Fire Service Pioneer Larry Davis Remembered

Aug. 8, 2008
Long revered fire instructor Larry Davis died last Sunday in Texas.

"A man ahead of his time."

"A character whose contributions to rural fire department operations are immeasurable."

This is how people are remembering Larry Davis, a long revered fire instructor who died last Sunday in Texas. He was 63.

While his career and military duty took him to various cities, Davis never forgot his roots in western Pennsylvania. He remained faithful to not only his volunteer fire department in Canonsburg, Pa., but to rural companies across the country.

"As far as rural water supply and tactics as well as tactics and operations, Larry was on the cutting edge. He was way ahead of his time in his thinking," recalled Dominic Colletti, who co-authored books with Davis.

"Larry ruffled feathers, but nothing could stop him. He was dead-on. Some of the things he advocated 20-25 years ago are how we're doing business today," Colletti said.

Many recalled Davis' outgoing teaching style. A few called him the "McGuiver of the fire service."

Knowing that budgets are tight in many rural departments, he knew how to modify things so they would work. Many looked at him as a mentor.

After a stint in the U.S. Air Force where he also was involved in the fire service, Davis worked for Industrial Risk Insurers. All the while, he remained an active volunteer and instructor.

Tagging along with him to the fire house was his kid brother, Mark.

"Yeah, you could say I idolized him. He took me with him a lot when I was a kid."

The fire service blood also runs through his veins. He is a battalion chief in Montgomery County, Md.

Mark Davis said he knew is brother was very well-respected. And, now he finding out just how much. More than four pages of tributes have been compiled from people whose lives he touched.

Remembrances can be shared at [email protected].

Davis, a fire protection engineer, was one of the founders of the Rural Firefighting Institute. He was vice president of GBW Associates, LLC, a fire protection training and consulting firm, operated by his brother.

Chapel Hill, NC Chief Dan Jones, who followed Davis as president of International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI), said it was hard to describe the contributions.

"He was a character who impacted the way rural fire departments operate. He knew they had to make modifications to adequately fight fires where there are no hydrants. His water supply techniques were revolutionary . . ."

Jones said Davis pulled no punches, and demanded participation in his classes. His passion was undeniable.

He called Davis a genius who helped develop some incredible tools using the most basic equipment. And, he took his knowledge on the road.

"I remember Larry and others traveling around in a beat up station wagon, teaching on the weekends. It's incredible how many people they influenced . . ."

Montgomery County, Md. Division Chief Mike Love said Davis promoted the use of large diameter hose. "It was a different, unique approach. He was ahead of the curve with that and other ideas. Larry's passion, however, was in rural firefighting. If you took his class, you felt like you had the inside track . . ."

Love also spoke of Davis' teaching style that he didn't worry about being politically correct. What mattered was that his students got his message.

A few years ago, Montgomery County Chief Tom Carr had Davis conduct training sessions on rural water supply for the career firefighters. "It was very timely information, something some of our people had not been exposed to . . ."

Love said Davis was the go-to guy when it involved rural water supply. He definitely found his niche. I know many people learned from him."

Sandy Springs. Ga. Chief Jack McElfish said Davis will be remembered for making a difference. "Larry made sure rural firefighters were given training opportunities. He knew how important it was for them to have the same skills as those in big city departments."

"He was 10 or more years ahead of his time. He stuck to his principles. He loved teaching . . . "

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 30 at Island in the Son, United Methodist Church, 15602 Hwy 361, Corpus Christi, TX

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Island in the Son Church or to your local volunteer fire company.

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