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The Arnold J. Koonce Legacy Award 
Chief Log In Required for Nominations



2023 AJK Firefighter of the Year - Asst. Chief Robert Godwin - Cumberland Road Fire Department

2023 AJK Officer of the Year - Fire Chief Michael L. Hill, Fayetteville Fire Department


2022 AJK Firefighter of the Year - Captain Robert Hammonds  Sr. - Fayetteville Fire Department
2022 AJK Officer of the Year - Assistant Chief Sean C. Johnson - Stoney Point Fire Department

2021 AJK Firefighter of the Year - Firefighter Robert Brogdon - Fort Bragg Fire Department
2021 AJK Officer of the Year - Fire Chief Gary Brock -  Beaver Dam Fire Department

To honor his legacy, Cumberland County Fire Marshal Ricky Strickland, who succeeded Fire Marshal Koonce in 1988 in alliance with the Cumberland County Fire Chiefs’ Association established the “Arnold J. Koonce Award” in honor of Fire Marshal Koonce’s vision in pioneering distinction for the improvement for the Cumberland County Volunteer Fire Service, and that of dedicated public service to  the citizens of Cumberland County between 1955 and 1988. This annual award is designated to honor and recognize individuals who exemplify the ability, character, leadership, and dedicated service to the Cumberland County Fire Service, and will recognize a Cumberland County Firefighter and Fire Officer. 

The last recognition occurred in 1994 and the award went idle. In the fall of 2021, the Cumberland County Fire Chiefs’ Association revived the award, provided sponsorship, and redesignated the award as the “Arnold J. Koonce Legacy Award” and will honor and recognize henceforth a Firefighter and Fire Officer during its annual Christmas meeting conducted in December each year.


A pioneer in the Cumberland County Fire Service, Fire Marshall Koonce was born on April 18, 1925, in Cumberland County, and  grew up in Cumberland and Robeson Counties and as a young man served our great nation honorably in the United States Navy. 

Arnold married his sweetheart Virginia Calhoun in 1947 and the union produced two children, Arnold Larry Koonce and Judy Koonce Lloyd who delivered Arnold and Virginia four grandchildren and two great grandchildren. 

In 1955 Arnold helped form the Cumberland Road Fire Department, Station 5 and was a charter member. In 1957 the Board of Directors of the Cumberland Road Fire Department appointed Arnold to the helm of the department as Fire Chief.

Fire Marshal Arnold J. Koonce

In 1960 Chief Koonce, with assistance from rural departments then existing formed the Cumberland County Fire Chiefs’ Association and Chief Koonce was elected the first association’s President. In his capacity as President, Chief Koonce was instrumental in assisting and organizing the Yadkin Road Volunteer Fire Department (1960), Bethany Volunteer Fire Department (1961) Lake Rim Volunteer Fire Department (1961) Stoney Point Volunteer Fire Department (1964) and the Westarea Volunteer Fire Department (1966). He was very influential and welcomed the Town of Hope Mills and Spring Lake Volunteer Fire Departments to the association. Throughout his term as Fire Chief and President of the Chiefs’ Association Chief Koonce provided outstanding leadership moving the association forward. 

In 1972 the Cumberland County Board of Commissioner’s appointed Chief Koonce as the first Cumberland County Fire Inspector, and Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) director. Later his job responsibilities were consolidated, and Inspector Koonce was appointed as the first Cumberland County Fire Marshal. 

In his capacity as Fire Marshal, Arnold was a pioneer assisting the rural fire departments implement training standards and initiated the first tanker water haul operations which was adopted across North Carolina and is still in use today. This new innovative water haul method also known as tanker shuttles and assisted rural districts with the ability to suppress fires resulting in lower (ISO) Public Rating Classifications. In doing so and under Fire Marshal Koonce’s leadership Cumberland County joined four other counties leading our great state with ISO ratings. His untiring dedication and efforts earned him the honor of being termed “The father of the Volunteer Fire Service.” 

