Lt. Justin Ply has been hanging around fire departments since age 15, when older friends of the family mentored him into what eventually became his passion and career. After investing 20 years in the firefighting career field and into the lives of others, Lt. Ply has been named the 2017 Firefighter of the Year by the Exchange Club of Valdosta.
As the training manager for the Valdosta Fire Department, Lt. Ply oversees and conducts training for 106 personnel, which includes live fire, driver operator, vehicle extrication, basic firefighter skills, hazmat and railcar incidents, and Georgia Power line safety, to name a few.
“Lt. Ply is the ideal recipient of this award, which honors firefighters for their professionalism and bravery,” said Valdosta Fire Department Fire Chief Freddie Broome. “He exceeds all expectations and always strives to find ways to improve our training program, the department, and the overall firefighting career field. He leads by example and has earned the respect from his peers. Above all else, he models the definition of love, bravery, and sacrifice for others.”
Recently, while attending a training assessment in Gainesville, Florida, Lt. Ply witnessed a domestic-related assault on the roadside. He immediately pulled off the road to intervene and called 911. While many motorists called 911 to report the incident, Lt. Ply did what no other person in that busy area of town did. He offered his intervention, stopped the violent abuse of a woman, and possibly saved her life. As a result, law enforcement officers caught the man, and he was apprehended.
“It’s not a job to me; saving and helping others is a commitment I made years ago,” said Lt. Ply. “I’m sure I could make more money doing something else, but I’d be miserable. This is what I enjoy doing for my community, and it’s something I find great satisfaction in daily.”
Lt. Ply’s initiative has resulted in the formation of the VFD Explorers Club, a Firefighters for Christ chapter, and he leads a monthly small group at the station. He also serves on the VFD Hazmat and Georgia Search and Rescue teams.
The City of Valdosta applauds Lt. Ply for his dedication and compassion to the Valdosta Fire Department and the firefighting career field, and for being recognized by the Exchange Club as the 2017 Firefighter of the Year for Valdosta.