The Peoria Fire-Medical Department held its annual awards banquet on Friday, November 22, 2019 at the Rio Vista Recreation Center. Our December issue was already to the printer the day of this event, but we thought it important to still share (albeit later than we’d like) and celebrate the heroic first responders in our community.

The awards banquet included dinner and speeches from Peoria City Manager Jeff Tyne, and Peoria Fire Chief Bobby Ruiz. Included in the awards presented, were the two most prestigious awards the department gives: Firefighter of the Year and the Johnny Valentine Award.

Each year the Johnny Valentine Award is given to the sworn member who best epitomizes the Peoria Fire-Medical Department’s core values; team, trust, professionalism and efficiency. Johnny Valentine was a Peoria firefighter who served the citizens of Peoria until his un-timely death from brain cancer in 1996.

The 2019 recipient of the Johnny Valentine Award was Firefighter Greg Bury, who was nominated by Battalion Chief Tony Neely and Captain Danny Comella. In his nomination address Captain Comella noted, “Greg emulates the same qualities as Johnny, his work ethic with our new people is nonstop. You would be hard pressed to find a guy that works as hard as Greg.”

The 2019 Firefighter of the Year award was given to Firefighter Michael Parks for his heroic actions at a mobile home fire. At that fire, crews arrived on scene to find heavy fire conditions and near zero visibility from the smoke. While performing a search and rescue in the mobile home, Firefighter Parks found an unconscious victim, who he successfully removed from the structure. Retired Battalion Chief Steve Kelley was the incident commander at that fire and nominated Parks for the award. “His actions that day saved this woman’s life,” Kelley said of Parks.

In addition to the Johnny Valentine Award, and Firefighter of the Year Award, approximately 60 other firefighters and civilian staff were honored for their contributions over the past year. Included in the awards were; Letters of Recognition, Civilian of the Year, EMS Provider of the Year, Meritorious Service Awards, Fire Chief Awards, Unit Citations, Medals of Honor, and Medals of Valor.