The staff of Fire Engineering/FDIC International is saddened by the passing of our longtime magazine and Web author and instructor Gregory Havel.
Havel had more than 30 years of experience in the fire service, facilities management, and building construction. He retired as deputy chief from the Burlington (WI) Fire Department. He was an instructor at Gateway Technical College and the safety director for Scherrer Construction Co. He was a Wisconsin-certified fire officer, inspector, and instructor. He contributed to Fire Engineering and other fire service-related publications as well as authored a long-running monthly column, “Construction Concerns,” on FireEngineering.com.
He was an official member of the “Construction Geeks,” who met and compared notes on construction concerns and new techniques at FDIC International each year as well as kept up on the latest construction news informally through phone calls and e-mails.
Fire Engineering Technical Editor Captain Bill Gustin, Miami-Dade (FL) Fire Rescue, a longtime friend and colleague of Havel’s, remarked, “I am very proud to have been a friend and student of Greg Havel. God only knows how many firefighter deaths and injuries Greg prevented by educating the fire service in his “Construction Concerns” columns. Greg was extremely qualified to write the column because he had extensive experience in both the fire service and the construction industry. He was a subject matter expert on building construction and in utilities and building systems such as electrical and HVAC. Greg was extremely humble; he never acted like the smartest guy in the room, even though he was. Greg was an excellent instructor at FDIC because he could explain complex construction methods and complicated load-bearing and transfer concepts in terms that firefighters without a degree in engineering could understand. Greg was a mentor to me and dozens of other firefighters who were fortunate to have him as a friend, and we are all smarter and safer fire officers because of him.”
Fire Engineering Technical Editor Glenn Corbett, Associate Professor of Fire Science, John Jay College, said, “As a ‘construction geek,’ I always enjoyed our back and forth discussions on a variety of recent fires and the related construction materials. He had an amazing in-depth knowledge of building construction and an enormous building photo collection to go with it. Greg had an enormous impact on firefighter safety through his never-ending set of articles, loaded with detail and images. He will be missed by not only those of us who knew him personally but also those who followed his writings.”
Captain (Ret.) Mike Dugan, Fire Department of New York, said, “Greg Havel was a truly wonderful human being. He was a man of faith and a man of knowledge. His knowledge and understanding of building construction were second to none. The great thing about Greg was that he was willing to share this knowledge with any and all! All you had to do was ask. He was part of a group that I proudly belong to called the “Construction Geeks.” We would get e-mails or send e-mails to one another of pictures of new buildings and construction types. His knowledge and understanding of these buildings and the way they impacted our safety will continue for a long time. He was a good man and was an asset to the fire service. Godspeed, my friend!”
Station Officer Philip PAFF AFSM MIFireE CFO, Queensland, Australia, said, “Small in stature, quietly spoken, but with a fire in his belly, Greg not only broadened our knowledge of building construction, but he helped cast a light onto related issues that affected firefighter safety. Through his writing, he helped us to be more professional. His reach and influence cannot be understated. As a firefighter from Australia, I would like to think I am just one example that’s proof of that. Greg wasn’t just good for the American fire service; he was good for the fire service as a whole. Greg was the gentleman’s gentleman, and I am thankful to him for his knowledge, advice, and friendship and to his family for sharing him with us.”
Lieutenant Samuel Hittle, Wichita (KS) Fire Department, said, “Greg Havel’s contributions to the fire service will be remembered. During his time as a guardian of this noble profession, we all drank from the proverbial fire hydrant of his construction knowledge. He gave us a consistent and all-encompassing insight to old, new, and infrequent encounters we face during our fires. His willingness to look out for us has enhanced our ability to look out for them.”
