Firehouse Expo Speaker Profile: Dennis Compton

Veteran fire service instructor Dennis Compton will be presenting "If You’re an Officer – Be a Leader." He will also be moderating the "Fire Chief's Panel," a roundtable discussion on topics impacting today's fire service leaders.

What will attendees to your program walk away with?

They will have the opportunity to walk away from the session with a more clear understanding of what makes a fire officer a positive and productive leader. They will discuss leadership behaviors and skills that not only work, but will make the members who they supervise more effective, whether at the station or operating on an emergency scene.

What is the story behind your class?

Simply getting promoted doesn't necessarily translate into being an effective leader. I've said for many years, and even developed a class around the fact that "Those Bugles Don't Make You The Boss." With that said, this class covers aspects of leadership that help make fire officers the leaders that the fire department hoped to get when he/she was promoted. The fire service doesn't talk about the realities of this issue enough, but this session focuses on just that concept. A fire department is only as effective as the quality of leadership the members receive. Traditionally , fire officers don't get enough on-going training on supervision, management and leadership.

Tell us about your time in the fire service.

I've been in the fire service for almost 45 years. I rose through the ranks of the Phoenix, Ariz., Fire Department reaching the rank of assistant fire chief. After 27 years in Phoenix, I became the fire chief in Mesa, Ariz., where I served for almost six years. Some of the other organizations I've been involved with include: I am past chair of the Executive Board of IFSTA, where I've participated for more than 35 years. I have served on the Board of NFPA, chaired the CFSI National Advisory Committee and currently serve as chairman of the board of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. My career continues to be quite diverse and I am fortunate for all of the opportunities I've had and continue to have.

What has been the highlight of your career?

More than any other aspect of my career in the fire service, I have enjoyed teaching. I have taught throughout my career; serving as the department chair and instructor with the Fire Science Program at Phoenix  Community College for 20 years and taught at other colleges and universities throughout the United States. I have been a featured speaker at national and state fire service conferences for more than 35 years and I've enjoyed all various aspects of my career, but teaching and training have been my most rewarding.

What’s one piece of advice that you can give to Firehouse Expo attendees to make it a great experience?

Attend the training sessions and the exhibits as much as you can. It's fun to enjoy your time in Baltimore with your old and new friends and it's good to do that, but not at the expense of learning about the fire service and how you can be more effective in your current and future roles.

The 31st Firehouse Expo will take place in Baltimore, MD, July 15-19, at the Baltimore Convention Center. This year's conference offers over 90 education sessions, including hands-on training, in-depth workshops and classroom sessions. Find out more about Firehouse Expo, the exhibitors who will be showcasing their products and learn how to register go to: