With just 43 firefighters, the Fort Meade Department of Fire and Emergency Services responds to emergencies on and off post, provides safety training to residents and performs community service to benefit local charities.

For its tireless work, the Fire Department was named the Department of the Army's Small Fire Department of the Year for 2011.

The announcement was made July 17 by John Erichsen, director of Army Fire and Emergency Services.

"It's a great way to tell the guys we did a great job," Fort Meade Fire Chief E.J. Rouvet said of the recognition.

A trophy will be presented to the Fort Meade Fire Department in a ceremony at the Pentagon. The date has not yet been set.

The department will now compete against the other service branches in the DoD-level competition. Fire chiefs from the International Association of Fire Chiefs will judge the submissions. Results are expected next month.

The Fire Department initially won at the Installation Management Command level on May 23 after submitting a nomination package listing its accomplishments from January through December 2011.

"We were very active that year -- the earthquake, Hurricane Irene," said Rouvet, Fort Meade's fire chief since 2007. "We had instances where we could show how well we performed."

The document was accompanied by a letter of recommendation from Garrison Commander Col. Edward C. Rothstein.

"It's an awesome recognition," Rothstein said when notified of the announcement. "It's a confirmation of the Fire Department's hard work and dedication to service."

Winning packages are based on a point system, said Gerald Adams, fire protection specialist for Headquarters IMCOM at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.

"Once IMCOM got the packages, IMCOM convened a board of the San Antonio City Fire Department to judge submissions," Adams said. "They judged the packages and sent the winners to IMCOM, who sent the packages to the Department of the Army."

The DOA selection committee subsequently reviewed nomination packages submitted by IMCOM as well as Army Mobility Command, the Army National Guard, Army Reserve and other Army fire organizations, said Adams.

The cutoff for the category of small fire department is three companies, or rigs. "That's what we have," Rouvet said.

In its nomination package, the Fire Department listed its achievements beneath the motto: "We protect those who serve."

* We provide life-saving support to 258,000 military and their families, retirees, civilians, contractors, 2994 residences, seven schools, four Child Development Centers, 87 tenant organizations.

* The department provides suppression/HAZMAT/prevention guidance to federal agencies nationwide.

* Nine firefighters were awarded Department of the Army Achievement Medals for Civilian Service for lives saved at many incidents.

* The department responded to 2,400 emergencies on post and outside the Fort Meade gates in Anne Arundel County.

* Community Emergency Response Teams: training residents to respond to large-scale incidents

* Participates in the annual Polar Bear Plunge to benefit the Maryland Special Olympics

* Forward leaning! Utilizing Facebook to spread fire safety message, simultaneously receiving program feedback

* 9/11 ceremony and post run to remember both fallen firefighters and military

* Secret Santa: Adopted two families of deployed members - raised funds/provided dinner, fuel and presents

The Army recognition follows an array of honors for the Fort Meade Fire Department.

The department was recognized as the Army's Small Fire Department of the Year for the Northeast Region Office for both 2007 and 2006.

Keith Stumpf was named NERO Army Firefighter of the Year for 2010.

Fort Meade Fire Chief Officer Jeff Clark was named NERO's Fire Officer of the Year for 2007.

William "Jeremy" Magers was named Civilian Firefighter of the Year for 2007. Timothy Massey was named Civilian Firefighter of the Year in 2009.

Department personnel includes 34 firefighters, five chief officers and four fire inspectors.

"Everyone can ride trucks and perform firefighting duties, if needed," said Rouvet, a retired Air Force master sergeant who served 30 years.

The department also responds to incidents outside the gates, from vehicular accidents to house fires.

"We work hand-in-hand with the Anne Arundel County Fire Department," Rouvet said. "If we're first on the scene of a fire, we'll be the first to fight the fire, ventilate the room, perform rescue. Firefighters are firefighters are firefighters. We show up on the scene and work with whomever we need to."

The Fort Meade Fire Department is divided into seven crews. There are 14 to 15 firefighters per duty day: three crews plus one dispatcher and one chief officer. Crews work two 24-hour shifts and then are off duty for 72 continuous hours.

After the department was notified of the IMCOM win in May, Rouvet treated three crews to lunch and another three crews to dinner.

"I bought the ingredients for them to cook the meal," Rouvet said. "We always eat together at the firehouse."