Florida Forest Service employees recognized for commitment to protecting state's people, resources; Jim Avery named as firefighter of the year, Charles Hill receives resource manager of the year award

TALLAHASSEE, Florida , April 22, 2014 (press release) – Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam presented two awards to exemplary members of the Florida Forest Service during today's meeting of the Florida Cabinet.

Forest Ranger Jim Avery was awarded the 2013 Forestry Firefighter of the Year Award, while Charles “Bruce” Hill Jr., Jacksonville District Manager, was given the 2013 Jim Stevenson Resource Manager of the Year award.

“I am proud to recognize these two outstanding Florida Forest Service employees for their commitment to protecting the people and resources of this great state,” said Commissioner Putnam. “Jim Avery brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Florida Forest Service and assists us in improving and enhancing our capabilities to protect Florida from wildfire. Bruce Hill is a talented resource manager who shared his passion for Florida's great outdoors with hundreds of others, and his legacy will live on for generations.”

Avery currently serves as a Forest Ranger at the Weeki Wachee forestry site and as an instructor at the Withlacoochee Training Center. He has served with the Florida Forest Service since May 2005. His area of responsibility on the coastal side of Hernando and Pasco Counties has a very high concentration of wildland urban interface.

Prior to joining the department, Avery served with the City of New Port Richey Fire Rescue for 20 years. His structure and medical background is an asset to the department; he routinely goes above the call of duty and frequently assists as an instructor and as an Emergency Medical Technician. He is a regular instructor for the Emergency Medical Responder portion of Basic Fire Control Training and was instrumental in helping to deliver the inaugural class of Emergency Medical Responders.

Hill, who served 31 years in the Florida Forest Service before retiring as the Jacksonville District Manager this month, received the Resource Manager of the Year Award, which was established in 1992 to recognize employees who have made significant progress in the stewardship of state lands. He was not only a dedicated resource manager; he was also a gifted teacher. By developing and implementing an interactive education program, he shared his knowledge and passion for Florida's great outdoors with hundreds of others.

Hill oversaw all forestry operations in Clay, Duval and Nassau counties. He was the incident commander of the Florida State Interagency Gold Incident Management Team during the hurricanes in 2004 and 2005 and the Dairy Road Fire in 2007. Hill's leadership led to the first cooperative deployment of a Florida Incident Management Team and an Urban Search and Rescue Team during Hurricane Ivan, and he was involved in developing forest management plans for four new forests – Jennings, Four Creeks, Belmore and Ralph Simmons. Additionally, Hill passed on his knowledge to the next generation, developing and implementing the Teachers Tour program to provide information on forestry to public school teachers each year.

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