EMMITSBURG, Md. -- USFA Deputy Administrator Glenn Gaines is a man on a mission.
Gaines, who moved back into the top position last June when Kelvin Cochran resigned to return to Atlanta, said the recession has created unique challenges worldwide.
"Fire service officials aren't the only ones having to make tough decisions," he told Firehouse.com last week.
Budget reductions haven't caught the USFA off guard because Gaines and his staff have been working on options and ways to adapt.
Now that Ernest Mitchell Jr. has been sworn in, Gaines returns to deputy administrator and vows to plow ahead to help with a multitude of issues.
"I've made a commitment. I'm going to honor it. I enjoy representing the fire service and emergency responders."
The former fire chief in Fairfax County, Va. believes responders should seize the opportunity ¬to shine.
"This would be a great time to take additional responsibilities whenever possible. When things get better, people will remember the fire service stepped up."
It has been a year of challenges for crews as they handled floods, wildfires, droughts, tornadoes and hurricanes. Yet, Gaines added proudly: "American firefighters answered every call. They saved lives and made a difference in their communities. No other agency can match them."
That's what USFA officials keep in mind while working on their strategic plan.
"Regardless how difficult things may seem, we remain focused on our core mission to support the fire service. Preventing fires is very important if we're going to reduce the number of civilian and firefighter injuries and deaths."
He also spoke of the importance of studies the USFA is involved in such as the one examining a relationship between firefighting and cancer. It's vital that the research continue.
While no decisions have been made, Gaines admits the agency is re-thinking how business is conducted. But, he reiterated that the USFA will remain steadfast in its mission.
He pointed to an easel where officials had listed decision priorities. At the top are United States citizens, followed by fire and emergency services stakeholders. Gaines says the commitment has not wavered.
Looking back on events of 2011, he said the fire service lost one of its greatest supporters, Hal Bruno.
"He was dynamic, a lion of a leader. His booming voice demanded attention, and the silence will be deafening."
Gaines added that he couldn't begin the list the number of things that Bruno accomplished for the betterment of not only the fire service but citizens. "He will be missed."
There are many challenges ahead in 2012. And, Gaines says it's more important than ever that people pull together. And, you can count on him as well.
"I've been honored to serve my profession. I have no plans to pull out now. I'm committed, and there are many things still to do."