Engineer Zachary Pfentner of the Lexington County Fire Service was awarded the 2023 Jeffrey Vaden Chavis Medal of Valor by the SC State Firefighters’ Association (SCSFFA).
The award was presented to Pfentner on June 17, during the SCSFFA Conference in Myrtle Beach.
The Jeffrey Vaden Chavis Medal of Valor is one of the SCSFFA’s highest awards to be presented to an individual for their actions in the face of danger. The Medal of Valor is named in honor of fallen Lexington County Firefighter Jeffrey Vaden Chavis who was critically injured while battling a house fire on June 16, 2001. He fought bravely for 26 days before succumbing to his injuries. This award is dedicated to Chavis’ service, sacrifice, and spirit of valor.
The award is not presented annually and is only awarded in exceptional cases involving a hazardous performance of duties that risk the life of the individual. He is the first member of the Lexington County Fire Service (LCFS) to be awarded this prestigious honor.
On the morning of December 28, 2022, Engineer Pfentner was driving home after his shift when he noticed black smoke coming from a home. His instincts knew this column of smoke wasn’t from a chimney but from a building on fire. He called 9-1-1 as he approached the residence to report the fire and then his training took over. Pfentner ran into the burning home and saved a man who was unable to escape on his own.
“To say we are extremely proud of Engineer Pfentner would be an understatement,” LCFS Chief Mark Davis said. “His actions speak volumes about his character, and integrity, and he emboldens our motto of ‘Service Excellence’ both on the fire ground and in life.”
“There is special significance in the Jeff Chavis award as well,” Chief Davis said. “Jeff was a devoted member of the Lexington County Fire Service who gave his life serving Lexington County. Engineer Pfentner, the first LCFS member to ever receive this award, holds the same love for the Fire Service and devotion to duty as our fallen hero. Congratulations to Engineer Pfentner and his family for receiving this fitting award for your off-duty actions.”
LCFS Engineer Zachary Pfentner began his fire service journey in a small town just outside of Buffalo, New York as an Explorer. Being an Explorer was an experience that introduced him to the fire service as a potential career choice. As an Explorer, he was able to respond in the fire apparatus on emergency calls with the Volunteers which gave him a passion for caring for his fellow man.
As he got older, Pfentner worked other jobs but always maintained a love and passion for the fire service. Then on his 19th birthday, Pfentner decided to pack up everything he owned and move to South Carolina where his aunt and cousin resided. After moving to South Carolina, he learned about the Lexington County Fire Service and was excited for the opportunity to begin a career as a firefighter — a job that he loved as a teenager.
In the summer of 2017, Engineer Pfentner applied to Lexington County Recruit School 17-02. This was his first real exposure to certified fire and medical training as well as to a career fire organization. After being pinned by his father and graduating from the program, he was assigned to Fire Station 9 in the Oak Grove community of Lexington County.
Eager to learn and willing to listen, Engineer Pfentner was quickly noticed as a bright star within the organization. After probation, he was quick to sign up for classes, join the Technical Rescue Team, and work as much overtime as allowed to alleviate the burden of being short-staffed.
He made his mark within our department on the “South End” serving on a busy Squad Company based out of Station 5 in South Congaree. He would also serve as a Firefighter at Stations 12, 16, 30, and 33 until his promotion to Engineer in November 2020. He is currently assigned to Fire Station 12 where he can also perform the duties as a Captain.
Pfentner has received multiple awards during his time with LCFS including the Lexington County Fire Chiefs’ Accommodation Award, three Lexington County Life Saving Awards for resuscitation efforts of Cardiac Arrest, and the Lexington County Fire Service Meritorious Unit Award for his portion of a rescue involving a train versus pedestrian on a railway overpass.
Pfentner was also named the Lexington County Employee of the Year for 2022.
Pictured are Engineer Zachary Pfentner with members of Lexington County Fire Service, his family, and Linda and Vaden Chavis, who presents the award. Photo courtesy of Lexington County.