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Seal of the Governor
For Immediate Release: February 21, 2020
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Alena Yarmosky, | Virginia Department of Fire Programs: Vanessa Copeland,

Governor Northam Congratulates Winners of Governor’s Fire Service Awards

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced the winners of the Governor’s Fire Service Awards. The award recipients were recognized at a ceremony during the Virginia Fire and Rescue Conference on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 in Virginia Beach.

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

“For Virginia’s fire service professionals, their work is more than just a job, it’s a calling,” said Governor Northam. “These brave and dedicated men and women willingly take on the risks and responsibilities of protecting their fellow citizens, demonstrating immense resilience and constantly exceeding expectations, and we are pleased to recognize them.”

“The nominations we come across are simply remarkable and grow in number every year,” said Department of Fire Programs Executive Director Michael Reilly. “Together with the Governor’s office, we recognize the top fire service professionals in Virginia.”

“Each year I find myself moved by these stories of dedication and valor,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran. “It is my great pleasure to award these individuals for their extraordinary commitment to the Commonwealth.”

Winners of the 2019 Governor’s Fire Service Awards


Arlington County Community Emergency Response Team Training Cadre
The Arlington County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training cadre have trained over 800 community members since 2002 in conjunction with their local police department and other volunteer departments. The CERT training is free and instructs community members on disaster preparedness, disaster medical operations (triage and first aid), fire suppression, utility shutoff, search and rescue, team organization, disaster psychology, and terrorism awareness.


Bedford County Department of Fire & Rescue
The Bedford County Department of Fire & Rescue created a Community Risk Reduction Program that trained and educated up to 3,852 pre-k through fourth grade children throughout the community. The program included training on fire safety, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, escape plans, safe meeting places, fire drills, and familiarization with the local firefighters and their equipment that a child might see them wearing during an emergency. 


Smyth County Fire-Rescue Academy
The Smyth County Fire-Rescue Academy reached out to multiple agencies in the county to identify certified instructors and provide instructional staff to each academy class. In June 2019, the first academy class graduated with all students successfully completing the program. This has generated interest from areas outside of Smyth County and created opportunities for the entire region. In an area with very limited resources, this program is thriving and producing quality graduates who will continue to help the surrounding community.


Hopewell Bureau of Fire
On Thanksgiving night, November 28, 2019, members from Hopewell Fire Departments Medic 2, Engine 2, and Battalion 1 responded to a call about a female in the City of Hopewell shot multiple times. Upon arrival, Fire and EMS crews realized they were trying to save a fellow firefighter, Lieutenant Ashley Nicole Berry. Hopewell’s first responders rendered medical treatment at the scene and stabilized her for treatment at VCU Medical Center in Richmond, where she later succumbed to her injuries. The pre-hospital treatment provided by Hopewell Fire and EMS gave comfort to her family and colleagues knowing she was well cared for during her time of need.


Sherl Emerson, Senior Administrative Services Manager, York County Department of Fire and Life Safety
Sherl has dedicated most of her life to public service with the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety, serving a total of 42 years. Her efforts to organize the administrative functions in the county enabled it to operate at its best.


Adam Dolan, Lieutenant, City of Staunton Fire & Rescue
Lieutenant Adam Dolan was the force behind the creation and administration of the “Firefighters for Literacy” program in Augusta County. This program encouraged hundreds of children to meet reading goals in the classroom, learn about fire safety, and get to know their local fire service members. Lieutenant Dolan’s work not only increased the literacy efforts of the participating elementary school students, but also fostered a relationship between the school, its teachers, students, and local fire service members.


Richard Opett, Fire Chief, New Kent County Fire-Rescue
Before Chief Opett took over New Kent Fire-Rescue, the department had 11 career firefighters and a few volunteers with response times of more than 20 minutes. Chief Opett has hired an additional 41 career firefighters, applied for and received nearly $3 million in grant funds, including a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant totaling over $1.3 million to hire 12 firefighters. He also started a countywide volunteer system to boost staffing and morale, purchased 11 pieces of apparatus, and recently opened a brand new fire station. In addition, the response times for fire and EMS services have dropped to an average of eight minutes.


Michael T. Linkous, Blacksburg Volunteer Fire Department
Michael Linkous served the Blacksburg Volunteer Fire Department for 36 years and was a model firefighter, Lieutenant, Captain, and Chief. Since beginning his service as a teenager in 1983, Mike answered over 4,500 calls. Mike was diagnosed with Immunoglobulin G Kappa Multiple Myeloma and he endured chemotherapy, blood work, hospitals stays, and immobility from time to time. The disease took Michael’s life on July 26, 2019 at the age of 54.

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