Engine Company, Firefighting, Leadership

Committed to the Mission: Chief Halton Opens FDIC General Session

In his speech at FDIC 2010, Chief Bobby Halton exhorted members of the fire service to rededicate themselves to its core mission of protecting others. Halton, the education director of FDIC and editor in chief of Fire Engineering magazine, compared the fire service to a rudderless aircraft carrier–a powerful force for good adrift, being blown off course by a hurricane of popular social trends.

Halton stated that what is needed to right the course of fire service is not leadership, funding, or even politics, but rather a common vision that is embraced by firefighters of all ranks. Reaching back to the American Revolution and the ideals that inspired it, Halton recounted the history of Thomas Paine, whose books “Common Sense” and “The Crisis” succinctly captured the fundamental beliefs of and helped precipitate the American Revolution, and subsequently the French Revolution.

Halton compared Paine’s values to those stated in the original issue of the Fireman’s Journal (the magazine which became the modern Fire Engineering), and in particular the simple tagline “Devoted to the interests of the firemen of the country.” Although the personal history of the original editors, Y.P. Everett and Clifford Thomson, is not remembered, the ideals they espoused still inspire firefighters today.

“Now in the moment to embrace again the commander’s intent of the fire service,” Halton said. “The mission of the fire service is not about death, or self-preservation. The mission of the fire service is about answering the highest moral calling that God has asked of any man: that we be our brothers’ keepers, that we live a life of devotion to the welfare of others.”

Halton reiterated that the fire service has the opportunity to change the operational/fireground behavior of firefighters across North America, but that first it must embrace this commanders intention, namely that every community deserves to be protected by well-trained, well-equipped and dedicated firefighters.