Jeff Gifford, selected as Troy’s Firefighter of the Year, enjoys training rookie firefighters to drive fire trucks.

Jeff Gifford, selected as Troy’s Firefighter of the Year, enjoys training rookie firefighters to drive fire trucks.

Photo provided by the city of Troy

Troy Firefighter of the Year mentors next generation of firefighters

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published July 7, 2020


TROY — Jeff Gifford, Troy’s Firefighter of the Year, was interested in firefighting from a young age.

His grandfather was a volunteer firefighter in Pennsylvania, so Gifford was familiar with fire departments.

Gifford moved to Troy with his family when he was 4 years old and later played youth baseball, with Bob Matlick, a former Troy fire inspector, as his coach. Gifford said Matlick fueled his interest in firefighting, according to a press release.

Upon graduating from Athens High School in 1993,  Gifford applied to the Troy Fire Department and was accepted as a new volunteer firefighter at Station 1 in February 1994.

His first fire as a probationary firefighter was a major one at the former Mountain Jack’s Steakhouse Feb. 22, 1994.

He has taken on many roles during his 26 years serving with the Troy Fire Department. The department created its Fire Explorer post in 1996, a young adult program of the Boy Scouts of America that introduced young men and women ages 14-20 to firefighting and rescue career fields, according to the release.

Gifford explained in the release that the primary focus of Fire Explorer Post 911 is community service, with an emphasis on fire and rescue. He said he enjoyed using his fire training and experience to guide and train the explorers.

“It’s great to see many of them go on to serve in the Troy Fire Department, as well as other fire departments, some serving as officers,” he said in a prepared statement.

Gifford, a truck driver currently driving for Sanders Fine Chocolates, has served as a field training officer and as a senior member of Station 1. He is a crew leader and a member of the Fire Open House committee, and he brings fire trucks to neighborhood block parties and into the community.

During his 26 years in the department, Gifford has received a number of service commendations and awards. He was the Station Member of the Year in 2015 and 2019. He received a safe driving award in 2014 for 20 years of safe driving. He earned unit commendations for outstanding performance, meeting 100% of Troy Fire Department training objectives for three years.

In 2011, he received a Merit Award for his participation at a multiple alarm structure fire on Kirts Boulevard, at the Sunnymeade Apartments. In 2013, he received a Merit Award for his participation at a second alarm structure fire on Park Street. He received a Merit Award in 2014 for exemplary performance in a Canterbury Square multiple alarm structure fire.

“I’ve known Jeff a long time. He’s always been very much interested in his role as a firefighter in Troy and is very serious about it,” Troy Fire Chief David Roberts said.

“He takes it very seriously,” Roberts added. “I’m just proud that he was awarded that honor. I think it’s well deserved.”

“I love being a Troy firefighter because it is such an adrenaline rush at times,” Gifford  said in the press release.  “It is very self-gratifying to see the positive end results of our work. I especially enjoy training the younger firefighters driving the trucks, since that’s what I do for a living.

“Firefighting gets in your blood, and it’s so impressive seeing a lot of family tradition within the Troy Fire Department. Being a Troy firefighter gives me the chance to help others within our community and make a difference. It’s tough seeing the bad things I have witnessed over the years, but we learn to stay focused and perform the duties we are trained to do at an incident. I would not trade this experience for anything,” he added.

Mayor Ethan Baker, on behalf of the City Council, congratulated Gifford.

“The volunteer firefighters for the city of Troy are a testament to our community’s giving spirit,” Baker said in a press release.