IAFC honors fire chiefs of the year

Chiefs from Ariz. and Mo. received international awards at the Fire-Rescue International Convention

SAN ANTONIO  — The International Association of Fire Chiefs and Pierce Manufacturing Inc., announced the 2016 recipients of the annual “IAFC Fire Chief of the Year” awards at Fire-Rescue International Conference Wednesday.

Volunteer Fire Chief Willard H. “Bill” Halmich, of the Washington Volunteer Fire Company in Washington, Missouri, and career Fire Chief Harry Beck, of the Mesa Fire and Medical Department in Mesa, Arizona, are this year’s recipients.

Winners are honored for their leadership, innovation, professional development, integrity and contributions to the fire service as a whole. Sponsored by Pierce Manufacturing, the 21st annual awards will be presented Thursday during FRI’s general session at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

“Every year, I look forward to learning who the IAFC committee has chosen for these incredible honors,” said Jim Johnson, Oshkosh Corporation executive vice president and president of the Fire & Emergency segment and Pierce Manufacturing. “Both Chief Harry Beck and Chief Bill Halmich remind us all of the extraordinary impact that truly outstanding leaders have on the communities they serve, as well as on the advancement of the fire service. All of us at Pierce congratulate Chiefs Beck and Halmich!”

Chief Beck has devoted more than 40 years to fire and emergency services and began his career with the Phoenix Fire Department. While serving there, he rose through the ranks to the position of deputy fire chief. He joined MFMD as fire chief in 2003. 

As chief, he established a five-year strategic vision that guided the department through financial challenges during the Great Recession. 

“This is so surreal and humbling … to be picked out of such a tremendous pool of talent,” Beck said while accepting the award.

Beck led efforts in developing innovative processes  through partnering with health services organizations  to deliver fire service-based EMS. Through this process, he was able to secure a multi-year Healthcare Innovation Grant totaling $12.5 million to enable MFMD to expand programs to provide more efficient and effective emergency response for those who call 911. He coordinated with the United Mesa Fire Fighters to lead the development and implementation of improved services for first responders, including PTSD awareness, life stress and addiction awareness and resiliency training. 

“It’s the family love that gives us the resilience to overcome the day-to-day” challenges of the job, Beck said.

Earlier this year, Chief Beck secured funding for a new MFMD Dispatch Center and City Emergency Operations Center. 

Chief Halmich is a 50-year member of the Washington Volunteer Fire Company and has served as chief since 1981. Under his leadership, Washington Volunteer Fire Company became the first in Missouri to achieve an ISO Class 3 rating. 

“This is an honor beyond compare,” Halmich said while accepting the award.

Halmich has served on the National Near-Miss Advisory Board since its inception, with his department being a pilot case. Appointed by the governor to represent the fire service on planning and preparations for hazardous materials incidents, he  is co-chair of the Haz-Mat Training Committee. 

He previously served on the governor’s Fire Education Commission, which oversees firefighter training programs statewide to deliver effective, safe, and cost-effective fire service training. Chief Halmich is a charter member and supporter of the IAFC’s Volunteer and Combination Officers Section, providing chief officers with the information, education, services, and representation to enhance their professionalism. 

“This is one of the greatest surprises in my 50-year fire service career,” Halmich said.

He serves as a governor-appointed member of the Missouri Emergency Response Commission; City of Washington Missouri River Bridge Committee; the Capital Improvement Sales Tax Committee for the City of Washington ; and the committee appointed to acquire enhanced 911 for Washington, Mo. Chief Halmich is a Vietnam Combat Veteran, and a member of the American Legion, Elks Lodge and local VFW Post 2661. 

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