Announcing the 2023 Fire Chiefs of the Year recipients

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Pierce and IAFC recognise outstanding Fire Chiefs

In collaboration with Pierce Manufacturing, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) unveiled the 2023 IAFC Fire Chief of the Year honourees.

The awards ceremony took place at Fire-Rescue International in Kansas City, Missouri, on 16 August.

Volunteer and Career Fire Chiefs celebrated since 1996

Since its inception in 1996, the IAFC annually honours both a volunteer and a career fire chief.

A specially chosen committee by the IAFC evaluates nominations.

The criteria for the accolades encompass significant contributions in leadership, innovation, professional growth, integrity, and public service.

This year, Volunteer Fire Chief Thomas Bell of the Greensburg Volunteer Fire Department in Pennsylvania and Career Fire Chief Brian Fennessy of the Orange County Fire Authority in California received the awards.

On this special occasion, Bob Schulz, president of Pierce Manufacturing, stated: “We are honoured to celebrate the commitment and dedication of these outstanding fire service leaders.

“Chief Fennessy and Chief Bell are more than just fire service professionals: they are community pillars and mentors for future generations.

“Pierce Manufacturing is proud to acknowledge their irreplaceable contributions.”

Spotlight on Volunteer Fire Chief – Thomas Bell

Having dedicated over 30 years to fire service, Chief Thomas Bell’s leadership is characterised by hard work and result-driven strategies.

Chief Bell’s tenure marked a significant time in the Greensburg Volunteer Fire Department’s evolution.

Under his direction, the department underwent a transformative phase, prioritising teamwork, skill, and foundational values.

He introduced the ‘Dignity Statement’ policy, which highlights mutual respect and zero tolerance for harassment and bullying.

Such a policy, reinforced by mandatory training, resonated deeply within the community.

Among his other achievements are the rejuvenation of the Junior Firefighter Program which saw a surge in participation, igniting a renewed passion for service among veteran firefighters

Operational enhancements, including: The Red X Program to identify hazardous buildings; A nightly rotating Command Officer shift; Post-fire laundry services for bunker gear; and compulsory radio command and protocol training.

Highlighting Career Fire Chief – Brian Fennessy

Chief Brian Fennessy’s nearly fifty-year career stands testament to his innovative leadership in the fire service realm.

His journey began as a helitack captain for the U.S. Forest Service, leading him to prestigious roles, including that of the fire chief for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department and most recently the OCFA.

Chief Fennessy’s vast contributions span incident response, firefighter health, diversity, and grant activity.

His recent securing of significant funding for the Wildland Hand Crew Station and vegetation management initiatives underscores his forward-looking vision.

Notably, the Fire Integrated Real-Time Intelligence System (FIRIS), initiated in 2017, stands out among his projects.

Thanks to the success of FIRIS, it gained $30 million state funding last year, marking it a crucial tool for wildfire intelligence in California.

A few more of his achievements include: Launching the Quick Reaction Force in partnership with Southern California Edison; Initiating various initiatives at OCFA, emphasising diversity and health; Receiving accolades like Fire Chief of the Year by the California Fire Chiefs Association; and being named as one of the nation’s “Top 25 Doers, Dreamers, and Drivers”.

Both Chiefs Thomas Bell and Brian Fennessy’s extraordinary dedication and vision make them fitting recipients of the 2023 IAFC Fire Chief of the Year award.

For additional details about Pierce Manufacturing and the IAFC Fire Chief of the Year award, kindly visit their official site.

IFSJ Comment

Recognising the accomplishments of individuals who make significant strides in fire safety provides an opportunity for reflection and inspiration.

The annual Fire Chief of the Year award is more than just an accolade – it’s a testament to the evolving nature of the fire safety profession.

By acknowledging the exceptional efforts of individuals like Chiefs Thomas Bell and Brian Fennessy, we offer a glimpse into the future of fire safety, shaped by innovation, dedication, and unwavering commitment.

About Pierce Manufacturing

Pierce Manufacturing, a subsidiary of Oshkosh Corporation, is a renowned name in the fire apparatus industry.

With a legacy of innovation and reliability, Pierce is committed to delivering top-tier fire and rescue apparatus, underpinned by unrivalled customer support and service.

Their collaboration with institutions like the IAFC exemplifies their commitment to supporting and uplifting the fire safety community globally.

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