The fire service has had smart, experienced, bold leaders at the helm since the first splash of water snuffed out the first blaze of fire.
The IAFC is fortunate to have called many of them as members over its 140 years: John Damrell. Eyre Massey Shaw. Anne "Nancy" Crawford. Allen Holst. James O. Page. John Eversole. Though they're now gone, we still follow the legacies they left behind.
But where will the next leaders come from?
Will their education be supported by the U.S. National Fire Academy or the IAFC Foundation?
Will they be introduced to firefighting and leadership skills as teens through the national Explorers program or the growing number of regional camps for young women, like Arizona’s Camp Fury?
Will they seek to follow a career-long path of learning, such as through the IAFC’s Officer Development Program? Will they achieve the pinnacle of accreditation through the Center for Public Safety Excellence?
Will they come from innovative volunteer recruitment and retention programs that combine local, state, national and industry collaboration like Connecticut and Virginia’s Workforce Solutions Programs?
Will new leaders be educated through resident firefighter programs, like in Sandoval County (N.M.) Fire Department, or internship programs like the one sponsored by the Mid-County Fire Protection District in Missouri?
How about the IAFC mentoring program, started just last month, where chiefs are volunteering their time and expertise to company officers who aspire to be future leaders?
The truth is, it has and always will take a combination of these things to educate leaders and have the cream of the crop rise to the top. That’s why IAFC members have spent the last 140 years shaping the opportunities above and so many more.
While current leaders are gaining experience through a combination of training, experience and mentoring, future leaders are out there, waiting to take over. So long as this industry needs leaders—and it always will—the IAFC will continue to stay ahead of the curve on educating and recruiting them.