Educator of the Year Recipients

Each year the Arizona Fire and Burn Educators Association selects a Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year. 

Each individual awarded this honor has made significant contributions to Fire and Life Safety Education, demonstrated outstanding work as an educator, has been successful in increasing public awareness about safety issues, serves as a positive role model in their community and exhibits a commitment to excellence in their educational efforts.

Congratulations to all of our award winners! 

2023 | Maria "Tita" Bender

City of Casa Grande Fire Department

Martha “Tita” Bender was named as the 2023 Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year at the Arizona Fire School in September 2023.  She has been with the City of Casa Grande Fire Department for four years.

Tita continually strives to better herself, organization, and the safety of her community. Her comprehension of Community Risk Reduction principals and application has elevated the safety level of our customers. She holds a bachelor’s degree in education from NAU. Tita has also earned NFPA Fire and Life Safety Educator I,II,II, NFA Youth Firesetter Intervention Specialist, and American Heart CPR Instructor certifications.

Tita’a innovative approaches to fire and life safety have had a significant impact on her organization and community. She manages multiple annual/seasonal programs and education efforts single handedly as the only Fire Prevention Officer in our community. Her ability to identify needs, develop focused programs and lead them to a targeted goal is amazing!  These include senior fall prevention, babysitter training, water safety programs, CPR classes, fire extinguisher training, smoke alarm installations and residential cooking fire programs. She also manages annual inspections for the residential day cares. Additionally, Bender schedules and conducts classes/presentations for bicycle safety, pedestrian safety, after school safety as needs are identified throughout the year.

Tita is a vital member of her organization and community!

2022 | Amy Allen and Veronica Rubio

Northwest Fire District

This dynamic duo has 26 combined years in the fire service.  Their programs encompass car seats fire and injury prevention, and bike helmets education, senior fall prevention, water safety days, Project Safe for apartment residents, fire extinguisher training, courtesy home safety inspections and CPR instruction.

They developed a babysitter program offered to kids ages 11-15 which teaches a myriad of topics, including basic first aid, basic child care, CPR certification and life skills. The team offers mini muster program to 2nd grade students which teaches EDITH. Their Fire Pals program for elementary age students which highlight prevention and safety education. They also teach middle school students CPR and basic first aid. The middle school students also learn about the fire service, medication safety and poison control.

2021 | Krystin Bridges

Arizona Burn Foundation

Krystin Bridges was selected as the Fire and Life Safety Educator of the year in 2021.  She is a born educator and has been instrumental in the expansion of burn prevention and fire safety education in Arizona. She has formed and nurtured partnerships with fire departments throughout the state to train them in using Milo & Moxie: Smart Safety Rangers and the need for working smoke alarms in homes. She was the key person for developing the wildfire prevention education program and the Milo & Moxie App. 

Krystin is involved in burn prevention and fire safety education for children and fire and fall prevention for seniors. In addition, she leads the Community Smoke Alarm program that educates entire families on working smoke alarms ad fire safety.

During COVID, Krystin created five videos that teach children and parents how to be safe in and around the home. She was also instrumental in developing the Milo & Moxie children's education display at the Hall of Flame Museum. Finally, she was instrumental in developing the Milo & Moxie app that teaches children burn prevention and fire safety in a creative and fun manner.

2018 | Jack Emerick

Arizona Burn Foundation

Jack Emmerick  was selected for the 2018 Fire and Life Safety Educator Award  because of his dedication to helping reduce the risks of burn injuries and fire deaths among high risk audiences.  

Under his leadership the Milo & Moxie: Smart Safety Rangers program expanded significantly throughout the state and beyond this past year. More than 80,000 Arizona children were reached through this program in collaboration with 43 partner fire departments, 8 partner hospitals, and a direct mail campaign to Arizona state licensed Preschools.

He was instrumental in launching the Milo & Moxie program on a national level. He developed the training video for the program, and he was the face for marketing the program across the state. He also played a significant role in developing the concept of combining smoke alarm events with Milo & Moxie school presentations in order to increase the installation rate for smoke alarm events.

Under his leadership and in partnership with fire departments, more than 1600 free smoke alarms were installed in Maricopa County during the past year. He was also involved in presenting “Remembering When” at Phoenix senior centers throughout the year focusing on this audience that is also at high risk for burn injuries and fire deaths.

2017 | Maureen Carney

Goodyear Fire Department

Maureen Carney was selected as the 2017 Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year because of her untiring desire to learn and also her passion for serving her community.  She is always pushing to do more and continues to prove her worth daily to her fire department and her community.  She started her work with the fire department as a volunteer.  She has said that she truly believes that helping others to understand the importance of fire and life safety is her calling.

She is a Community Risk Reduction Specialist, Fire and Life Educator I certified, Child Passenger Safety Technician and a certified CPR instructor. She wanted to learn more, so when asked if she wanted try characterization, she jumped at that request. She continues to utilize those skills during Fire Pal lessons. She partnered with APS Ben FranKlown program that reaches school age children in a fun interactive way of learning electrical and fire safety.  Not only did Goodyear elementary students benefit from this wonderful program, she volunteered her time to ensure other students around the state learned the important fire and life safety messages when APS asked for her assistance.

In 2017, she wanted to better understand fire prevention and provide residents more information when asked.  She attended and passed the Arizona Fire Inspector I course with the highest test score on the exam. Even after losing a part time educator at the department, she didn’t flinch at taking on new schools and other duties as assigned — at only works 19 hours a week.

2001 - 2016

2016 | Kirk Webb

Timber Mesa Fire District

2015 | Tina Gerola

Superstition Fire & Medical 

2013 | Stacy Figueroa 

Pine-Strawberry Fire District

2012 | Tanja Tanner

Goodyear Fire Department 

2011 | Michele Long

Mesa Fire and Medical Services 

2010 | Leilani Salazar

Rio Rico Fire District 

2009 | Lori Schmidt

Scottsdale Fire Department 

2008 | Jean Machnicki

Gilbert Fire Department

2007 | Carrie Castillo-Miller

Mesa Fire Department

2006 | Greg Hernandez

Green Valley Fire District  

2005 | Tracy Koslowski

Drexel Heights Fire District 

2004 |Sarah King

Casa Grande Fire Department

2003 | Linda Kmetz

Surprise Fire Department

2002 | Randy Ogden

Tucson Fire Department

2001 | Beverly Burns

Tempe Fire Department

Thank you to all of our past recipients!

If you are interested in nominating a future Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year please submit your nomination.