Seal of the Governor
For Immediate Release: February 21, 2019
Contacts: Alenaa Yarmosky, | Virginia Department of Fire Programs: Vanessa Copeland,

Governor Northam Announces 2018 Governor’s Fire Service Award Recipients

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced the ten recipients of the 2018 Governor’s Fire Service Awards, who will be recognized at an awards ceremony during the Virginia and Fire Rescue Conference on Saturday, February 23, 2019 at the Virginia Beach Convention Center.

Established in 2002, the Governor’s Fire Service Awards recognize and honor excellence in Virginia’s Fire Services. The Virginia Department of Fire Programs, in partnership with the Virginia Fire Services Board, facilitated these awards.

“Every day Virginia’s Fire Service professionals display an unwavering commitment to protect the citizens of our Commonwealth in times of danger,” said Governor Northam. “These brave men and women, like Lieutenant Brad Clark who tragically lost his life last year responding to a vehicle crash, show tremendous strength and dedication, going above and beyond the call of duty, and we are proud to recognize their honorable service.”

“Each year, we are amazed by the nominations that are presented. Selection is rigorous and the Virginia Fire Services Board does a spot on job in identifying award winners,” said Virginia Department of Fire Programs Executive Director Michael Reilly. “In collaboration with Governor Northam’s and Secretary Moran’s teams, we continue to showcase the best in Virginia’s Fire Service.”

“This year’s ten recipients represent the best of Virginia’s Fire Service and their stories are outstanding,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran. “I am honored to recognize this group for the sacrifices they make to ensure the safety and protection of the Commonwealth.”

Winners of the 2018 Governor’s Fire Service Awards

EXCELLENCE IN VIRGINIA FIRE SERVICES: Chief Jethro Piland – Hanover County Fire-EMS Department

Hanover Fire-EMS Chief Jethro Piland surpassed his role as a fire services executive after four Hanover Fire-EMS firefighters were struck while responding to a crash on Interstate 295 during Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018. Among the four was Lieutenant Brad Clark, who succumbed to his injuries and died on the scene; two of the firefighters were hospitalized with life-threatening injuries. The fourth firefighter suffered minor injuries. Throughout the night of Thursday, October 11 and the days that followed, Chief Piland and his dedicated staff worked to meet the family’s needs while also quickly pushing out information to the public. Chief Piland’s leadership and interaction with constituents exemplifies how a fire chief should be in today’s climate.

EXCELLENCE IN VIRGINIA COMMUNITY RISK REDUCTION: David Diamantes – Author, Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department (Retired)

Retired Captain David Diamantes from the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department is an internationally known author, lecturer, and consultant specializing in fire prevention, fire protection, and fire inspector training. As an author, he has written several books that are used in college and fire department training curricula in the field of fire prevention. He has made one of his books available to colleges and universities across the United States at no cost.

EXCELLENCE IN VIRGINIA FIRE SERVICE TRAINING: Chief James Hedrick – Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Training Academy (Retired)

James Hedrick’s involvement has been crucial to the creation and success of the Fairfax County High School Firefighter Program. As the former fire chief and now volunteer training coordinator, James Hedrick is a key figure in building, organizing and scheduling the high school program from the bottom up. His collaboration between the fire department and the county school system has been and is paramount. Chief Hedrick’s knowledge, dedication, support and leadership helped ensure a very successful high school program.

OUTSTANDING FIRE DEPARTMENT RESPONSE: Central Virginia Firefighters Association

The Central Virginia Firefighters Association combined its manpower, resources, and processes while serving as the multi-agency response team in Campbell County, Virginia. On April 15, 2018, a line of severe storms raced northeast across North Carolina into Virginia. Several of the storms produced strong tornadoes with an EF-3 hitting the community of Elon northwest of Lynchburg. This was the first tornado within the Lynchburg City limits and the first ever EF-3 in Amherst County since 1950. The incident brought to light the expertise and skills available within different organizations. In the end, it became evident that localities must continue prioritizing collaborative multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional level response so they are better able to understand the threats facing their communities.


