Long-time Hillsville firefighter Erroll Rhea Jett has been awarded with one of the most prestigious awards a Virginia firefighter can receive.
Jett, a 51-year member of the Hillsville Volunteer Fire Department, was one of eight to be honored with a Governor’s Fire Service Award on Saturday during the Virginia Fire and Rescue Conference at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. Jett received the Excellence in Virginia Community Risk Reduction award for his decades of service coordinating fire prevention programs at local elementary schools and day care centers in Carroll County.
“This is the most prestigious and highest award that any member of our department has ever received,” said Mike Musser, assistant fire chief of the Hillsville Volunteer Fire Department. “It is well deserved for Erroll Rhea because of all the years he has put into the fire department and all the years he has devoted to fire prevention activities and working with the children and elementary schools.”
The Excellence in Virginia Community Risk Reduction is a new award category this year as the Virginia Fire Services Board elected to combine the previous awards for Excellence in Fire and Life Safety and Excellence in Fire Prevention. The criteria for the previous two categories significantly overlapped one another and both recognized efforts to reduce the fire risk factors in their community.
A successful Community Risk Reduction initiative incorporates both effective educational strategies to reduce fire hazards by the general public and strong enforcement of the Statewide Fire Prevention Code. The Review Panel opted for two recipients in this category, representing a career department and a volunteer department. The Chilhowie Fire and EMS Department was also honored along with Jett.
Jett is a life member of the Hillsville Volunteer Fire Department and has dedicated over 50 years of service to fire protection. Each year, Jett donates his time and money to coordinate the fire prevention programs for the six local elementary schools in Carroll County as well as numerous daycare centers. On average, this programming educates 1,000 students each year. Jett also presents multiple programs each year to nursing homes and assisted living facilities for fire prevention initiatives.
“I have known him all my life, and personally know Mr. Jett to exemplify the qualities of a fire-prevention oriented fire fighter,” Musser said. “His dedication to the community and children is a true asset to our department and the community. Adults in our community still speak of the days of years gone by when Mr. Jett would come to the schools and do fire prevention talks and even visit classrooms and read to the students. In his 50-plus years as a firefighter, Mr. Jett has touched the lives of over 50,000 children by doing fire prevention talks and community service activities to further fire prevention interests.”
The Governor’s Fire Services Awards were established in 2002 as a formal recognition of excellence in Virginia’s Fire Services. Nominees are carefully reviewed and selected by the Virginia Fire Services Board Executive Committee and forwarded to the Governor through the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security for final approval. The awards are presented annually each February. This year marks the 14th anniversary of the awards.
“We’re very proud of his accomplishments and how he represents our department and the community as a whole,” Musser said. “He’s a great person of morality and strong Christian values.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN