Local Firefighter Wins State-Wide Award - TribPapers

Local Firefighter Wins State-Wide Award

Tryon Deputy Fire Chief Josh Connell (left) poses with Tryon Fire Chief Joshua Walton (right) after being awarded the Career Fire Officer of the Year award by the NCAFC.

Tryon – On Friday, February 2, Deputy Chief Josh Connell of the Tryon Fire Department was honored with the 2024 Career Fire Officer of the Year Award by the North Carolina Association of Fire Chiefs (NCAFC).

The Career Fire Officer of the Year has been awarded each year since 2016 and represents the highest award the NCAFC can bestow upon its professional fire officers. The award is intended to recognize truly outstanding fire officers whose actions and leadership in their profession, home, community and country serve as an example and challenge for all other fire officers throughout the State of North Carolina. Selection criteria emphasize leadership, innovation, professional development, integrity, service to the public and contributions to the fire service as a whole.

The award was presented at the NCAFC annual banquet in Concord, NC. The banquet was a feature of the organization’s four-day Mid-Winter Conference. Over 300 fire officers from around the state attended the conference’s training opportunities, vendor expo, and banquet.

The banquet featured an address by educator and motivational speaker Gian Paul Gonzalez. Prior to the NY Giants Christmas Eve game with the NY Jets, Gonzalez delivered the now famous “ALL IN” rally cry message during the NY Giants’ chapel service and is widely recognized as having inspired the New York Giants to their Super Bowl victory.

NCAFC is a professional organization and resource for professional and volunteer fire department leaders. Founded in 1932, the NCAFC is a statewide network working to enhance the knowledge, skills and abilities of the fire service through information, education, communication and action, which will best protect the firefighters and citizens of North Carolina.

Additional honorees at the award banquet include Volunteer Fire Chief, Career Fire Chief, and Volunteer Fire Officer.

Connell is the first firefighter from the Tryon Fire Department to win an award from the NCAFC. He was nominated by Chief Joshua Walton.

“Deputy Chief Connell truly sets the example of what a firefighter should be,” said Chief Walton. “He works extremely hard, is always available to mentor others, and goes above and beyond to be of service to the citizens of Tryon.

Connell began his firefighting career at the Asheville Fire Department, being hired immediately out of the Fire Academy. He served there for seven years before bringing his talents to the Tryon Fire Department.

Connell has been active with programs supporting youth, including a firefighter-led reading program for kids, Shop-With-A-Hero for underprivileged youth and a Secret Santa program, in addition to working with the local Humane Society.

Connell will also be assisting in the department’s first annual Guns ‘N Hoses Chili Cook Off on February 23 in downtown Tryon. Teams from the Tryon Fire Department and Tryon Police Department will prepare their best pots of chili for a head-to-head taste testing contest, with proceeds to benefit the Tryon Fire Alliance. The public is invited to enter the contest as well or purchase tickets to vote for their favorite chili.

Tryon Fire Public Information Officer Steven Siler sees this community outreach as an important step for the department.

“No one calls 9-1-1 unless they are scared; it’s been said we are in the ‘Worst Day of Your Life’ business,” said Siler. “With social events like the chili cook off, folks can see us having fun, working together and supporting the town. They can talk to us one-on-one and know that we are invested not just as first responders but as fellow townspeople.”