National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA) provided generous in-kind donations of labor, equipment, and materials to construct the Confined Space Prop at the Virginia Public Safety Training Center in Hanover, Virginia. NUCA has facilitated the donation of concrete vaults, pipe, and equipment rental such as excavators. Because of this relationship, Virginia Department of Fire Programs (VDFP) has interacted and established new relationships with other private entities. This has enabled VDFP to provide additional funded programs at no cost to the agency and the Commonwealth. This important public-private partnership project helps train first responders across the Commonwealth within the subject of Confined Space Technical Rescue. In addition, the collaboration enables a capacity to also train private underground utility contractors to ensure safe operating procedures and awareness of confined spaces.


Emily Finchum is a 13-year-old who travels throughout Virginia to personally thank law enforcement officers, firefighters and dispatchers. Emily and her mom, Tara, have traveled to more than 105 towns, cities and counties under the banner “Positive Patrol” passing out colorful cards that say “Thank You.” Residents of Sussex County, Virginia, they also have visited localities in North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. Emily said she started making cards in third grade after she was bullied. She began passing out “everybody cards” with the phrase “you’re worth more than you know.” Emily chose to hand out these cards so other kids would not have to go through being bullied alone. The cards served as an invitation to approach Emily if they need help. Emily says her favorite part of Positive Patrol is seeing the expressions of surprise and thankfulness on peoples’ faces when she hands out her cards.

VIRGINIA VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER OF THE YEAR: Michael Irvine – Oak Grove Volunteer Fire Department

Captain Michael Irvine started with Oak Grove Volunteer Fire Department as a Junior Firefighter at the age of 17. Since day one, he has gone above and beyond to serve Oak Grove Volunteer Fire Department and has become a true leader in the community. Michael has worked tirelessly to continue his education throughout the years to ensure he gains the knowledge and skills needed for his position. More importantly, he has taken proactive measures in delivering newly acquired training to his volunteer department. Michael’s involvement with Oak Grove Volunteer Fire Department is extensive; he has held officer positions, and served as the department lead trainer.

VIRGINIA CAREER FIREFIGHTER OF THE YEAR: Lieutenant Brad Clark – Hanover County Fire-EMS Department

Without question, the selfless actions of Lieutenant Clark on October 11, 2018 were heroic. Like he had so many times before, Lieutenant Clark placed the needs of others above his own as he rendered aid to a vehicle crash on the side of I-295 during Hurricane Michael. Lieutenant Clark was a committed officer and took pride in the success of those serving with him. Many will forever be grateful for his leadership and valor to the very end. However, Lieutenant Clark was a hero long before that rainy night in October and was a remarkable firefighter who is deeply missed.

VIRGINIA CAREER FIRE CHIEF OF THE YEAR: Jeffrey Wise, Fire Chief – Norfolk Fire-Rescue (Retired)

Recently retired Fire Chief Jeffrey Wise strives to maintain perfection in all aspects of his life while maintaining a caring attitude towards the men and women that work for him. He is performance driven, delivers high quality results, and sets a positive example for his colleagues and staff to emulate. His motto is “equal service to all, regardless of situation or circumstance.” His staff knows him as an individual who always finds alternative methods to improve daily operations. Several of his accomplishments include successfully increasing the medical billing recovery from 1.8 million to over 7 million dollars through active interventional steps, attaining several grants from FEMA such as Assistance to Firefighters Grant consistently, and ensuring that partnerships were developed with stakeholders such as Hampton Roads Transit.

VIRGINIA VOLUNTEER FIRE CHIEF OF THE YEAR: Scott Horseman, Fire Chief – Gladys Volunteer Fire Department

Chief Scott Horseman has been a dynamic leader for the last ten years. His academic approach to solving problems has enabled him to overcome rather significant and complex rural volunteer fire department issues. For example, Chief Horseman has diligently worked to enhance the small community’s volunteerism within the fire services. He has successfully utilized technology such as compressed air foam in an effort to lighten daily load. Chief Horseman has been using specific tactical strategies such as positive pressure attack to make firefighting safe for his members. His members believe that he leads by example, maintaining presence in Campbell County and throughout Central Virginia. Chief Horseman inspires everyone around him to seek intelligent solutions to the fire services’ problems.

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