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Fire Chief of the Year Awardees Announced

Chief Thomas Bell of Greensburg, PA, Chief Brian Fennessy of Orange County, CA Honored at Fire-Rescue International (FRI)

Kansas City, MO – The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), in partnership with Pierce Manufacturing Inc., announced Volunteer Chief Thomas Bell of Greensburg (PA) Volunteer Fire Department and career Chief Brian Fennessy of the Orange County Fire Authority as the 2023 IAFC Fire Chief of the Year honorees during its annual Fire-Rescue International conference in Kansas City, MO.

A selection committee appointed by the IAFC reviewed nominations for active chiefs of departments who have shown exemplary contributions in the areas of leadership, innovation, professional development, integrity, public service, and contributions to the fire service.

With nearly 50 years of dedicated service, Chief Bell's visionary approach has brought remarkable improvements to the department and the community it serves. From humble beginnings as a Junior Firefighter to ascending the ranks, Chief Bell's leadership has been a catalyst for positive change. He skillfully led the department through a thoughtful and methodical transition, bringing in younger leaders with a passion for building a dynamic fire department. Chief Bell's strategic reorganization of leadership positions, implementation of training programs, and emphasis on community engagement have invigorated the department and garnered support from both members and the public.

Chief Bell's commitment to fostering a culture of inclusivity and respect within the department led to the implementation of a mandatory 'Dignity Statement' policy, addressing harassment and bullying head-on. The success of this policy further solidified the department's bond with the community. Additionally, his dedication to nurturing the Junior Firefighter Program has resulted in a vibrant and engaged group of young firefighters, fostering a sense of pride and community involvement. Under Chief Bell's guidance, the department has seen significant operational improvements, including the development of community programs, enhanced training for officers, and a focus on firefighter safety. His exceptional leadership and transformative initiatives have had a profound impact on the department's response capabilities and overall community betterment. The IAFC Chief of the Year recognition is a testament to Chief Tom Bell's unwavering dedication to the fire service and his exceptional contributions to the Greensburg Volunteer Fire Department.

Chief Fennessy's nearly 50-year journey in the fire service, from a hotshot and helitack captain to a transformative leader, has garnered this esteemed accolade. Throughout his tenure, Chief Fennessy has been an unwavering advocate and change agent for the fire service. As the Fire Chief for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department and currently for the OCFA, his leadership has positively influenced myriad fire service arenas. From implementing innovative technology, aerial resources, and real-time intelligence systems to elevating mental and behavioral health, diversity, and inclusion in the fire service, Chief Fennessy's contributions have left an indelible mark on the profession.

Under his visionary guidance, OCFA's Quick Reaction Force (QRF) — a groundbreaking public-private partnership with Southern California Edison — has revolutionized wildfire response. The QRF fleet, including CH-47 helitankers and intelligence helicopters, made over 2,200 drops, preventing new wildfires from exceeding 10 acres, 95 percent of the time. Additionally, Chief Fennessy has been instrumental in fostering diversity and inclusion within the OCFA through pioneering initiatives and programs. Chief Fennessy's remarkable contributions to the fire service have earned him the IAFC Chief of the Year recognition, a testament to his enduring commitment and dedication to making a lasting impact on the fire service community.

You can learn more about the IAFC Fire Chief of the Year Awards here.

Pete Piringer / ppiringer@iafc.org

About the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)
The IAFC represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders worldwide. IAFC members are the world's leading experts in firefighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous materials response, natural disasters, search and rescue, and public safety legislation. Since 1873, the IAFC has provided a forum for its members to exchange ideas, develop professionally and uncover the latest best practices and services available for first responders. In 2023, the IAFC proudly commemorates its 150th anniversary.

About Pierce Manufacturing
Pierce Manufacturing Inc., an Oshkosh Corporation [NYSE: OSK] company, is the leading North American manufacturer of custom fire apparatus. Products include custom and commercial pumpers, aerials, rescue trucks, wildland trucks, mini pumpers, elliptical tankers, and homeland security apparatus. In addition, Pierce designs its own foam systems and was the first company to introduce frontal airbags and the Side Roll Protection system to fire apparatus. Learn more about Pierce.

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