9/5/2013 3:00:00 PM State Fire Chiefs Association honors Chris See as 'Fire Chief of the Year'
Chris See, the fire chief of the Jefferson-Craig Volunteer Fire Department, has been named as the 'Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year' for all of Indiana. The award comes from the Indiana Fire Chief's Association, and was presented at the state banquet held in Indianapolis on Friday, August 23rd.
To be nominated for the honor, a fire chief must be actively involved in a county or community fire organization; be active in fire prevention education on a local basis; be involved in training and safety improvement with their department; have local community involvement with non-fire service; be active in local, state, or national fire service organizations; and be recognized as a leader in the fire service by his or her peers.
"Somebody nominated me for the award, and I don't know who that was," Chris See said. "You have to be a chief officer. There were several nominees, and I was very honored to receive the award."
Chris See said that the association gives out two awards each year. One is to honor a full-time, career fire chief; and the other is to a volunteer fire chief. Those two awards are statewide.
He found out that he had been nominated for the award on August 14th.
"A lady from their organization called me and told me that I had been nominated for the award, and asked me if I could be present for the awards banquet," Chris See said. "I was very surprised."
Chris See has been the fire chief at Jefferson-Craig for just a few months, but he has been a chief officer, serving as an assistant chief or a training officer for the past six years.
In honoring Chris See, the Indiana Fire Chief's Association highlighted the decrease in the ISO rating that the department had worked toward.
"Our fire jurisdiction is Jefferson and Craig Townships," he said. "If you live in those areas, the lower the ISO rating is, the better off your insurance premiums are going to be for property insurance."
To determine that ISO rating, the state basically audits each fire department, looking at things such as training, equipment, staffing. Also looked at are the certifications that have been attained by members of the department; pre-planning and record keeping.
"We were at what was called an ISO 7-9, but we lowered it to a 5-9," Chris See said. "An ISO 5 is what most career fire departments have, so we're the same as some of the bigger cities, like Lawrenceburg and Greensburg, so we have the same rating as some of those departments."
Along with the ISO rating, the state highlighted Jefferson-Craig's staffing and training. It was noted at the banquet that the department has 50 members, and all of those firefighters are trained at least to the state minimum standards. Run volume was also spotlighted.
"They also hit on my longevity in the fire service," Chris See said. "Then they talked about my history of being a firefighter in the Air Force and things of that nature."
A 2001 graduate of Switzerland County High School, Chris See entered the fire service as a senior in high school; and from 2002 through 2008 he also served as a firefighter in the U.S. Air Force. In 2006, he served with a firefighting team in Iraq.
In being humbled by the individual honor, Chris See is also quick to point out that the award is shared by all of the members of the Jefferson-Craig Volunteer Fire Department and all that each and every firefighter has done to make the department a strong one.
"It is truly an honor for the entire fire department," he said. "Not just one person can achieve that. It takes the whole group. They basically looked at our entire fire department and what we have done in the last few years in order to get where we are at now. We've got 50 people in our department, and they're working around the clock to make things happen. It's only through them that we are even able to get into an awards process like that."
The department has been working on specialized water rescue training, incorporating rescue boats into helping make the river and also county ponds and streams more safe. It is pointing towards more training on technical rescue.
"That's things like ropes, and collapses," Chris See said. "Things that you really don't see. We do Hazmat. We do fire. We do backup for the EMS. We're continuing to get as much training as we can to better serve our community."
Chris See said that he will soon be going to Texas for two weeks for fire officer leadership training; and other members of the department will be going next month to the National Fire Academy being held in Maryland.
"The state's paying for all of our expenses, so we have guys who are going to take advantage of some free training from people from all over the country," he said. "We just keep trying to broader our horizons as best we can and help as many people as we can."
Chris See said that there are 842 fire departments in the State of Indiana, and about 75-percent of those are all volunteer.
State Representative Randy Frye was honored at the same banquet as the association's "Legislator of the Year".