Lt. Gregory Pickard’s widow accepts Ray Downey Courage and Valor award at FDIC

Susan Pickard
(1) Susan Pickard, widow of Lt. Gregory Pickard, who was posthumously named the recipient of the Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award, accepts the medal from Robert F. Biolchini, CEO of PennWell Corporation, as daughter Robin Carpenter and son and firefighter/paramedic Jacob look on. (Photos 1-3 by Tony Greco.)

Lt. Gregory Pickard, of the Bryan (TX) Fire Department (BFD), who died of the burn injuries he incurred while attempting to rescue a fellow firefighter in a fire in a social hall, was named the recipient of the 2014 Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award at the Opening Ceremony of the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) in Indianapolis in April. Lt. Pickard was part of the rapid intervention team.

“Lt. Pickard’s conspicuous act of bravery despite life-threatening conditions exemplifies the deepest nature of the firefighter,” said Robert F. Biolchini, chief executive officer of PennWell Corporation, the parent company of Fire Engineering and FDIC, “a nature that defies the most powerful human instinct for self-preservation, and so it is fitting that our most elaborate and sincere tributes are made to those who have intentionally given their lives for others, such as Lt. Pickard.”

Biolchini extended “a special thank you” to all of the firefighters present “not only for your participation during this special week but also for your loyalty to your duties throughout the year.” He noted: “Chief Ray Downey, like every one of you, often repeated during his illustrious career that he was ‘just doing his job.’ “

Fire Department of New York Battalion Chiefs Joe and Chuck Downey, Ray Downey’s sons, participated in the award presentation. Also present on the stage during the ceremony were National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Director Ron Siarnicki; National Fire Academy Alumni Association President Ron Kanterman; and Bobby Halton, editor in chief of Fire Engineering and education director of FDIC. The Downeys, Siarnicki, Kanterman, and Halton are among the members of the Courage and Valor Award selection committee.

The Downeys expressed their appreciation to Fire Engineering and PennWell for honoring their father’s memory through the establishment of the Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award and Foundation. Joe Downey, alluding to Lt. Pickard, noted: “His actions that night defy our ability to express in words his devotion, his loyalty, or his love of his fellow firefighters …. Despite the deteriorating conditions, he endeavored to rescue his fellow firefighter, Lt. Eric Wallace. His actions and those of his team exemplified the highest traditions of the fire service.”

“It is always an extremely difficult task to narrow the selection down to just one firefighter whose actions rose above all others,” explained Chuck Downey, “but in the final analysis again this year, there was one who stood above the rest.”

In his remarks, Biolchini summarized Pickard’s many attributes and actions that “correspond to those exemplified by Ray Downey and are implicit in the Courage and Valor Award.”

Pickard, who joined the BFD in 1981, was a member of the rescue team and the manager of the Texas Task Force 1 urban search and rescue team.

He is survived by his wife Susan and two children, Robin Carpenter and Jacob, who is a firefighter/paramedic with the College Station (TX) Fire Department.

Susan Pickard accepted from Biolchini the 2014 Ray Downey Courage and Valor Medal Award, along with a $35,000 check from the Fire Engineering Courage and Valor Foundation.

Line-of-Duty Deaths

March 13. Firefighter Joseph Edward Bove III, 53, Spotswood (NJ) Fire Department: cause to be determined.
March 16. Captain/EMT Wayne O’Neal Jeffers, 64, South Montgomery County Volunteer Fire Department, Ramer, AL: cause to be determined.
March 17. Assistant Chief Tom D. Stevens Sr., 59, Bright Volunteer Fire Company, Lawrenceburg, IN: apparent heart attack.
March 22. Firefighter “Lance” Edwin J. Wentzel, 57, Youngwood (PA) Volunteer Fire Department: struck by train; incident under investigation.
March 26. Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy, 33, Boston (MA) Fire Department: injuries sustained when entrapped in a residential structure fire.
March 26. Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh, 43, Boston (MA) Fire Department: injuries sustained when entrapped in a residential structure fire.
April 2. Chief George Underwood, 64, Lake (WV) Volunteer Fire Department: heart attack.
Source: USFA Firefighters Memorial Database

Ronny J. Coleman receives Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award

Ronny J. Coleman accepts the award
(2) Ronny J. Coleman accepts the award.

Ronny J. Coleman, retired state fire marshal for the State of California, was awarded the 2014 Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award at the FDIC 2014 General Session in Indianapolis in April.

“The selection of Ronny J. Coleman as the 2014 FDIC Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award recipient is an acknowledgment of what is known as a life well lived,” said FDIC Education Director Bobby Halton, who presented the award. Halton hailed Coleman as “the modern day Renaissance man; a man of letters and intellect; a man of action and compassion; and, most importantly, a gentleman and a leader.”

The recipient of numerous awards and honors in his illustrious career, Coleman noted: “Each and every award that you receive has a special place. It has been my great pleasure to interact with many of the individuals that awards are named after, and that is what gives them special significance.” Alluding to the most recent of his awards, he said, “Tom Brennan was a friend, a peer, and a mentor for many years. Having my career compared to his is an honor beyond explanation. I find this award especially important to me because of who Tom was. I can only hope that my contributions to the fire service are in some way comparable to his.”

Tom Brennan was the editor of Fire Engineering for eight years and a technical editor. He had served more than 35 years in the fire service, including more than 20 years with the Fire Department of New York and five years as chief of the Waterbury (CT) Fire Department. He was co-editor of The Fire Chief’s Handbook, Fifth Edition (Fire Engineering Books, 1995) and the recipient of the 1998 Fire Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award.

Stephen Kerber named FE/ISFSI George D. Post Instructor of the Year

(3) Stephen Kerber
(3) Stephen Kerber (center) holding award, which was copresented by (left) Chief Douglas Cline, president of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors, and (right) Diane Rothschild, FDIC conference director.

Stephen Kerber was presented with the Fire Engineering (FE)/International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI) George D. Post Instructor of the Year Award at the 2014 FDIC General Session in Indianapolis in April. Kerber, the director of the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute, has led fire service research and education in the areas of ventilation, structural collapse, and fire dynamics.

“As an engineer, it means a lot to be honored by the fire service,” Kerber told Fire Engineering. “I am blessed to be able to support the best profession in the world, and I believe the fire service can be much more effective if firefighters understand fire dynamics. We are trying to get this information to the fire service in a way that they can understand it and apply it on the fireground. Recently, there really seems to be a positive impact, and this award is motivation to keep doing what we are doing.”

The award incorporates the Training Achievement Award previously given by Fire Engineering at the FDIC and is named for George D. Post, a long-time member of the ISFSI. He was a member of the Fire Department of New York, an illustrator of fire service publications, and a developer of instructional materials. Many consider him to be the father of visual training material used to train fire service personnel around the world.

A 13-year veteran of the fire service, Kerber spent most of those years with the College Park Fire Department in Prince George’s County, Maryland, where he served in the ranks up through deputy chief. He is working on his doctorate in risk management and safety engineering at Lund University in Sweden.

Kerber looks forward to continuing his work “in demystifying for firefighters the fire dynamics on the fireground. Experience is very important,” he notes, “but without understanding fire dynamics, it is hard to learn from that experience and progress. This is the time to question everything we do, keep what works, and innovate what doesn’t.” Although firefighting is complex, he says, “with the right knowledge, we can be intelligently aggressive, save lives, and limit firefighter injuries and deaths.”

Susan R. Shepherd receives FDIC 2014 Service Award

Susan R. Shepherd
(4) FDIC Education Director Bobby Halton presents Susan R. Shepherd with the 2014 FDIC Service Award. (Photo by Rodger Birchfield.)

Susan R. Shepherd was named the 2014 Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) Service Award recipient. The honor is given to local Indianapolis-area personnel who have, over an extended period of time, demonstrated outstanding service to the FDIC. Shepherd was presented with the award at the Indianapolis Fire Department Recognition Banquet in January in Indianapolis.

Private Susan Shepherd has been with the Indianapolis (IN) Fire Department since 2000. She is assigned to Engine 24-C Shift. Shepherd is a certified engineer, hazmat technician, and peer fitness trainer. She has chaired the Ray Downey Courage and Valor Fun Run at FDIC since the run’s inception.

FDIC Education Director Bobby Halton describes Shepherd as “one of the most contagious and energetic supporters of FDIC and firefighter health and wellness.” He noted: “Her unrelenting passion to improve and support firefighter health and wellness has driven her to almost singlehandedly drive the Courage and Valor 5K Fun Run into one of the most popular and meaningful events at FDIC.”

Fire Engineering wins Jesse Neal editorial excellence award

The staff of PennWell® Corporation’s Fire Engineering magazine has been awarded a 2014 Jesse Neal for editorial excellence in business-to-business media. The winning entry was “Hurricane Sandy Response, Part 1” in the Best Theme Issue of a Magazine or Newspaper category. “Hurricane Sandy Response, Part 2” was a finalist in that category as well.

The winning entry was one of 173 finalists selected by a distinguished board of judges, including Lisa Gibbs, senior writer of Money; Harry McCracken, editor at large of Time; Ellen McGirt, senior writer of Fast Company; and Allen Wastler, managing editor of The judging panel, headed by Trevor Butterworth of selected the finalists from an original pool of 612 entries.

The Neal judges were thrilled with this piece on first response after Sandy, with one plainly stating, “To say Fire Engineering produced an indispensable account of Hurricane Sandy feels like understatement,” noted ABM, sponsor of the Neal Awards.

Fire Engineering is most appreciative of the fire service leaders/authors who participated in this series and most proud of their performances in their responses to this far-reaching and devastating storm. In their description of the winning entry, the editors of Fire Engineering noted the following:

“Responders to Sandy in New York and New Jersey wrestled with a storm that produced many challenges and ‘first-time’ crises. The unprecedented surges had them operating from ‘islands’ as breaches reconfigured the coastlines and town borders. The local mutual-aid system was virtually nonexistent as surrounding towns were fighting the same flooding conditions. A South Jersey chief reported: ‘Sandy was the toughest test our generation of firefighters has faced.’ Some responders noted the Katrina-like conditions of having ‘people trapped on second floors and in attics.’ “

In some cases, responders had to secure their own resources because the county system broke down: “All of the tabletop practices and exercises you have trained on cannot prepare you for when the system breaks down.” These in-depth issues cover Sandy before, during, and after. The lessons learned and shared will make a critical life-saving difference.

Commenting on the award, Robert Biolchini, president and CEO of PennWell, said: “The Neals are the most prestigious editorial awards in business-to-business publishing.” He extended congratulations to Editor in Chief Bobby Halton and his editorial team including Diane Rothschild, Mary Jane Dittmar, Robert Maloney, Derek Rosenfeld, Peter Prochilo, presentation editor Josh Troutman, and advisory board member/technical editor Glenn Corbett and related: “All of us at PennWell are proud of the editorial excellence and worldwide reputation of Fire Engineering.”

Fire Engineering has been the premier training magazine of the fire and emergency services for 137 years and the only paid circulation publication for the fire service.

Fire Engineering was also a finalist in the Best Web Cast Fire Talk Radio ( and Best News Coverage categories.

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