Pinellas County names its 2021 Fire Professionals of the Year

At its Tuesday, Sept. 21 meeting, the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners named the recipients of the 2021 Fire Professional of the Year awards in recognition of Fire Prevention Week in Pinellas County.

The awards are given to first responders that go above and beyond the call of duty when providing professional fire services to the community and to the members of the fire service. Pinellas Commission Chair Dave Eggers presented this year’s awards with Pinellas Emergency Medical Services and Fire Administration Director Craig Hare.

Pinellas County Regional 9-1-1 Center Telecommunicator Tristen Ward received the award for Emergency Fire Dispatcher of the Year. Ward was honored for demonstrating an exemplary level of technical skill in processing calls and providing excellent customer service to callers in need of reassurance and empathy. He displayed these skills during a 9-1-1 call for a jet ski explosion where he both handled the dispatch of the fire and immediately transitioned to medical instructions for a burn patient.

Florida Task Force Urban Search & Rescue Team, which includes members from St. Petersburg Fire Rescue, took the honors for Special Operations Team of the Year for going above and beyond the call of duty when they responded to the City of Surfside during a 12-story building collapse. The recipients of this award worked around the clock for eight days to assist in the rescue and later recovery of the victims while working in the shadow of a very compromised portion of the building that remained standing.

Firefighter/Paramedic Derek Twardowski and Firefighter/EMT Riley Brennan with Pinellas Park Fire Department each received the Fire Professional of the Year award for their outstanding character and commitment to serve. These traits were displayed when they entered a burning home to rescue a man.

The award recipients each received a plaque and a cash award from the Pinellas Federal Credit Union.

A video featuring the award winners is available at

Fire Prevention Week is observed nationally each October. This year it runs Oct. 3 – Oct. 9, with the theme: “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety,” which educates everyone about the different sounds the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms make.