MOBILE COUNTY, Ala. (WKRG) — Imagine going from your regular job to another one where your focus is saving lives and keeping the community safe. It’s an everyday reality for volunteer firefighters and for August our Smiles Behind The Shield award honors a volunteer Fire Chief who’s making a big difference in his community.

Silverhill Volunteer Fire Chief Josh Rice first pulled up to a fire station nearly two decades ago. “I started when I was 18. I joined the department,” said Rice.

And he never looked back. “It’s nice to give back to the community. You know, it really is. And I can learn and teach others and use that knowledge to just give back,” said Rice.

The National Volunteer Fire Council reports volunteers make up more than half of all firefighters in the United States, and in the last 30 years, the number of calls has tripled.

“There are few alike, like Chief Rice. Chief Rice will ask you to do something. If you tell him you don’t know how, he’s not going to get mad at you. He’s going to say, come on, let me show you,” said Silverhill Volunteer Firefighter Robert Zeagler.

Robert Zeagler said Rice inspires firefighters like him to become better leaders which is one of the reasons why he nominated his chief for our Smiles Behind the Shield Award.

“This past year, year and a half ago, I took an instructor class because I wanted to be able to teach like Chief Rice does, to teach my guys what I know,” said Zeagler.

It’s not just Rice’s efforts at the department, he also makes it a priority to help keep kids safe when it’s time to go back to class. “Come school time, he makes an effort to make sure our truck is out by the road to slow down traffic, make sure our children are safe in this community,” said Zeagler.