One of the themes of my term as IAFC president is the issue of succession planning and leadership development in the fire service. We're seeing the departure of a tremendous amount of leadership knowledge, institutional memory and experience due to retirements, with not a lot being done to fill in behind those departures.
We're all paying a price for those departures now and will continue to pay that price into the future.
This subject of leadership development was brought home to me recently by the retirement of someone I believe has done more, single-handedly, to impact the current and future leadership of the fire service than anyone else in memory. Chuck Burkell, who was the face, the energy, the vision and the embodiment of the Executive Fire Officer Program (EFOP) at the National Fire Academy, retired in December after 33 years of service at the NFA—most of it focused on developing future fire service leaders through the EFOP.
The EFOP began in 1985 and since then has played a significant role in developing thousands of fire service leaders. From my own experience as a participant, I know the value of the program and the role it plays in developing fire service leaders.
Chuck has personally touched the lives and careers of each EFOP participant and we owe him a huge debt of gratitude. His personal commitment and passion has been evident from the beginning and each of us who's had the opportunity know him is better because of his presence in our lives and careers.
As with most things in life, I'm confident the EFOP will continue without Chuck at the helm. I know the U.S. Fire Administration and the NFA realize the value of the program and we'll see it continue into the future. Applications continue to pour in and interest in the program is as big as it has ever been. We'll need that continued focus on fire service leadership development at the NFA.
However, as the fire service and its challenges evolve, the knowledge, skills and abilities required of fire service leaders will change, too.
I challenge the NFA leadership to make sure that someone with a passion and commitment for fire service leadership development is put in place quickly to keep the EFOP moving forward. That the program isn't just maintained but constantly refined such that it continues to prepare fire service leaders with the knowledge, skills and ability to think that will be essential going forward.
Thank you, Chuck Burkell, on behalf of the IAFC and its members everywhere, for your extraordinary commitment to fire service leadership. You've touched thousands of us and have shaped fire service leadership for current and future generations. Your efforts have made our departments—and the fire service as a whole—better places to live, work and make a career.
Perhaps most importantly, you've reminded us of the value of humility, grace and humbleness. You've left your mark on the fire service and a legacy you can be proud of. Best wishes as you move on to the next chapter in your life.
Chief William R. Metcalf, EFO, CFO
President and Chairman of the Board