APEX — Firefighters might conjure images of heroes running into burning buildings to put out flames and save the people inside.
As a deputy fire marshal, David Dillon doesn’t see much of that kind of action anymore. Instead, he tries to keep fires from happening in the first place.
“It’s hard to quantify a good fire marshal,” said Dillon, 42. “It’s the lack of people having injuries and fires that shows I am dong my job.”
Dillon was recognized for his efforts by being named the 2014 North Carolina Firefighter of the Year by the American Legion Department of North Carolina.
Apex American Legion Post 124 nominated Dillon for the award. He was selected from among nominees from 300 posts across the state.
Dillon said he couldn’t believe it when he heard the news.
“I just thought, ‘For real? It’s got my name on there?’ ” he said.
Dillon has worked in the fire industry for 25 years, getting involved after he graduated from Broughton High School in Raleigh.
“I come from a family of military and an uncle in the firefighting service,” he said. “I always had an interest in helping the community.”
Dillon went on to attend N.C. State and has studied at the National Fire Academy.
He worked in Cary and Smithfield as a fire inspector before settling in Apex. In addition to being deputy fire marshal, he also works as assistant fire chief for the Durham Highway Fire Department and as chairman of Safe Kids Wake County, a nonprofit geared toward child safety.
“Dillon was nominated for his performance and his service to the community,” said Mike Sayers, commander of the American Legion post in Apex.
Dillon’s son isn’t sure he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps, but he’s only 3.
“The most current thing he wanted to be was a heavy equipment operator,” Dillon said, laughing. “He saw a guy working machinery and was like, ‘That looks like fun! I want that to be me!’ ”
Maybe the toddler will change his mind one day. After all, his dad thinks being a fire marshal is one of the greatest jobs in the world.
“The most rewarding part about fire service for me is knowing someone has called you on the worst day of their life and you go and make a difference, hoping for the better,” Dillon said.
Wanbaugh: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @TaylorWanbaugh