Volunteer Firefighter International

Va. Chief Named IAFC Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year

Source: International Association of Fire Chiefs

The International Association of Fire Chiefs, in partnership with Pierce Manufacturing, named the winners of the 2019 IAFC Fire Chief of the Year awards. Volunteer Fire Chief, John Morrison, of the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department in Vienna, Virginia, and career Fire Chief, James Clack, of the Ankeny Fire Department in Ankeny, Iowa, are this year’s honorees.

Each year since 1996, the prestigious Fire Chief of the Year award has recognized one volunteer and one career fire chief. A selection committee appointed by the IAFC reviewed nominations for active chiefs of departments that have shown exemplary contributions in the areas of leadership, innovation, professional development, integrity, public service, and contributions to the fire service.

The annual “IAFC Fire Chief of the Year” awards were presented during the general session at Fire-Rescue International (FRI) in Atlanta, Aug. 8.

“We enjoy every opportunity to recognize the brave men and women in the fire service, and as the sponsor of the annual IAFC Fire Chief of the Year Awards, we look forward to the time each year when we announce the honorees,” said Jim Johnson, president of Pierce Manufacturing.

At the young age of 16 years old, Chief John Morrison began volunteering with the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department and quickly became an emergency medical technician (EMT). Over the last 23 years, Chief Morrison has held a solid vision for the department, as well as employed remarkable leadership skills, to build the admirable community-based organization the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department is today.

Throughout his years of service, a commitment to volunteerism and his community propelled Chief Morrison up the ranks from EMT, to firefighter in 2002, and on to his current role as Volunteer Chief, which he began nearly a decade ago in 2010. As Chief, he oversees the operations and training of over 60 volunteers. His ability to build relationships and work with both volunteer members and career staff assigned to the Vienna VFD has allowed his department to increase operational and training hours by 44 percent over 10 years. Chief Morrison is employed as a Senior Lead Technologist at Booz Allen Hamilton.

Some of his most notable accomplishments include:

  • Serving as a Planning Section Chief of the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue Team (Virginia Task Force 1) responsible for all planning aspects during deployments both nationally and internationally. Chief Morrison developed and manages a web-based portal that digitized paper processes including qualifications tracking, roster building and absence tracking. The portal has been cited as a best practice in numerous FEMA and international audits. He also represents the Americas Region as a member of the United Nations International Search and Rescue Advisory Group’s (INSARAG) Information Management Working Group.
  • Leading training classes ranging from entry level through Firefighter I and II at the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Academy. As an Instructor III since 2005, Chief Morrison has dedicated countless hours to the success of other volunteers and their education in the fire service.
  • Developing a unique and intuitive Volunteer Management System, providing departments with a sole source for operational, training, and administrative data. VMS tracks hours, duty shifts, class registration, volunteer training and certifications, equipment management, yearly physicals, and more. This system united all 12 Fairfax County volunteer fire departments into a single portal that allows for the sharing of resources, metrics and information.

Through his innovative development of solutions and dedication to his work, Chief Morrison exemplifies the standards exhibited by a Fire Chief of the Year.

Chief James Clack’s distinguished career in the fire service began over 33 years ago. Starting in 1986 as a rookie firefighter at Station 6 in Downtown Minneapolis, and moving up the ranks over the course of the next 20 years, Chief Clack was able to demonstrate excellent leadership abilities. This led to his appointment as Fire Chief with Minnesota’s largest fire department in 2006.

A few years later, as an Executive Fire Officer, he became the first Fire Chief appointed from outside the fire department in the history of Baltimore City, Maryland. Most recently, taking on an entirely different challenge, Chief Clack was sworn in as Chief of the Ankeny, Iowa Fire Department in 2014, a suburban community that is considered to be one of the fastest growing cities in the United States.

In addition to his commitment to fire service, Chief Clack has embodied servant leadership and a passion for mentorship as an Army veteran, a volunteer animal rescue pilot and a Catholic Deacon. While serving as Chief in Baltimore, he re-established a non-profit foundation to financially help firefighters and their families who are hurt in the line of duty. Based on his many accomplishments in the fire service, he was named an “Outstanding Alumni” at the University of Minnesota-Crookston in 2010.

His caring and compassionate personality extends to how he manages his personnel. All department members are taught “Chief Clack’s Leadership Values” – concepts that have proven to contribute to organizational success. Some of Chief Clack’s other notable accomplishments include:

  • Served as the Unified Incident Commander for one of the largest emergency incidents in Minnesota history when the Interstate 35W Bridge collapsed over the Mississippi River in Downtown Minneapolis. Chief Clack’s leadership abilities and command presence brought together local, state, and federal agencies to manage an incident that is widely regarded by many as one of the best managed disasters in recent history.
  • During his tenure as Fire Chief, Baltimore became the largest city in the United States to require residential sprinkler systems in single-family dwellings. He led a successful effort to install smoke detectors with 10-year lithium batteries in thousands of homes and also partnered with John Hopkins University to complete in-home fire safety inspections in some of the most impoverished areas of the city. Chief Clack’s commitment to life safety resulted in a decrease fire deaths to an all-time low in 2012.
  • Over the past several years of exponential growth for the city of Ankeny, Iowa, Chief Clack developed a strategic plan to manage population growth and the resulting increase in call volume. His vision, planning, and leadership allowed for the transition to a consistent, combination staffing model and the opening of a new fire station last year. This transition resulted in reduced response times citywide and decreased time to definitive care for patients experiencing STEMI, stroke, and other traumatic events.

A consummate professional with simple values that have proven to make a significant difference, Chief Clack embodies what it means to be a Fire Chief of the Year.

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