Dan Plavin, 16, of Lake Harmony, received the 2009 Herada/Terrini Junior Firefighter award at the Pennsylvania State Firemen's Convention held this year in King of Prussia.
Junior firefighters are ages 14 to 18, at which time they can join the regular company.
The award is named in memory of family members who served with the state fire association and ladies' auxiliary.
Ralph Lennon, fire chief at Lake Harmony Fire Company, wrote a letter of recommendation. Jim Thorpe High School principal Tom Lesisko sent a second one.
Lennon said Lake Harmony is one of the busiest fire companies in Carbon County. The night Plavin became a member, the company was called out. He went as a "ride along." He had his gear and observed the action.
The call was for a brush fire at Big Boulder ski area, but it turned out to be one of the worst structure fires the company ever faced.
Plavin grabbed a hose and pulled it into a pile on the ground but didn't know what to do. Someone yelled at him to stretch it out.
Lennon said Plavin attends 90 percent of drills, meetings and work details.
"He brings a desire to learn and will advance to be a qualified officer," said Lennon.
Plavin has a life beyond the fire company. He was first in the regional and second in the state in a programming competition with the Junior Academy of Sciences, and fourth in a Rube Goldberg competition. In school he qualified for the Triple C based on character, commitment and courage.
Plavin participates in cross country, track, baseball, snow boarding and skiing. He plays piano and guitar.
He maintains a 96 percent grade point average.
But the fire company was not his first choice. He attended a meeting of the Lake Harmony Rescue Squad and decided he was not interested in what he saw. Lennon was there and "grabbed" him and gave him a fire company application. The next day he joined.
"I just loved it. It wasn't what I expected not just hanging out and carrying people out of burning buildings. There is traffic control, first aid and following the chain of command," said Plavin.
What he likes best is riding in the trucks and playing with the siren.
As a junior he cannot go up a ladder, enter a burning building or use hydraulic tools. On school days he has a curfew of 10 p.m. but can stay late on weekends and summer vacation.
He would like to go to fire prevention programs at the schools, but his own schooling is more important to him.
He is looking forward to being an officer maybe chief.
College plans include attending Yale or Cornell with the idea of becoming a neurosurgeon.
He said seeing people flown by medevac from accidents has never bothered him.
Lennon said most of their calls are for vehicle crashes and false fire alarms.
He received a letter from the state chairperson saying Plavin had won, but he did not tell him. It was a real surprise. He was not aware he had even been nominated because Lennon did not want him to be disappointed.
In 2011 Kidder Township will be hosting the convention with its headquarters at The Galleria at Split Rock.
At the parade, held in conjunction with the convention, Plavin's younger brother, Joey, 11, helped carry the banner that preceded the marchers from Lake Harmony and Albrightsville. He plans to join as soon as he turns 14. A sister, Merisa, 14, has recently joined as a junior firefighter.
Two years ago another Kidder Township youth won the award. He was Nick Lilick who is with the Albrightsville Fire Company.
Lennon would like a few more junior firefighters with the same enthusiasm, initiative and intelligence that Plavin shows. It would make his job easier because they always need volunteers.