James Johnson, Firefighter, Canada, remarked, “This morning, as I heard the heartbreaking news of Greg Havel’s passing, I reflected on my introduction to Greg’s work through his ‘Construction Concerns’ articles. As a young apprentice carpenter and on-call firefighter, I was immediately captivated by Greg’s work. Through his writing, he allowed me to realize how important it was for firefighters to understanding building construction, and it also provided me with a confirmation that I was on the correct path to my dream of becoming a career firefighter by completing my apprenticeship as a carpenter. Every month, when Fire Engineering would arrive, I would immediately look to see if there was a “Construction Concerns” article inside and would be beyond excited to read each word.
“Much like the work of Francis Brannigan, Greg was a strong advocate for bringing together the construction industry and the fire service and worked tirelessly to ensure that we are all speaking the same language. I always appreciated how technically accurate his writing was, yet he always managed to make it accessible for readers of all experience levels.
“Fast forward 10 years: I had now completed my apprenticeship as a Journeyman Carpenter, I obtained my dream job as a career firefighter in an urban city, and I was gearing up for my first year teaching at FDIC in Indianapolis. Leading up to FDIC, I had received some strong opposition from the construction industry regarding the content of my class, and I was informed that this particular industry was going to be sending representatives to attend. I hadn’t met Greg at this point, but he reached out to me and said that he would be attending my class. It was really reassuring for me to know that guys like Greg, Glenn Corbett, and Bill Gustin would all be attending my class in support. From the moment I met Greg, we hit it off immediately and became great friends. He was always there to send support, bounce an idea off of, and I would always look forward to his e-mails about the latest building construction product on the market.
“This past year at FDIC, Greg and Bill Gustin sent out an e-mail invitation to our ‘Construction Geeks’ group for a dinner that they would be co-hosting. This dinner was filled with laughs, ball busting, and of course plenty of building construction conversation. I know everyone who attended that dinner will cherish this memory as much as I will.
“Just a few weeks ago, I was informed that Greg was sick and in hospice care. I immediately got the number to the hospital and called and talk to Greg. I told him about how much of an impact his articles have had on the fire service and that I am sure there are firefighters alive and uninjured today because of his information. At the end of our last conversation, I told him I loved him, and we agreed that we would see each other in just a few months at FDIC.
“Greg was an amazing man and lived an incredible life. He selflessly poured thousands of hours into writing on the topic of building construction to help keep firefighters informed and ultimately safer on the fireground. He has had a profound impact on my career and the work that I now do teaching and writing about building construction. He will forever be a brother, mentor, and friend and will be greatly missed.”
FDIC Education Director/Fire Engineering Editor in Chief Bobby Halton, remarked, “With the utmost respect and in memory of my dear friend, I would offer these few words: The fire service was a better place for having had Greg Havel in it. Greg truly loved sharing his passion for building construction and fire safety, codes, and the nuances of building materials. Greg was always curious about how buildings and their components were put together. How that construction element he was investigating or writing about could possibly affect us when the ravages of fire would tear through a building.
“That interest was not an insignificant thing; it truly was one of the most important aspects of a firefighter’s education and foundation of necessary knowledge in order to make intelligent and well-founded decisions during our fire.
“Greg did not boast. Greg never had a mean word for anyone. Greg never was a bully. Greg never demanded attention. Greg didn’t need anyone else’s affirmation. Greg was confident and kind, he was soft-spoken and intelligent, he was caring and empathetic. Greg represented himself, his affiliations, and organizations at all times with the utmost dignity and unceasingly met the highest standards.
“In John Donne’s Meditation 17, he reminded us: ‘no man is an island … any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.’
“Today the entire fire service is like a clod washed into the sea, as Donne would say; the continent of the fire service is less today. Godspeed, Greg.”
Arrangements for Brother Gregory Havel, Franciscan brother, at:
5-7 p.m., Sunday, February 10, 2019 and 9:30-10:30 a.m. Monday, February 11, 2019
Mass of Christian Burial
Monday, February 11, 2019 at 10:30 a.m.
St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church
305 1st Street
Waterford, WI 53185
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