Firehouse 2020 Hall of Fame Honorees Announced

June 2, 2020
Firehouse is proud to announce the newest members to be inducted into the Firehouse Hall of Fame: Steve Austin and J. Curtis Varone.

Firehouse is proud to announce the newest members to be inducted into the Firehouse Hall of Fame: Steve Austin and J. Curtis Varone. They will be honored during the Opening Ceremonies at Firehouse Expo on Oct. 30, 2020, at 5:30 p.m. at Nashville’s Music City Center.

“Steve and Curt have focused on improving their local fire departments and advancing the safety and health of our nation’s fire service throughout their distinguished careers,” said Firehouse Editor-in-Chief Peter Matthews. “Steve has spent more than 40 years improving accreditation for training organizations and instructing on firefighter safety at roadway operations. Curt has provided the fire service with a better understanding of legal issues, including FLSA, social media and liability.”

Austin joined the fire service in 1963 and served as a volunteer firefighter in four different states. He served as president of the Delaware Volunteer
Firemen’s Association and the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association and currently serves as the director of external affairs for the International Association of Arson Investigators. Austin is a member of the IFSTA Executive Board, and the Board of Directors of the Congressional Fire Service Institute. To show his commitment to professionalism, Austin served as vice chair of the Pro Board for more than 25 years and stood as two new NFPA Pro Qual Committees as chair. He is a recipient of the Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award.

As one of the first contributing editors for, Austin has written articles, spoke at Firehouse Expo and assisted with guiding Firehouse’s content direction for more than 35 years.

“Steve has been critical in shaping the fire service we know today at both the local and national levels,” Matthews said. “His unwavering commitment to firefighter safety helped develop the Emergency Responder Safety Institute that is focused on the safety of fire and emergency crews working on roadways—which was one of the leading causes of firefighter injuries and deaths in 2019.” 

“In 1976, upon reading the first edition of Firehouse Magazine, my eyes were opened to the fire service world outside my home company,” Austin said. “In Firehouse, I read the words of some of the greatest firefighters to have ever worn the uniform. I never thought for a moment, that I would have the opportunity in my career to write for the magazine much less to become friends with many of these legends. That led to working on safety, health, and professional development issues together. To follow some of these leaders into the Firehouse Hall of Fame is a humbling experience.”

J. Curtis Varone, JD, EFO, began his fire service career in 1972 with the North Providence, RI, Fire Department, and he was hired by the Providence, RI, Fire Department in 1979. Shortly thereafter, he made the fateful decision to go to law school and, in 1985, he passed the bar and began practicing law with his father, and his law practice concentrated on fire service issues. In 1991, he became the youngest battalion chief in the department’s history. In 1995, Varone joined MA-TF01 USAR Task Force, and, in 2002, at the request of Rhode Island’s Emergency Management Agency, he established the Rhode Island state USAR team: RI-TF01 which became operational in 2004.

In 2008, Varone retired from the Providence Fire Department as a deputy assistant chief and then became the director of the Public Fire Protection Division at the NFPA. He also became more active with the Exeter, RI, Fire Department, where he now serves as deputy chief. He currently practices law in Maine and Rhode Island and lectures extensively on legal issues in the fire service. He is the author of Legal Considerations for Fire & Emergency Services and runs Fire Law Blog.

Varone has been a Firehouse contributing editor, writing the Fire Law column for many years. Each year, Varone’s classrooms at Firehouse Expo and Firehouse World are filled with firefighters.

“Over the years, Curt has provided a unique perspective when it comes to legal issues concerning the fire service,” Matthews said. “Myriad fire departments and individual firefighters have sought Curt’s expertise in understanding laws, statutes and their rights.”

“It is an incredible honor and truly humbling to be considered to be among the greats of our profession,” Varone said. “There are plenty of folks like me who combine a love for the grunt work of being a firefighter with the intellectual challenge of dealing with our legal system, elected officials and the media. It takes both to move our profession forward. I hope others will be encouraged to pursue advanced degrees and perhaps become firefighter-attorneys themselves.”

To be inducted into the Firehouse Hall of Fame, members must have 20 years of service and demonstrated accomplishments in the advancement of the fire service.

Following are the Firehouse Hall of Fame inductees since the program’s inception in 2015:


Hal Bruno

Alan Brunacini

Vincent Dunn

Harvey Eisner


Rich Adams

John Norman

Dennis Smith

James P. Smith


Francis L. Brannigan

Dr. Harry Carter

Barry Furey

Paul Hashagen


Robert Burke

Dennis Compton

Charles Werner

Mike Wilbur


John J. Salka Jr.

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