SIMI VALLEY – The Ventura County Fire Department chose Steve Kaufmann as Battalion 4’s Firefighter of the Year for more than just the lifesaving work he does on the job. Kaufmann has been active for years while off duty, raising money for charities, including the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Casa Pacifica home for abused children, the Make-A-Wish Foundation for children with life-threatening medical conditions and the Spark of Love toy drive for needy children. He also helped the county’s firefighters raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the families of firefighters who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Kaufmann, 38, grew up in Simi Valley and lives in Pasadena, where he is a member of the Tournament of Roses Association. He has also been a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Kaufmann has been a firefighter since 1996 and has worked for Ventura County since 1998. One of the major projects he and other local firefighters contribute to is the Fill the Boot campaign to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Firefighters across the nation have raised nearly $275 million since 1954 in this campaign. Just last December, Ventura County firefighters raised $26,000 for the effort. “I’m in a position (as a firefighter) where I see a lot of terrible things,” Kaufmann said. “It’s nice to be in a position where I can do something positive for somebody less fortunate.” Capt. Chris Johnston, who worked with Kaufmann for three years on the same firetruck in Thousand Oaks, said he was a good choice for the honor, which was bestowed Wednesday at an awards luncheon in Camarillo. “He’s extremely intelligent. He can analyze a problem and solve it fast,” Johnston said. “He’s always right in the middle of things, and he’s always been doing the fundraising, especially for the kids.” [email protected] (805) 583-7602160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “I’m just honored to be a firefighter and to serve the community, and I like to put the Fire Department in a good light in a different perspective than when the bell rings,” he said. “Charity is a way to give back to the community when I’m off duty.” Capt. Chris Mahon, president of the Ventura County Professional Firefighters union, said he has worked with Kaufmann for 10 years, at times fighting fires and at times with the union, for which Kaufmann is the charities director. “Every year he buys toys for families at shelters for the needy. He just really goes above and beyond to organize activities that bring a lot of help for people,” Mahon said. “He has done a tremendous amount of work to help the community through charity work.” Mahon recalled how Kaufmann coordinated several charity events in Ventura County that raised $450,000 to help the families of the fallen New York firefighters. “He’s energetic. He’s capable. He takes it to another level, the whole idea of public service,” Mahon said.