Firehouse Interview: Gregory B. Cade: The New U.S. Fire Administrator

Firehouse Magazine Contributing Editor Charles Werner interviews Fire Chief Gregory B. Cade, incoming administrator of the U.S. Fire Administration, part of the Department of Homeland Security.


On May 25, 2007, the U.S. Senate confirmed Fire Chief Gregory B. Cade to be administrator of the U.S. Fire Administration, part of the Department of Homeland Security. He succeeds Fire Chief R. David Paulison, who is now the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Cade, a...


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CADE: I have been very fortunate throughout my career not only to have worked in three outstanding fire departments, but also to have been given the opportunities as a result of that to be engaged in and work on a number of significant fire service issues. That has allowed me to develop meaningful relationships throughout the world. It is my intent to use what I have learned from those vast experiences and the relationships that I have forged throughout my career to help move the U.S. Fire Administration forward. I have been blessed with many great personal and organizational relationships and I plan to bring them with me to the federal conversation.

FIREHOUSE: From your fire service experiences, what organization in which you have been actively involved has impressed you the most and why?

CADE: I have been involved in quite a few fire service organizations, at the management level, as well as early in my career with labor organizations. I think the one that I have enjoyed the most out of all of those, and it is difficult to point to just one, but probably the most unique one has been my good fortune to be associated with the United States/United Kingdom Chief Officer Symposium. It has always been refreshing and invigorating to meet with and discuss issues with my fellow chief officers from other parts of the world. You find out that a lot of the problems that are faced here in the United States are the same ones that are faced by fire chiefs in England, Scotland, Ireland, Finland, Israel and so many other places. I have been able to learn a lot and, quite frankly, steal some of their ideas and put into practice. Through that association we were able to establish an officer exchange program that provided some unique perspectives to our organization by giving them a chance to talk to people who had been dealing with some issues similar to our own.

Shortly after 9/11, one of the officer-exchange programs brought a chief fire officer from the Northern Ireland Fire Brigade here to Virginia Beach. What better way to find out about fighting fires in a terrorist environment than to have a chief officer from a department who dealt with it day in and day out. He provided that experience and knowledge base to our people on how to be effective at doing it because the Northern Ireland Fire Brigade has done an outstanding job of being able to balance the needs of the community versus the situation that they were in. That chief fire officer's 20-plus years of experience was very beneficial to hear and helped us learn from their experiences and practices.

FIREHOUSE: Who was the most influential person in your career and why?

CADE: I have been very fortunate, as I've said before, to have had the opportunity to meet and become friends with so many influential fire service people that it would be difficult for me to pick out one as the most influential. I have had the good fortune to be friends with and get to know on a very personal level Alan Brunacini, Harry Carter, Ron Coleman, just to name a few, the icons of the fire service. I remember a couple of years ago when Fire Chief magazine did a series on the most influential people in the fire service, and as I read through the articles outlining the various individuals, one of the things that struck me was how fortunate I was to get to know many of them and listen to the insights that they had shared with me.

Having started in Prince George's County, the first fire chief that I worked for when I started was Bill Clark, right after he had left New York City. I didn't realize at the time how lucky I was, even though he was only there for a short time. When I look back at all of the other people who came through the Prince George's County Fire Department, I realized that they were attracted there by either by the University of Maryland or by the Maryland Fire Rescue Institute. Many of the people in leadership positions in the fire service today came through these fine institutions and it was my good fortune to have had the opportunity to be influenced by each.

FIREHOUSE: What insights have you gained about the fire service through your experiences at the different places where you have worked?

CADE: Having had the good fortune to have worked in three different fire departments, plus all of the other activities that I have been involved in, I think the biggest insight that I have gained is that if you are going to be successful, that success is predicated on building relationships with people because at the end of the day, it's truly what carries you forward and makes coming to work fun.

FIREHOUSE: If you had one specific accomplishment that you could achieve for the fire service, what would it be and why?