2020 Firefighter of the Year
Driver Engineer Mike Billek
Tampa Fire Rescue
Mike Billek attended the University of Central Florida, where he was on scholarship with the baseball team as well as receiving his degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. Alter his junior year in 2005, Billek was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the third round, where he spent three years playing as a professional major league pitcher.
In 2008 Mike Billek made a career change in which he decided to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather to become a professional firefighter. As a child. Mike grew up visiting the fire station which is where his love for the lire service began. He dreamed that one day he would work alongside his Hero, his father, on Tampa Fire Rescue. This dream became reality in 2011 and shortly before Captain Joe Billek’s retirement, the two spent a shift working together in Palma Ceia’s Station 14.
In 2009, Captain Joe Billek was diagnosed with Melanoma at the age of 49, and ultimately succumb to the deadly disease in 2012. This same year, in memory of his father, the Captain Billek Foundation was created in which Mike sits as a current board member. Over the last 7 years the foundation has set out to raise money for cancer research while providing education and prevention to the Tampa Bay Region. Driver Engineer Billek has served as the Golf Tournament Chairman, and the Billek Foundation’s Drive Fore Melanoma event has raised over $I00,000 in the past 5 years. All of the money that has been raised from these events is donated in Honor of Joe Billek to the Melanoma Research Foundation.
Earlier this year, Driver Engineer Billek traveled to Tallahassee to adorn the steps of the Capitol with empty Firefighter boots, representing a portion of the men and women of the Florida Fire Service who have been affected by Cancer. There were more than 400 sets of boots that were out on display, several of which were TFR members including his Father Captain Joseph Billek. Members of the Florida House and Senate walked through the sobering display, which ultimately put a face to the Senate Bill 426. Driver Engineer Billek conducted multiple interviews with local media outlets to bring awareness to the need of Cancer coverage for firefighters. This media coverage allowed Senate Bill 426 to ultimately pass at the end of the legislative session, giving cancer benefits to firefighters who are diagnosed with any of the 21 noted cancers related to the fire service. This Bill struggled for many years to make it out of the committee and on to the floor for a vote. The vote was unanimous across the board and as of July 1, 2019, firefighters now have Cancer benefits that will help take some of the burden off as they battle this deadly disease. DE Billck was instrumental in this campaign as he provided countless hours of his own time dedicated to providing information, research money and overall recognition of this deadly disease.
The Captain Billek Foundation has partnered with PH Dermatology, a local dermatologist, to provide skin screenings to active personnel, retirees and even family members Tampa Fire Recue free of charge. This year alone had over 80 people that participated in the screenings during the two and a half days. The people in attendance not only got a free skin cancer screening by a professional dermatologist, but they also received educational information and products to help prevent skin cancer. This life saving service is a direct result of Driver Engineer Mike Billek’s perseverance and devotion to building a working relationship with PH Dermatology.
DE Mike Billek has been busy working to promote awareness of skin cancer within the community. He still finds time to be a wonderful father to his 2 year old-daughter Kaylee, runs a successful pool cleaning business and volunteer to help his fellow co-workers with family members that afflicted with this terrible disease. He has also volunteered over 400 hours at East Lake High School as a pitching coach for the varsity baseball team. Mike is a perfect representation of what main characteristics fire fighters should possess along with his integrity and ability to be a solid role model for up and coming members of Tampa Fire Rescue.