Four years ago Payson’s fire chief and fire marshal signed up for one of the country’s most rigorous fire leadership programs.
After completing graduate-level courses and lengthy research papers, Fire Chief Marty deMasi and Fire Marshal Bob Lockhart graduated from the National Fire Academy in April.
Equivalent to a master’s degree, the Executive Fire Officer Program (EFOP) is a post-secondary program designed to provide fire officers with a broad perspective on fire administration.
Since the program’s inception in 1985, 2,700 have completed the courses, with 65 from Arizona.
“It is a difficult program,” deMasi admitted.
“We do it because it is a challenge,” Lockhart said, “and it helps us do our job better.”
Through four courses, each lasting two weeks in Emmitsburg, Md., deMasi and Lockhart learned about leadership, reducing risk, improving response and mitigation practices and preparing for emergency incidents.
After each class, deMasi and Lockhart were required to complete an applied research project, each ranging in length from 40 to 100 pages and taking up to six months to complete.
For one paper, deMasi researched and wrote about emergency preparedness for emergency providers while Lockhart focused on emergency operations plan, emergency operations center and the Firewise program in his papers.
“It is important that these senior fire executives apply what they have learned in the classroom to existing situations in their own communities. This makes completion of the EFOP and the applied research project particularly valuable to these fire service leaders,” said U.S. Fire Administrator Kelvin J. Cochran.
Lockhart and deMasi plan to apply what they learned through their research in Payson.
“We are using the information that we learned during projects to solve problems locally,” deMasi said.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, the EFOP is designed to provide an
understanding of the need to transform fire and emergency service organizations from reactive to proactive and emphasize the value of research, lifelong learning and transforming organizations to reflect diversity.
Currently, another member of the Payson Fire Department, Battalion Chief Dan Bramble is in the program and expected to graduate within one to two years.
To qualify for the program, applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree and be either a fire chief, battalion chief or hold a chief officer position.
At the time deMasi and Lockhart signed up for the course, neither man knew each other. Lockhart was working at a fire department in Arlington Heights, Ill., while deMasi had been Payson’s chief for only a few years.
After two years in the program, Lockhart was hired by the PFD and the men learned they were taking the same course.
Over the next two years, Lockhart and deMasi alternated their class schedules, so both were not away from the station at one time.
“It was always a goal to do this,” deMasi said.
“We are both at points in our careers where we could coast, but that is not how we roll. We are both lifelong learners.”