By Douglas Forsman
On April 5, 2007, the fire service lost an icon. Hugh Pike may not be a name that everyone recognizes, but if you were or are connected with the United States Department of Defense fire services, you will likely recognize the name and his contributions.
Hugh completed a decorated career in the Air Force achieving the rank of Chief Master Sergeant and serving as a fire chief at bases in the United States and in Southeast Asia. But Hugh was just getting started on his contributions to the fire service and the military. After he retired from active military duty, he was employed by the Air Force Fire Protection Headquarters and assigned the duty of bringing the rather disjointed military (all branches) fire service into compliance with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standards for Professional Qualifications, and to do so definitively and quickly. He set about that task with the vigor and determination of a gladiator.
Pages could be written about this process and Hugh’s struggles and successes. Suffice it to say that he achieved in a few short years what none of his friends and colleagues believed possible. The training and certification systems that now serve the U. S. Military fire service are examples for all. His determination (some might call it stubbornness) cut the red tape, bypassed some hierarchy and produced results. He assembled a strong team of young military and civilian folks who he mentored and instilled with a determination that continued beyond his tenure.
The awards and honors are too numerous to mention. However, his contributions to the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress and all of its members are monumental. He was often a driving force on NFPA standards that define how we do business today.
Hugh worked long hours and partied hard as well. There are Hugh Pike stories that will live as legends for years. He was gruff yet compassionate as he worked to make the military fire service and the fire service in general a more professional and safer place for all of us and our constituents.
Hugh was a friend of mine and of many others. We will cherish our memories of him and mourn our loss. The true love of Hugh’s life was his family. They were by his side when he passed away. He was laid to rest on his ranch in the Florida panhandle. You see, Hugh never saw the merit of traveling north of Interstate 10 until the summer.