As a child growing up in Birmingham, Ala., York City Firefighter Will Collins would watch fire trucks roar by with sirens wailing and tell himself that someday, he'd be riding on one.

"Every child dreams of that," he said.

Collins, 47, eventually realized his dream, but only after a 10-year stint in the Marine Corps that ended in 1994, followed by a few years as a U.S. Postal Service mailman.

He's been a city firefighter for more than 17 years now, and on Thursday was named York City's 2013 firefighter of the year.

As York City Fire Chief David Michaels announced Collins' name at Thursday's annual firefighter awards ceremony, firefighters in the room led a standing ovation for him.

Adam Deardorff, 4-1/2, left, and Sophia, 3, hug their dad, Assistant York City Fire Chief Chad Deardorff, after pinning his gold badge to his uniform
Adam Deardorff, 4-1/2, left, and Sophia, 3, hug their dad, Assistant York City Fire Chief Chad Deardorff, after pinning his gold badge to his uniform during the York City Fire Services annual awards ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. (John A. Pavoncello)

Check out our photo gallery from the event.

Collins' family — wife Kaji Collins, two sons and mother Cynthia Pettiford of Birmingham — beamed proudly as firefighters cheered.

"I feel honored that the members have accepted me," he said afterward, adding he expected the rest of his day to be "just like every day."

"We do whatever is asked of us," Collins said.

Multi-tasker: The fire department got a bonus when it hired Collins in 1997, because the Marine Corps trained him to operate and maintain heavy equipment. Collins uses his "key mechanical insights" to help maintain the department's fleet of vehicles, Michaels said.

Over the years, Collins has been recognized by the city for his heroic efforts fighting fires, including "the dramatic rescue of a child" from a burning building on South George Street in 1999, the chief said.

Collins acts as a mentor to younger firefighters and serves on a committee that provides food to military veterans on Thanksgiving, according to Michaels.

Of everything he does, Collins enjoys going into burning buildings the most.

"That's my passion," he said. "The adrenaline gets flowing. ... When I come to work, I'm ready for anything."

Promotion: Also at Thursday's awards ceremony, city Fire Capt. Chad Deardorff was promoted to assistant chief.

Hired in 1995, Deardorff became a fire captain in 2009. Over the years he has earned a number of awards for his work, including being named officer of the year in 2005, according to Michaels.

His duties include serving as the fire department's training officer and EMS officer.

Deardorff's new badge was pinned on him by 4-1/2-year-old son Adam, as 3-year-old daughter Sophia looked on.

Century of knowledge: Also honored Thursday were four recently retired firefighters, who between them gave 96 years of service to the city fire department.

Assistant Fire Chief Larry Shroyer retired Aug. 6. He spent more than 34 years as a paid firefighter but volunteered with the department before that, according to Michaels.

The Air Force veteran — and son of retired York City firefighter William Shroyer — was hired in 1980, promoted to lieutenant in 2000 and made assistant chief in 2009. During that time he has been honored with numerous awards, including a chief's commendation in 1987 for his efforts in rescuing five people trapped in a burning Jefferson Avenue home.

Firefighters Terry Newcomer, Jason Rhoades and Gordy Myers all were hired Aug. 23, 1993, and all retired within a few weeks of each other earlier this year after 20-1/2 years of service, Michaels said.

Jason Rhoades is an Army veteran who worked in the department's fire-prevention unit.

Still responding: Newcomer and Myers also started as volunteer firefighters with the city before being hired, and both won awards for outstanding performance, including for the Feb. 2, 2013, arson blaze at the Rodeway Inn on North George Street.

Myers was named firefighter of the year in 2000, Michaels said.

A few minutes after Thursday's ceremony ended, city fire crews were called to a garage fire at a Parkway Boulevard home. Both Shroyer and Myers responded straight from City Hall, with their wives in tow.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at