Jim Russell didn't start out his working career as a firefighter. He joined the Danbury Fire Department on July 9, 2001 after a 20-year career with Northeast Utilities and Yankee Gas.
He was promoted to fire inspector on Aug. 18, 2008, and then to deputy fire marshal on April 1, 2009. All fire marshals specialize in one duty or another, and Russell inspects Danbury schools starting when school lets out to make sure they meet fire code by September.
"He's on a first-name basis with the principals and vice principals," said Fire Chief Geoffrey Herald. "That corporate sense of customer service is something he brings to the job. He's very customer-service orientated."
Prior to joining the career department, Russell volunteered with Engine 4 Independent Hose Co. in Danbury. He lives in New Milford with his wife Kathy and his sons J.J. and Sean.
"This is special," Russell said. I'm so thrilled. I'm overwhelmed."
Joe DaSilva, who chaired the event for the Exchange Club, said the club looks for a firefighter who is helping the community, as well as fighting fires.
"He does good work for the community," DaSilva said.