The fire service lost one of its most revered fire instructors over the weekend. Jack Peltier, a veteran of nearly 60 years, died Sunday of a sudden illness.
Peltier, 71, of Marlborough, Mass., was a retired assistant chief of the Marlborough (Mass.) Fire Department and safety officer of the Berlin (Mass.) Fire Department. He was still active and responding up until about two weeks before his death.
Peltier was perhaps best known nationwide as the quartermaster of the hands-on training of firefighting drills at the Fire Department Instructors’ Conference when it was located in Cincinnati.
“One of the things I most admired about Jack is he wouldn’t take sh**from anyone,” said long-time friend and colleague, Harry Carter. “He wouldn’t do anything half-assed. It was done the right way the first time, or it wasn’t done at all.”
Peltier was an ardent supporter of the federal FIRE Act grant program and had participated in a 30-day “road trip” with Carter in 2006 where the two gentlemen traveled the country talking with firefighters to learn success stories for the federal grant program.
Carter and Peltier were planning a reprise of the road trip for June 2013, having had to cancel a planned trip for 2010 because of Peltier’s health concerns.
A few years ago, Peltier battled Guillain–Barré syndrome, a disease that is characterized by ascending paralysis beginning with weakness in the hands and feet, migrating toward the trunk.
“The doctors said he’d never walk again, and Jack said 'fu** you' and walked down to the front row at FDIC a couple of years ago,” Carter said.
That was one of Peltier’s most admirable qualities, that he was determined, hardworking and never willing to do anything halfway, Carter said.
Peltier was a life member and past president of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors.
Carter said Peltier was one of those kinds of guys who would not let any attention to detail go by and he taught a lot of people the finer points of firefighting and of the fire service.
“The biggest loss to the fire service is Jack’s knowledge,” Carter said. “Fortunately, he shared it with a lot of people. He was always inviting the young firefighters to join him at the ….table to learn about the fire service. He believed the future of the fire service was with the young firefighters.”
Much of Peltier’s knowledge was absorbed by his son Jim, Carter said, who he characterizes as the “Jack of the next generation.”
Carter, who lives in Adelphia, N.J and is chairman of the Board of Commissioners in Howell Township Fire District 2 and retired from the Newark (N.J.) Fire Department as a battalion commander, said he talked to Peltier nearly every day, going over fire service topics and family life.
“I am going to miss him,” Carter said. “You don’t get to know people like I knew Jack very often.
Dayna Hilton, a firefighter with the Johnson County Rural Fire District No. 1, in Clarksville, Ark., is another person who will miss Peltier dearly.
“He was a giant in the fire service,” said Hilton, who got to know Peltier through reviewing FIRE Act grant applications at the National Fire Academy in Maryland. “He was a very generous, kind man.”
Hilton got to know about Peltier’s generosity first hand when he helped arrange a donation of a fire pumper from his department to Hilton’s department through the Bay State F.O.O.L.S. organization.
“It was like Christmas in August when the truck was delivered,” Hilton said. An off-hand remark about how her department didn’t have a working pumper prompted Peltier to arrange the donation in 2007.
Not more than a month after talking with Peltier, the fully-equipped truck was loaded on a flatbed and made its way to Johnson County.
And, not long after the delivery, Peltier, his son Jim and a cadre of Massachusetts firefighters spent three days in blistering 107 degree Arkansas heat teaching the firefighters the ins and outs of the gift, Hilton said.