This town’s fire department saluted two of its own Dec. 15 as it presented Firefighter of the Year awards at an annual Christmas banquet.
The career firefighter award went to Philip Brown and the volunteer award was presented to Colby Stepp. All members of the department can submit nominations for the awards and officers make the final selections.
Brown, 33, has been on staff at the Zebulon department since 2005. He is also a volunteer with Red Oak Fire Department outside Rocky Mount and has previously worked with the Nashville Fire Department.
He was named Zebulon’s Firefighter of the Year one previous time, in 2010, but said the recent award was particularly meaningful to him because of new responsibilities he recently took on.
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“It makes me feel like I’m doing something right, especially because I just got promoted to the (shift) captain’s position in September,” Brown said. “It’s kind of reassuring me, anyway.
“It’s an honor. I love the people I work with, and I have a great crew. You couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Fire Chief Chris Perry said Brown has “an extremely high work ethic” from farming that carries over into the fire station.
“I would tell you he’s a full-time farmer if he wasn’t here,” Perry said. “Everyday he’s off, he’s farming.”
Brown is known for setting high expectations for himself, according to the chief.
“And now, in his supervisory role, he has high expectations for his employees with the shift that he’s responsible for, and that’s good for us,” Perry said.
May will mark three years Stepp, 20, has been with the department.
He is currently working to finish firefighter certification courses at Johnston Community College, while also working as an emergency medical technician in Apex.
A Zebulon native, Stepp was in his final semester of high school at Heritage Christian Academy when he and friends joined the local department as volunteers.
“After a year, I fell in love with it and knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” he said.
He said there are others who could have just as easily been named a top volunteer firefighter.
“I was shocked by it,” Stepp said. “It was never my intention to get an award. I didn’t respond to the most calls of all the volunteers. Because I love it so much, I just spend a lot of time up there just trying to be around it as much as I can.”
Perry said the commitment Stepp has shown as a volunteer member earned him the honor.
“He helps us when we’re down in staff,” Perry said. “He shows a lot of dedication and enthusiasm to the department. While our paid staff are the faces of our department, they can only do so much. That’s why our volunteers are so important.”