other previous winners


We’ve all heard epic firefighter stories; they are stories from within our own community, concerning our own courageous and brave firefighters, in the face of danger and adversity.

To those unfamiliar with the firefighter profession, the stories of horrific medical emergencies, brutal fires, tremendously technical rescues, remarkable saves, and at times, tragic losses might seem more like movies, fairy tales, or comic book fantasies. However, the incredible reality is that these are real life adventures. The main characters are not TV Actors or Stunt Professionals. They are stories of well educated, committed and compassionate men and women – they are firefighter heroes.

The fact is in the real world we have been using the term “Hero” to describe just about anything and everything. Kids have cartoon heroes. Teenagers have movie heroes and music star heroes. Adults have sports heroes. In today’s world, even video games give everyone the opportunity to be a 'hero' in a virtual world.

Our theme this year associates our “Red Hot” Arizona Firefighters with the “Hero” moniker. Few people, outside of the fire service, fully realize what it takes to be a real-life hero.  

Being “Red Hot” isn’t just about some firefighter’s good looks and hot bodies. It goes much deeper than that… Burning hot within the heart of the firefighter is the flame of service and self-sacrifice. To become a firefighter in the first place, you must be willing to sacrifice yourself to protect others. Sometimes that requires bravery – other times it requires a great big heart.

How many people define a hero by their willingness to volunteer? But that's what many in the fire service do on a regular basis. Whether it’s volunteering to put their life in danger to save another or giving up their free time to assist at a burn center for children, volunteering is the trait of a true hero.

This year our judges chose someone who takes a 24-hour day and squeezes another 12 hours of service out of it! His personality is one that prides itself on selfless acts of kindness and a desire to serve every minute of the day. The person who nominated him described this firefighter as having "the biggest heart I've ever seen," and "whenever anyone on or off the job needs something, he is right there doing whatever he can to help." When you read about all the things he is doing ever day, you'll quickly understand why he is a "Red Hot Firefighter Hero."

The 2010 United Fire Firefighter of the Year, John Leivas, Mesa Fire Department, is not only brave, but also has one of those “great big hearts.”

John has been with the Mesa Fire Department and has been a Paramedic for 15 of his 27 years. He says that he is just giving back to those who helped him, and he rarely says 'no' to anyone who asks for his assistance.

In only the last year, here are some of the many professional projects with which he has donated his time as an instructor:

  • 13 CPR Courses, Basic Live Fire at the State fire school, and a refresher course for the Mesa Fire bike team.
  • Taught 4 Community Emergency Response Team (C.E.R.T.) classes.
  • Taught SCBA self survival refresher courses, and developed a 3 day training class for Mesa PD on practical and self survival skills as well as qualifying for different weapons while wearing an SCBA.
  • Achieved adjunct instructor status from the State fire training center.
  • Recruit training officer and mentor for the Mesa Fire mini-academy.
  • Assisted with a training video on rehab and cyanide poisoning.
  • Conducted 31 live burns for training Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler, Apache Junction, and Queen Creek firefighters. In this project, he took the initiative to develop a more realistic training simulation for his students that included building a loading dock with a garage door, and a complete remodel of the 1st floor of the training tower to include divided rooms, walls and doors.

When he isn’t teaching, our hero is assisting with testing equipment to create better practices and technology for future firefighters. He has assisted Salt River with Engineer testing, Chandler Fire with Captain testing and Mesa with driver/operator testing, and the evaluation of new turnout gear. He assisted DPS with SWAT testing and medical support.

He also understands the value of keeping himself up-to-date on industry standards by renewing his certification for ACLS, state and national paramedic, and as a red card Wildland firefighter. He also took a four day class to become certified as a Teenage C.E.R.T. instructor. Never one to shirk his civic duty, he even completed jury duty. In his ‘free’ time, he has written an article for Fire Rescue Magazine on accountability.

Perhaps what is most amazing is that this hero comes from a simple background and spent 7 years growing up in an Arizona children’s home. That experience is what drives him to devote even more time by being a foster parent. He and his wife Kimberly recently adopted two little girls, and are in the process of adopting 3 more children. They also provide a loving home for hard-to-place foster children. In addition to their own children that adds up to a total of 12 kids.

After receiving the award John’s response was “I’m blessed and just giving back to the community that helped me.”


2010 Judges  ♦  2010 Sponsors