Fire chiefs remember Chief Gaines

Fire Chief Tom Owens: "There was just an aura that he was in command and in complete control."

By Bethany Rodgers
The Frederick News-Post

FREDERICK, Md. — Deputy U.S. Fire Administrator Glenn Gaines possessed what one of his friends called a "quiet confidence" that drew people to him.

He wasn't the type of person who needed to exert his authority, but those around him never doubted that he was in charge, Frederick County Fire Chief Tom Owens said.

"There was just an aura that he was in command and in complete control. … He didn't have to flash the badge. He didn't have to pound the table and make declarations of his authority, because he had this presence," Owens said.

Gaines, who worked at the National Emergency Training Center in Emmitsburg, died unexpectedly April 12, according to an obituary published in The Washington Post. He was 72.

Gaines spent 35 years at the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department in Virginia, working as a fire marshal, chief training officer and chief of operations before serving as fire chief for more than seven years, according to a biography posted on the U.S. Fire Administration website.

Owens, who served side-by-side with Gaines for years in Fairfax County, said his friend was one of the rare fire officials who worked all the way through the service ranks. His wealth of experience gave him a global perspective on the fire service and earned him respect from its members, Owens added.

After he retired from the Fairfax County department, Gaines in March 2009 joined the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where he was responsible for leading U.S. Fire Administration training and programs. Although he worked as a deputy for much of his time there, Gaines a couple times stepped into the role of acting U.S. administrator when the position fell vacant, Owens said.

The acting administrator role brought Gaines into contact with the U.S. president, cabinet members, lawmakers and other high-ranking federal officials. But even as he gained distinction, Gaines never grew out-of-touch or egotistical, Owens said.

"He was down-to-earth, in spite of the loftiness of the positions that he aspired to," Owens said. "He would literally at times be embarrassed that he was receiving recognition."

Chip Jewell, chief of the county's volunteer fire and rescue companies, agreed that with all of Gaines' accomplishment, his engaging and relatable personality was among his most defining features.

"There are some fire chiefs that their personality is: I'm the chief. His personality is: I'm a part of your team. I'm a partner," Jewell said.

Jewell said Gaines was a friend to Frederick County's fire service and a great supporter of the annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service in Emmitsburg.

"He will be truly missed by the nation's fire service," Jewell said.

Gaines' online biography notes that he wrote many articles related to the fire service, and Jewell said he was always open to new ideas and encouraging innovation. In fact, Owens said Gaines authored a seminal training manual on fighting fires in garden apartments and town homes, just as those housing styles were first coming onto the market.

Just six months ago, Gaines served as a keynote speaker for a graduating class of Frederick County career firefighters. In his speech to the graduates, Gaines urged them to "think of the underserved" and to consider their loved ones if they wanted to make a difference in their careers.

"Nothing is more American than American firefighters," he said, according to a news report.


(c)2015 The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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