Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department bestowed their highest honor, "Career Firefighter of the Year," on Capt. II Tyrone J. Harrington last Friday in ceremonies before an overflow audience at departmental headquarters in Fairfax. In accepting the 2007 honor, Harrington became the 22nd recipient of an award which dates back to 1985.
"I'm almost embarrassed to get up there to accept it because it doesn't belong to me alone. Everything that is done in the fire department is a group effort. It is always a group effort," Harrington said prior to the official ceremony.
Harrington spent 20 years of his 30-year career at various stations along Route 1 in Mount Vernon District. For the past two years he has been the Station Commander at Franconia Fire and Rescue Station 5, C-Shift in Lee District. He also spent two years teaching at the Fire Academy.
"Career Firefighter of the Year is the highest recognition one can receive. And, I can't think of anyone more deserving than Ty Harrington," said Battalion Chief Edward M. Brinkley who served as Master of Ceremonies for the event and has served with Harrington for 25 years.
"This is a guy who truly loves his job. It absolutely boils in his blood. His passion for the job is infectious. He is a natural born leader and he gives away much more than he ever takes in," said Captain Steven E. Rhea (Ret), senior hazmat officer, FBI Hazardous Materials Response Unit.
That was echoed by Lt. Matthew P. Malof speaking for the firefighters at Franconia Station. "We are honoring him today for his life work as a firefighter. He leads by example. He demands a lot and gives a lot in return. He is fearless but never reckless," Malof said.
Explaining that Harrington came from a large family in the District of Columbia, Malof noted that he had been accepted as a cadet at 16 and was officially became a career firefighter at 19 in Prince George's County. He joined Fairfax County in 1978.
One of the original members of the Hazardous Materials Unit, Harrington was at the Pentagon on 9-11, served at the World Trade Center, and deployed to assist with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. As an active member of the Aluminum Cans for Burned Children program he regularly volunteers at the Children's Burn Camp. He was also named Firefighter of the Year by the Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce in 2000.
Acknowledging Harrington’s natural instinct to serve his community, Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department Chief Ronald L. Mastin said, "Wherever Ty has lived he has been the person to go to when his community needed help with any problem."
Mastin also thanked Harrington's family, and most particularly his wife Desiree, for their support and sharing Ty with the department. In addition to his wife, Harrington was joined at the ceremony by the couple's children -- son Brandon, 24 and daughters, Ashley, 22, and Marie, 12, and one of his brothers, who has been a Catholic priest for the past 25 years.
WHEN IT CAME TIME for Harrington to accept the award and the symbolic firefighter helmet that goes with it, he said, "Everyone knows it’s always team work all the way in this business. No fire truck or ambulance ever pulls out with only one person. And, no one goes into a burning building alone."
He also acknowledged the support of his family. "If you are really good at your career, someone has to stay home and make sure everything is operating properly there," he said. "I have been very fortunate in that respect."
Closing out his acceptance speech Harrington gave a word of advice to all the firefighters, paramedics, and others in the audience. "If you treat everyone you go to help as you would want to be treated or have someone treat your family you can never go wrong," he said.
Noting that the annual award is to "honor a department member whose outstanding service and selfless dedication are in keeping with the highest traditions" of the department, Brinkley closed the hour long ceremony by summarizing all the accolades showered on Harrington. "You exemplify the cornerstone of this profession," he said.