PLANT CITY – At first, Dustin Hill thought his career path would be in law enforcement.
But after spending some time with volunteer firefighters, he decided to make that his life's work.
“Once I saw the brotherhood and the camaraderie I was hooked,” Hill said.
Hill, a nine-year veteran of Plant City Fire Rescue, was recently named to the agency's highest honor – Firefighter of the Year.
It's an award that was well-deserved, Emergency Medical Services Chief James Wilson said. Hill has earned the respect of both his peers and his supervisors for his dedication and hard work, he added.
“The city is blessed to have someone of his caliber among our ranks,” Wilson said. “He earned it (the award).”
Hill, a 2001 Durant High School graduate, said he was overwhelmed when he learned he's been selected for the honor. He was quick to give credit to the other four members of his crew.
“When the tone (notifying firefighters of a call) goes off, I don't get on the truck alone,” he said. “I don't think this should go to just me. It should go to all of us.”
Hill was presented with a plaque at a ceremony at the Masonic Lodge.
Hill, the 30-year-old son of Joe and Judy Hill of Valrico, has more than firefighting experience under his belt.
He's a sergeant first class with the Florida Army National Guard, and has had tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service in a war zone in Iraq as part of the military police with the guard's 53rd Infantry Brigade.
His supervisor, Capt. Eric James, said Hill's military discipline carries over into his service at Fire Rescue.
“He gives 110 percent always,” James said. “He's always Army strong.”
Hill said he's glad he switched from law enforcement to firefighting.
“I'm excited to come to work every day,” he said. “It's a great feeling when you love what you do.”