Emphasizing that the award is only given for "30 hard years of service," acting fire chief Michael P. Nuehard, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, presented a plaque of recognition to Captain James Tolson, during ceremonies Monday afternoon at Station #9, Mount Vernon, where he serves as station commander.
"This is the only award given for service," Neuhard said. "We give very few of these each year because not many firefighters stay with us this many years. In fact, we have only been presenting this award for the past eight or nine years."
Tolson started with the department on April 30, 1973. He actually served at the Fair Oaks station "for a couple of months prior to entering the academy," he acknowledged.
In addition to the plaque Tolson's name will be placed on a plaque at the Fire Training Academy in Fairfax County and he will receive a special gift of his choosing from the department.
Neuhard, noting that this was his first such ceremony since being named acting chief last week upon the retirement of Chief Edward L. Stinnette, said, "Jimmy exemplifies all the good things about this profession. There are not too many who stay with us this long."
IN RECEIVING THE recognition, Tolson said, "I'm very proud to get this award. It's great to work with the people I'm privileged to work with here at Station #9. This is consistently one of the busiest engine companies in Fairfax County."
Tolson and his wife, Carol, live at Lake Ridge with their two daughters, Cindy, 17, and Amy, 14. He began his formal career at Fairfax City Station before his first tour of duty at Mount Vernon in 1973.
After five years at Mount Vernon he was transferred to West Springfield prior to opening the Pohick Station. When he changed from firefighter to Technical Rescue Operations, after being promoted to Technician, he returned to Fair Oaks Station.
In 1991, Tolson was promoted to Captain I and assigned as Safety Officer, a position he held for two years. In 2002, he was promoted to Captain II and took over as station commander at Mount Vernon.
As he was being ribbed by some of his younger colleagues during the ceremony, he offered them a word of advice. "Always look forward, never back."