Message From the New ISFSI President: Peter A Van Dorpe

Sisters and Brothers,

Greetings! Just when you thought the pace of change in the fire service might be slowing down to something approaching normal . . . WHAM! Did anybody (besides Bill Gates – check this out later ) really see this coming at all or pay the least bit of actual attention if they did? I know I did not. Add this to the embarrassingly long list of things Pete needs to pay more attention to! I am certain you have all had enough of communications beginning and/or ending with, “these unprecedented times”, or “the new normal”, so I will do my best to introduce myself and my hopes for the future of ISFSI without cliched references to the pandemic and its impact on us as individuals, as firefighters, and as members of this august organization. I am also going to generally skip the biographical information that is readily available on our website or through a Google search.

Still, I should tell you a little about my current situation and how I see myself serving you and the Society. I retired from gainful employment on April 1, 2019 – 39 years to the day after the start of my career, which began with the Chicago Fire Department (CFD) and concluded with the Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District (ALFPD). I was keeping plenty busy, up until the “shut down”, travelling near and far lecturing on the UL/NIST research and its applications on the fireground. I am a founding member of Polaris Public Safety Solutions LLC, a small group of police, fire, and EMS professionals providing training and consulting services. I am also an officer in my local Rotary and Lions clubs, trying to pay forward the support these organizations have always given my community generally and the ALFPD in particular during my tenure there.

I did not find the ISFSI until late in my career, when I became Chief of the CFD Training Academy. If I had, I would have been a much more productive and effective training officer, (and truth be told – an all-around better firefighter). But find it I did, and it was one of the seminal moments in my career. Here I found a group of kindred spirits and a breadth and depth of talent that is impressive even within the context of the fire service. I ain’t just blowin’ smoke my friends. I’ve been around this here block more than just once or twice, and there simply is NOT a more talented, and even better yet, motivated group of arse kickin’ people who truly give a d*** about the present and future of their profession. Ah, the future. Come to think of it, isn’t that what really drives us as instructors? The chance to impact those who are following us into this greatest of all professions. To set the table for the future of our organizations and the fire service as a whole. To truly “leave the job a little better for the next guy”.

Being a fire service instructor means you have agreed to “walk the talk”. To expose yourself. To stick your neck out and say what needs saying. To take on the seemingly incompatible missions of being both an agent of change and the preserver, protector and conveyor of the fire services’ most sacred histories and traditions. Ready to take that on all by your lonesome self, tough guy? Me neither! Thus, we come together here to inspire, to support, and to elevate each. And not just each other, but all those that should be here but aren’t (perhaps can’t).

Which brings me to what perhaps should have been my first paragraph. Us, and those like Us. Those that should be here but haven’t yet found their way. Each and every one of us knows at least one fellow firefighter that; 1) could benefit from membership, 2) could contribute a great deal to other members (mentorship opportunities anyone?), 3) would jump at the opportunity to join if they only knew we existed! All of you have and will continue to receive recruitment challenges from Leigh and her staff. In addition, each of you will be getting a personal call (or email if you keep ignoring my calls 😉) from me. I want to get to know each of you (I gots the time now ya know!). I am going to help each of you find, approach and successfully recruit that firefighter that you know belongs here. I am going to learn how the Society can best serve you (BTW – take a fresh gander at your Board of Directors – talk about talent!). I am going to help you best serve the Society and all fire service instructors in turn. We’ve got a lot of work to do. Saddle up!

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