Role Models: Who are yours?

By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Not Chief Avsec, but it could be!

Editor’s Note:  Chief Avsec is skiing his way around the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania this week as he and Mrs. Avsec take in some R & R.  So please enjoy a column that you might have missed before with this “Take #2”.

Recently, I saw a post on LinkedIn from one of my colleagues, Janet Wilmoth, the editor of Fire Chief Magazine  [RIP, FC Magazine] and one of the staunchest supporters of firefighters in all the land.  Janet was preparing for an future speaking engagement and posed the question, “Which fire and EMS instructor has had the most positive influence on you?” 

As hard as I thought about it, I could not narrow it down to just one name, so I gave her several and told her to use them as she saw fit.  So here are just a few of the many people who’ve had an influence on my life and career in the fire and EMS business.

James O. Page

Jim Page. I had an opportunity to hear Jim speak at the Virginia EMS Symposium in Roanoke, VA where he was the keynote speaker. The voice, the message, and the passion made an indelible impression on this young fire officer who was working for a department on the verge of becoming a major Fire & EMS department, Chesterfield County. I was truly an apostle for Fire-based EMS, provided by dual trained firefighters, from that day on.

Charles “Chuck” Burkell

Charles “Chuck” Burkell and Dr. Burt Clark. The “twin sons of different mothers” have had a profound influence on me as a student at NFA, as an instructor for NFA, and as an advocate for data-driven decision-making. Words can’t describe the influence of Chuck and the Executive Fire Officer Program that he and Burt jointly “birthed” and continue to nurture.

Dr. Burt Clark

Dr. Burt Clark

Burt’s leadership on the Firefighter “Mayday” and Mandatory Seatbelt use policies helped me forge my own attitudes and passions for those subjects, and the overall subject of reducing firefighter deaths and injuries.  And, is there anyone in the fire service that’s more passionate about leadership than “Chuck” Burkell?  If so, I’ve not met them.

Gordon Graham

Gordon Graham “Predictable is preventable.”  I’ve heard him speak twice in person and numerous times via video recordings and the messages never get stale. High risk, low frequency incidents. The standard for organizational risk management–a term I first heard from Gordon.

Francis “Frank” Brannigan

Frank Brannigan. The “patron saint” of building construction and fire safety in the U.S. Fire Service. Not sure if there was anyone before Brannigan, but for my money he was surely the one who passionately spoke and wrote of the “intersection” of building construction, firefighting tactics, and firefighter safety.  Most fire people I know list Brannigan’s book, “Building Construction for the Fire Service” in their “Top 5” books that every firefighter and officer should own and read–repeatedly!

See why I couldn’t come up with just one? And trust me, the list doesn’t end with those five. I could always go on…especially about a lady who gave me

Janet Wilmoth, former Editor at the now-defunct Fire Chief Magazine

an opportunity to write for Fire Chief Magazine. It was my first freelance writing gig and my life’s never been the same since then!

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec makes his home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail, [email protected].