Neil Pedersen received Firefighter of the Year honors and Kevin Olson was chosen Fire Officer of the Year at the Valley Regional Fire Authority 2106 awards presentation at the Auburn Golf Course banquet room Feb. 24.
Pedersen, who began his career with the Legacy Auburn Fire Department in 1984, is the VRFA’s longest tenured firefighter. He was the youngest member of the original Water Rescue Team formed in 1985, which is known today as the Technical Rescue Team, and remains on the team 32 years later as a rope rescue, swift water rescue and dive rescue technician.
Pedersen has helped the Planning and Logistics Division with the conversion of an aid car to a technical rescue apparatus, in addition to the outfitting of a new fire engine, which saved the VRFA time and money.
“Neil is a utility player,” said a co-worker. “His contributions have substantially improved our operational capability.”
Olson, who began his career with the Legacy Auburn Fire Department in 1991, was promoted to captain in 1998 and battalion chief in 2006. His most recent assignment before being promoted to deputy chief in February was the South King County Fire Training Consortium, where he was responsible for training more than 800 firefighters.
Olson has a bachelor of arts degree in fire service administration from Eastern Oregon University. A recipient of two meritorious unit citations, Olson was Fire Officer of the Year in 2004.
“When looking for a high-caliber training expert to lead the operational training for the South King County Fire Training Consortium, I knew Olson as the person we needed to send,” said VRFA Administrator Eric Robertson. “In an occupation where training is so critically important, having a great leader is paramount, and Kevin exemplified pride in service, integrity and competence. Our firefighters are top-shelf because of his leadership.”
Mark Horaski, director of finance and administration, received the Professional Excellence Award for exhibiting 10 years of sustained superior performance. Horaski is responsible for the VRFA’s decade of flawless audits and compliance with regulations.
“From the ground up, Mark has led the VRFA financial and business services team and written conservative budgets that weathered the recession storm,” Robertson said.
Deputy Chief Tim Day was awarded the Professional Excellence Award, acknowledging his years of service to the VRFA. Day recently accepted a position with the Kirkland Fire Department. He is a consensus seeker and team builder, with a passion for Emergency Medical Services, and is widely respected by his peers.
“It is not surprising that he was sought by others and offered a great opportunity,” Robertson said of Day.
The VRFA also recognized four retirees from 2016 and early 2017. Deputy Chief Mike Gerber, who began his career with the Legacy Auburn Fire Department in 1987, retired on Dec. 31. Battalion Chief Dan Bosch, who was hired by the Legacy Auburn Fire Department on July 16, 1981, retired on Feb. 28. Capt. Doug Darmody, who began his firefighting career on April 16, 1985, retired on Jan. 31. And Capt. John Wentz, who was hired by the Legacy Auburn Fire Department on Oct. 1, 1991, retired on Feb. 15.
Recent promotions were recognized, including Battalion Chief Kevin Olson to deputy chief; Assistant Fire Marshal Karen Stewart to fire marshal; Deputy Fire Marshal Larry Upton to assistant fire marshal; Deputy Fire Marshal Josh Rogers to assistant fire marshal; Capt. Paul Strong to battalion chief; Capt. Gary Barker to battalion chief; Firefighter Jesse Mitchell to captain; Firefighter Reed Astley to captain; and Firefighter Matt Kinnee to captain.