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: If there was one specific accomplishment that I look at for the future of the fire service that I think is critical, it lies in our ability to use the talent that we have and thoroughly analyze what is taking place and to translate that into comprehensive, well-thought-out, and well-articulated data-supported plans. I watch my brethren in the other public safety arena, i.e., law enforcement, and they can make the statistical argument why the color of their officers' shoes makes a difference in the crime rate. I know this sounds funny, and I am being somewhat facetious, but I think that the fire service must recognize and embrace the fact that just being able to extinguish an emergency fire incident is not enough to get the resources needed to do your job effectively and efficiently into the future.

FIREHOUSE: How have fire service relationships shaped your career?

CADE: I have spent my whole adult life in the fire service, since the age of 18. I have had the good fortune to have an extreme amount of positive experiences, coupled with a few mediocre and rare bad ones. Throughout all of that, I have been able to make, establish and still maintain some very strong relationships. Although I graduated from the first career recruit school in Prince George's County in 1971, I am still close personal friends with each and every one of the people in that class. Although I have been gone from that department for 15 years, when we see each other, we just pick up where we left off. All of that affects what you do and who you are. As I responded to an earlier question, I have probably learned and reinforced that whole idea, it is about the relationships that you build with people that makes you effective in being able to do your job.

FIREHOUSE: When you learned that you would be nominated for this honorable position, how did that make you feel?

CADE: When I first got the call and was notified that I was going to be nominated by the President, it was a very humbling experience and at the same time, a very exciting one. I think for any of us who get to be a fire chief of an organization, we think and look upon that as the pinnacle of our career. I never dreamed that the President of the United States would even consider me for a position like this and I think then it became a little scary recognizing the awesome responsibility that I will be accepting. As local fire chiefs, we have often talked about the need for the federal government to be able to do this or do that to help us do our jobs better, and now, for however long I sit in that seat, I am going to be the person that the fire service will be looking to that will help and explain the needs of the fire service at the federal level. I hope and intend to do the fire service proud.

FIREHOUSE: Looking back, what will you miss from a local fire service perspective the most and why?

CADE: I think what I'm going to miss more than anything else is that for the first time in my 39 years, I'm not going to be directly connected to a specific fire department and able to put on my gear and step on a fireground as a firefighter or an officer. I know that I will still have many, many positive relationships with so many fire service people. However, it will not be the same thing to know that when my two feet hit the floor in the morning, that I don't have a uniform to put on or a fire department to be a part of. That saddens me to a certain extent, but then I temper that with what I have always said that my goal and my job was to make sure that every firefighter had the resources that they needed to be safe and effective in providing the services that they are charged to do. I am going to have the opportunity to do that at the federal level.

FIREHOUSE: Looking forward, what do you see as a vision for yourself and your career?

CADE: As I look forward, what I hope to be able to do is to bring my 39 years of street-level experience to the federal conversation. I know that the outstanding people who work in the federal government care about the fire service. They recognize the job that the first responders do. I think at times there is so much going on in the battle for resources that sometimes the fire service voice gets lost. We certainly have raised our level of conversation over the last 20 years, with outstanding people like Garry Briese, who drove the IAFC to be out there on the forefront, a voice and influence for the fire service. I think the opportunity exists to partner with all of the national organizations, like the IAFC, National Volunteer Fire Council, the International Association of Fire Fighters or the many others. We need to make sure that our collective voice is heard, continues to be heard, and that it is heard and understood. I will push that conversation at the federal level for as long as I serve as the fire administrator and for as long as the President of the Untied States is pleased with the job that I do.