(10-12-21) The Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety (BHDPS) has received the 2021 Leland Gayheart Prevention Award. Leland Gayheart was a 23-year-old firefighter who lost his life due to a devastating burn injury in 1991. As a tribute, the Leland Gayheart Prevention Award was created to encourage prevention programs within local fire departments. An honorarium is awarded annually to fire departments whose innovative efforts have demonstrated a community impact on fire prevention and safety. This award is presented in a joint effort by the Gayheart family and the University of Michigan Trauma Burn Center. This prestigious award includes an honorarium and a plaque.

During 2020, BHDPS installed over 1100 smoke alarms throughout the Benton Harbor community, through a partnership with MI-Prevention and the Sound-Off Program. Benton Harbor was the #1 city in the state of Michigan for smoke alarms installed in 2020.


The winner of the 2021 Leland Gayheart Prevention Award is the Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety for their smoke/CO alarm installation and Sound Off program. 


  • 2020 Hopkins Area Fire Department for its Community Fire Prevention programs
  • 2020 Hartland Deerfield Fire Authority(link is external) for its Fire Safety Squad program
  • 2018 Saginaw Fire Department – Carbon Monoxide Alarm Installation Program(link is external)
  • 2017 Dearborn Heights Fire Department –  Residential Outreach Program(link is external)
  • 2016 Rochester Hills Fire Department – Kindergarten Fire Safety & Prevention Program
  • 2015 City of Three Rivers Fire Department – Fire Prevention in the Schools Program
  • 2014 Orion Township Fire Department – Safety through Social Media program
  • 2013 Grand Rapids Fire Department – Outstanding work in prevention
  • 2012 Brighton Area Fire Authority – Smoke Alarm Installation Campaign
  • 2011 Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department – Special Needs Outreach
  • 2010 Farmington Hills Fire Department – Project “Hot Stove,” teaching do’s & don’ts in the kitchen
  • 2009 Michigan Fire Inspectors Society – Fire Prevention Calendar
  • 2008 Oakland Community College Fire Training – Flashover Survival Training Program for firefighters
  • 2008 Bloomfield Township Fire Department – Fire safety and injury prevention in schools
  • 2006 Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department – Juvenile Firesetter Program
  • 2006 Marquette Fire Department – Juvenile Firesetter Program
  • 2005 Roseville Fire Department
  • 2004 City of Taylor Fire Department
  • 2003 Melvindale Fire Department
  • 2003 Dearborn Heights Fire Department
  • 2003 Rochester Hills Fire Department
  • 2003 Tittabawassee Fire Department
  • 2002 Monroe Fire Department
  • 2001 Brighton Fire Department
  • 2001 Ferndale Fire Department
  • 2000 Grand Junction Fire Department
  • 2000 Livonia Fire Department
  • 1999 Harper Woods Fire Department

While many departments suspended fire prevention programs in 2020 due to COVID-19, BHDPS
worked harder than ever to promote fire prevention and safety to our citizens. With citizens being
quarantined at home for months, and children also being home from school, the department recognized
the need to have working smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in the homes of our residents.
On-duty Public Safety Officers installed smoke and CO alarms in homes. Additionally, the department
partnered with several organizations during food drives to get these detectors out to our community.

A personal heart-felt note from Leland Gayheart’s family was included with the award and read,

“The family of Leland Gayheart would like to congratulate the Benton Harbor Department of Public
Safety on receiving the Leland Gayheart Prevention Award for 2021. Even during challenging pandemic
times, you found ways to continue installing life-saving devices. That’s what fire departments firefighters
are all about. You have truly honored Lee’s memory, and for that we especially thank you.”

If any member of the Benton Harbor Community needs working smoke or CO alarms please
contact Fire Marshal Brian Kazmierzak at 269-443-1027 or via email at bkazmierzak@bhcity.us.
Release Date: