The staff of FDIC International is sad to announce that Chris Pepler, a longtime FDIC instructor and radio show host on www.fireeengineering.com, lost his valiant fight against cancer this morning. Pepler had more than 20 years in the fire service and was the deputy chief of operations for the Torrington (CT) Fire Department. He was an instructor at the Wolcott State Fire Training School, part of the National Fire Protection Association’s Electric Vehicle Safety Training program, and a subject matter expert for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Electric Vehicle Safety Training program. He was the director of training for Emergency Training Solutions (ETS), LLC. He was part of the ETS team that produced the PowerPoint companion materials for Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I and II. He co-authored the Tactical Perspectives, Fire Attack video series with Frank Ricci (Fire Engineering) and contributed to the Ventilation, Search, Command and Calling the Mayday video series. He assisted in the production of the John Norman DVD series Strategies and Tactics. He co-hosted the Fire Engineering Blog Talk Radio show “Politics and Tactics” with Frank Ricci.
Being a firefighter was Pepler’s dream since childhood: “My goal since I was four years old, in Torrington, was to be a firefighter,” said Pepler when he was promoted to deputy chief. “The fire department came to my school in kindergarten and I had my picture on the front page of the newspaper squirting the hose and I said to my parents that I want to be a firefighter–no different than anybody else, only I stuck with it.”
Above, from left to right: Jim Duffy, Chris Pepler, Anthony Avillo, P.J. Norwood, and Frank Ricci
Editor in Chief of Fire Engineering and Education Director of FDIC International Bobby Halton said: “I am deeply saddened to hear of Deputy Chief Chris Pepler’s passing. We were blessed to work with Chris on several projects. Chris had unusual wisdom, incredible talent, and a deep and thorough understanding of the fire service, which he shared passionately. I know Chris was so in love with his beautiful wife and son, his incredible community of Torrington where he served since his explorer days, and his fellow firefighters. Chris fought bravely and served with distinction. It was an honor and a privilege to share time with him. All who knew him and all he touched are better for it.”
Above, left to right: Chris Pepler, Frank Ricci, P.J. Norwood, Anthony Avillo, Jim Kirsch, Jim Duffy, and Anthony Kastros.
Battalion Chief/Drillmaster Frank Ricci, New Haven (CT) Fire Department, said: “Chris would want to be remembered for the love he had for his son, his wife, and their best friends the Emerys. He took this same love and passion and applied it to the fire service. Whether he was commanding a fire, speaking to the media, or lecturing on the national stage, Chris always set the example. Chris Pepler taught me and so many more what it means to be a leader. He was one of the original co-hosts of Fire Engineering’s “Politics & Tactics” radio show and was a lead author for the Tactical Perspectives DVD series. Chief Pepler was also instrumental in the development of Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I and II. His teachings did not stop at the fire service. He was the lead consultant for filming in Torrington for a PBS special on the U.S. Constitution. Most of all, he was proud of his son, who is in the Mayday DVD and was photographed for the Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I and II PowerPoints®. Chris got it. As a past union president and a chief, he knew doing the right thing was seldom the popular thing. We related on a level that most would not understand. We had the same interests of politics, the press, and our profession. Chris Pepler’s body of work will continue to impact firefighters across this great country. And to his son: Your father was a great man.”
Deputy Chief/Training Officer P.J. Norwood, East Haven (CT) Fire Department, had this to say about his friend and colleague: “Chris Pepler was an incredible person, father, and husband who had a passion for the fire service that was infectious. He will be greatly missed by everyone he touched.”
Deputy Chief (Ret.) Anthony Avillo, North Hudson (NJ) Regional Fire and Rescue, said: “Chief Chris Pepler was one of those special types of firefighters who lived the job 24/7 and was always looking to better himself, his department, and those assigned to his command. I first met Chris during the filming of the Tactical Perspectives DVD series. He was part of the ‘Connecticut Connection’ that refueled my career flame; together, we were able to pass on an abundance of experience and knowledge to future generations of firefighters with the same hunger that Chris had. He battled hard to overcome the hand he was dealt, never complaining but moving forward in spite of the hardship he was enduring. He dedicated himself to both his family and the job to the very end. Chief Pepler was the epitome of a ‘Full Contact Leader.’ I am proud and consider myself very fortunate to have known and worked with him. Godspeed, my friend and brother.”
Battalion Chief/Shift Commander Jim Duffy, Wallingford (CT) Fire Department, said: “Pep was a shining star who truly loved the fire service and tried to share that enthusiasm with everyone he taught and met. I will miss him, as he leaves a huge hole in my world and the world of firefighting.”
Lieutenant Justin McCarthy, New Haven (CT) Fire Department, said: “When I met Chris Pepler, he and I were tasked with working on the PowerPoints® for Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I and II. We instantly hit it off and laughed every time we had to work together. From this, Chris believed in my ability and hired me for my first fire service teaching job. I remember he said, ‘Don’t make me look bad; I worked hard for everyone to like me!’ To this day, I still make sure to teach the basics at the regional level at the same school here in Connecticut. Without Chris, I don’t think I would have been able to work up the ability to do a lot of what I have done in the fire service in terms of teaching. It is important we never take those little moments for granted!”
Lieutenant Steven Hamilton, Fort Jackson (SC) Fire Department, said: “Chris was a founding member of my fan club. He was a mentor, a coach, a sounding board, and a dear friend, and I am a better firefighter, instructor, and man for knowing him. So many people were influenced by his character. He was a firefighter’s chief, and he never forgot where he came from as he rose through the ranks. Chris was always concerned about training the next generation of firefighters and giving officers the tools to make that a reality. I will miss our talks and his friendship. You rest now, Chief Pepler. We’ll take it from here.”
Read his complete obituary HERE. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Saturday, November 4, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, 78 Litchfield Rd., Harwinton, CT 06791. Relatives and friends are asked to meet directly at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. Burial will follow at St. Peter Cemetery. Calling hours will be held on Friday, November 3, 2017, from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Cook Funeral Home, 82 Litchfield St., Torrington.