialized training courses such as a boater safety class and CPR/AED training.

Cieciuch has attended the Bergen County Fire Academy and he has received his Junior Firefighter I certification. He will receive his Firefighter I certification after he turns 18 in May. He has also attended advanced training and received his I-200, I-300, and I-400 Incident Management certifications. On May 7, he will become a member of the Secaucus Fire Department, following in the footsteps of his father, former Chief Raymond Cieciuch, who has 38 years with the department.

Westhampton Beach Fire Department Junior Program
Junior Firefighter Program of the Year Award
Award sponsored by California Casualty

The Westhampton Beach (NY) Fire Department Junior Program allows youth the opportunity to gain technical skills they can apply in the future as a career or volunteer member of the fire and emergency services, which many go on to become. The young people that participate also develop and build teamwork and leadership skills, confidence, responsibility, and the ability to stay calm in emergency situations. These and other valuable life skills aid participants as they navigate through teenage years and will continue to help them through whatever college/career path they choose and into adulthood.

Junior firefighter program advisors serve as both a mentor and a coach. They instruct, teach, and train junior firefighters, serving as motivators, setting goals, and evaluating their progress, but they also have to discipline junior firefighters and educate them on their mistakes. By preparing the future of the fire service through appropriate coaching and mentorship, junior firefighters will respond to their first call as confident, ethically-minded, and well-trained adults.

With guidance from the advisors, juniors learn the pillars of what it takes to be a firefighter – leadership, teamwork, responsibility, and community service. The juniors learn leadership by electing their own officers, leading their meetings, setting priorities, and organizing fundraisers and volunteer events. Teamwork is emphasized by allowing seasoned junior firefighters to train new recruits and through a focus on inclusion in all drills and activities. Members are encouraged to take responsibility for the program and for the activities and training they participate in. Community service is emphasized by allowing juniors to pursue community service projects that are not directly related to the department, such as organizing a coat drive or visiting a nursing home.

The 2020 program has 28 members. They participated in many community fundraisers and events throughout the year, including a polar plunge, a community beach clean-up, a gala that they helped set up to benefit a cancer hospice, and an open house at the fire department during which they taught fire education. Additional planned activities include attending parades, watching over the fire pit at the village festival, and baking cookies for widowers, senior members of the fire department, and the food pantry. The number of hours the juniors have dedicated to community service, activities, and training is 1,015. The members of the Westhampton Beach Fire Department Junior Program truly embody the meaning of giving back.

Award Sponsors

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.

About Provident
For over 90 years, we’ve been providing benefits to emergency service personnel who put their lives on the line for their fellow Americans every day. Responders are entitled to the best. Provident Agency offers dependable, comprehensive accident & health protection meeting the changing needs of today’s emergency responders. www.providentins.com

About OnStar
Launched in 1996, OnStar is a wholly owned subsidiary of GM Holdings LLC (“GM”) and offers emergency, security and navigation services in Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac models. OnStar offers a range of safety and security services such as Automatic Crash Response, Emergency Services, and Stolen Vehicle Assistance. For more information, visit www.onstar.com/publicsafety.

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.

About VFIS
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 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.