Fire Marshal Koonce was also an active member of the North Carolina Firemen’s Association, North Carolina Association of Fire Chiefs, North Carolina State Fire Marshal’s Association and served as President of the Sandhills Firemen’s Association. Arnold was also very instrumental with community involvement and a member of the Knights of Pythias.

Arnold loved his GOD, family, his country, and the fire service, and for over thirty years he and Virginia were active members of the Highland Baptist Church,  Fire Marshal Koonce retired in 1988 and on April 9, 1997, passed away at the early age of seventy-one. 


Please read in its entirety before submitting your nomination.


This award, The Arnold J. Koonce Legacy Award is the most esteemed honor the Cumberland County Fire Chiefs’ Association can bestow on our counties truly outstanding Firefighters, EMS workers and Fire and EMS Officers who exemplify the ability, character, and leadership, coupled with dedicated service to the Cumberland County Fire Service. The selected Firefighter or EMS member and Fire or EMS Officer each year will have their nominations submitted the following year for a Merit recognition as part of the Greater Fayetteville Chamber Annual Valor Awards program.


The Cumberland County Fire Chiefs’ Association will be the primary sponsor of this prestigious award but will also accept and collaborate with associate members, individuals and business partners wishing to sponsor an annual event. 


Two awards will be bestowed annually: one for Firefighter or EMS worker and one for Fire or EMS Officer. The selected awardees Fire or EMS Chief, or Board of Director, or City or Town Manager if the awardee is a Fire Chief will be notified with ample time to prepare for the annual December Christmas & recognition Dinner meeting. 

  • Must be an Active Member

  • Must have completed in good standing a minimum of twelve months of faithful and exemplary service with a Cumberland County Fire Chiefs’ Association partner agency. 

  • Must be nominated through his or her department leadership or Town, City  or County  Officials 

  • Selection criteria will emphasize exemplary duty, exemplary ability, character, and leadership abilities skills.

  • All the nominee’s fire or EMS service activities and accomplishments will be considered. 

  • Members of the CCFCA Executive Committee are ineligible to be considered for either award. 

  • All nominations must be submitted online, and late submissions will not be considered. 


The nomination period shall open on the 15th of October and close at midnight on the 4th Monday in November annually. (CCFCA Meeting Night) The CCFCA is not responsible for nominations received past the stated deadline.


Must be followed completely or the nominees will not be considered – No exceptions


  1. Complete the official online nomination form. Remember this is not an award for a specific incident. 

  2. Obtain and prepare a cover letter on the organization’s letterhead, signed by the organization’s Fire Chief, Chairperson, President or executive director, town, city, or county manager/official describing in less than one thousand words the nominee’s major accomplishment and why the selected nominees are being nominated. 

  3. Obtain a high-resolution digital passport type photo of the nominee’s  and upload with the online application. 


The Association President will appoint a current association member to chair the selection committee. The Committee Chair will establish a date and time for the committee to discuss the Firefighter / EMS and Fire / EMS Officer candidates for selection. The President will also pick four (4) additional selection committee members, from CCFCA partner agencies, retirees, clergy, Koonce family members,  elected officials and or business partners. 


Each nomination package will be reviewed by the Arnold J. Koonce Legacy Award selection committee. The CCFCA reserves the right to omit any award for just cause. Winners will be announced and recognized during the Associations annual December Christmas meeting. Immediate family members of those selected will be invited to attend. 

Failure to read the above policy may result in an incomplete nomination packet which will not comply with the nomination requirements. Please submit your nomination utilizing the nomination forms below in conjunction with the supporting nomination information. 

It will be the responsibility of the person submitting the nomination to do everything possible to ensure that his/her nominee is present for the December recognition meeting. 

For questions, please contact President Freddy L. Johnson Sr., at 910-476-1301 or by email at No late nominations will be accepted. 

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