Washington Twp. received state recognition this week with one of the Ohio Fire Service’s highest honors: Ohio Fire Department of the Year.
The award was presented by the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Division of State Fire Marshal and the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s Division of EMS during the 41st annual Ohio Fire Service Hall of Fame & Fire Awards ceremony, held at the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s truly an honor and very humbling to receive it and it’s a testament to the work that our men and women provide to our community on a daily basis,” Fire Chief Scott Kujawa told this news outlet following the ceremony.
Ohio Fire Department of the Year Award honors an Ohio fire department that “has demonstrated outstanding teaching characteristics and, because of these attributes, has made a major impact in fire education in its community and department,” according to ODPS.
Departments nominated must be active in local public education and/or local fire training and have demonstrated positive relationships with the community. They also must take “meaningful and visible steps” to assure the professionalism of their personnel and meaningful and visible steps toward a quality, in-service fire training program, ODPS said.
The Washington Twp. Fire Department was formed in 1946. It provides around-the-clock emergency response with personnel who respond directly from five fire stations positioned strategically throughout Washington Twp. and Centerville. The fire department handled 8,759 calls for service in 2021.
Kujawa, who has been with the department since 1991, became its chief in 2019. Washington Twp. Fire Department has more than 100 employees, including 90 full-timers (firefighters, administrative and support staff), 13 part-timers (firefighters and administrative staff) and three volunteers (a medical adviser and two chaplains).
Kujawa said the department has the most credentialed officers in Ohio.
“That leads into our succession planning where we can assure that our people are prepared for the next step as they rise up through the ranks,” he said.
Battalion Chief Josh Augustine said all the department’s officers have at least an associate’s degree. Some have bachelor’s and master’s degrees nd one staffer is working on a doctorate, he said.
Washington Twp. Fire Department also provides tuition reimbursement for members, Augustine said.
“Professional credentialing gives them a road map for success in the future,” Kujawa said.
Community engagement has always been a “huge focus” of the entire department, said Scott Henry, safety educator and public education specialist. That includes young children in day cares and pre-schools and all throughout the school age years, but also adult safety, he said.
“Expanding our social media has allowed us to have a much bigger reach than we would have in the first place through the safety messages and videos that get liked and shared and commented (on),” Henry said. “It just reached out not only here in Washington Twp. and Centerville, but throughout the state and beyond.”