For decades, almost since the very beginnings of the fire-protection profession, we have learned through the school of practical experience and hard knocks. Lessons learned have been passed down from old salts to new recruits.
While our fire service knowledgebase has been built depending heavily on experience, we have long been criticized for not having much research or science to back up or verify those things that we do every day. Any of us who have been in this profession for any amount of time know we have seen and experienced things that we just don't understand.
We can't tell new people why things work the way that they do, and often we can't explain what went wrong when bad things happened.
Truth be told, there has actually been a good deal of research about fire going on in academic centers around the world, but much of it has been too obscure or not communicated in a practical manner to those of us out in the world.
Over the last five to ten years, a group of dedicated fire protection engineers and scientists have emerged that I believe have done more to change the face of the fire service, through their work, than anyone else in recent history. They have led or conducted groundbreaking research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and at Underwriters Laboratories.
Perhaps more importantly, they have gone to great lengths to make sure their work is translated into language and practices, tactics and strategies that can be understood and put to work in practical ways by those of us who are out there on the fireground. They have been tireless—traveling many thousands of miles; articulate—speaking at countless fire service educational conferences; and creative—appearing in videos and webinars that have been shared worldwide.
Thanks to their work, all of us in the fire service have a much better understanding of fire behavior, fire dynamics and the practical effects and implications of how we staff our apparatus and deploy our resources.
I have absolutely no doubt that their work has reduced injuries and saved lives—of both civilians and firefighters—and will continue to change and shape firefighting practices and firefighter safety long into the future. We are long past due in recognizing and thanking them for their contributions to the fire service.
Therefore, I am pleased to present an IAFC Presidential Recognition Award, on behalf of myself and fire service leaders everywhere, to:
- Steve Kerber, director of Firefighter Safety Research Institute Underwriters Laboratories
- Dan Madrzykowski, fire protection engineer, Firefighting Technology Group, Fire Research Division, National Institute of Standards and Technology
- Jason D. Averill, Chief Materials and Structural Systems Division, Engineering Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology
The next Presidential Awards go to two men who have made enormous contributions to addressing America's wildland fire problems: Mac MacDonald and Bob Roper.
Mac MacDonald was a founding member of the IAFC Wildland Fire Policy Committee. His long and distinguished career culminated as the fire chief of Los Alamos County, N.M., where he handled large fires like the Cerro Grande, giving him vast experience in contributing to the nation's wildland fire problem and its resolution.
Chief Mac was a crucial leader in creating partnerships and representing the fire service at all levels of government.
But his best attribute is his passion. Mac's passion drives him to ensure that the IAFC is a leader and is never left behind. He listens to all sides and respects other viewpoints, which has paid great dividends. He has put in countless thousands of hours of time to enhance wildland fire policy at the national level and yet his passion has never been about him; it was about serving the IAFC and our mission.
Bob Roper has been chair of the IAFC Wildland Fire Policy Committee since 2008. Bob spent his entire career with the Ventura County (Calif.) Fire Department, where he served as chief for 15 years tackling the challenges of a large southern California county, including plane crashes, riots, earthquakes and large wildland-fire sieges.
Bob has provided great leadership at the strategic federal level, representing the local-government fire service on the Wildland Fire Leadership Council and fostering relationships with leaders at all levels of government to move wildland fire policy ahead. Through his leadership, he helped to propel the IAFC to the forefront of wildland fire policy at all levels of government and raise our profile in this ever-growing arena.
Therefore, I am pleased to present an IAFC Presidential Award, on behalf of myself and fire service leaders everywhere, to Mac MacDonald and Bob Roper.