Firefighter of the Year Award

Lt. Tom Christensen, a 24-year veteran of the Waukegan, Ill., Fire Department, has been named "Firefighter of the Year" by The American Legion. The honor was bestowed upon Christensen, a lifelong Waukegan resident, at the organization’s annual national convention in Indianapolis on Aug. 29.

Christensen was recognized by the Legion for his dedication to public service and for his heroism. He currently serves as the Waukegan Fire Department Bomb Team’s Coordinator, which provides protection for more than 800,000 residents in two counties, and he teaches fire safety as an associate instructor at the University of New Mexico. He has also been credentialed by the FBI as a bomb team lead instructor and devotes about 20 non-paid, off-duty hours a month to team training and education.

Christensen is a highly trained Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team member. USAR teams locate, extricate and stabilize persons trapped in confined spaces during fires, structural collapses and other natural and manmade disasters.

Christensen and his firefighting crew were awarded a Medal of Valor from the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office for their lifesaving rescue and resuscitation of a child during an August 2010 house fire.

Besides receiving this latest honor by The American Legion’s national leadership, Christensen was formerly named both "Firefighter of the Year" and "Fire Officer of the Year" by the Exchange Club of Waukegan.