Captain Eric Leonard of the Depoe Bay Fire District recently was awarded the Oregon Fire Chief’s Association distinguished Award of Excellence for his dedication and commitment to the fire services and communities he serves.
Captain Leonard was nominated for this award by Fire Chief Bryan Daniels for his conduct in organizing a joint career firefighter recruit academy. This academy is the first of its kind in Lincoln County. As the Oregon Coast is speckled with combination fire agencies, it is common to have Firefighter 1 academies and other various classes hosted at agencies throughout the region. However, the districts were faced with a new challenge last winter with the hiring of six firefighters representing three different agencies; Depoe Bay Fire hired three career firefighters, North Lincoln Fire & Rescue hired two career firefighters and Newport City Fire hired one career firefighter. All the Districts benefitted from the Automatic Aid Agreements and Intergovernmental Agreements over the past two years and the creation of a joint orientation academy was talked about for many months, but the agencies all varied in schedule, responses and operations. With no one heading up the creation of the academy, Captain Leonard made the decision to do it himself and volunteered for the task.
Captain Leonard volunteered for the three-month design and task of the first ever Lincoln County “Tower”. He created this with no additional compensation, no overtime and at a tremendous cost saving to all three agencies. In addition to these incredible things, he drove over 100 miles a day to make it happen. Over the course of eight weeks, Captain Leonard developed a curriculum, schedule, instructor pool and sites for the coming four-week academy. As all of the recruits had prior experience, the academy was accelerated in format. Captain Leonard developed a Physical Training program, nutrition plan, training in Firefighter Survival, auto extrication, fire attack, rescue, haz-mat, EMS, leadership, communication, and mental health and legal topics. Captain Leonard arranged for some phenomenal external instructors and relied on industry experts to assist him.
In the end, the academy was a tremendous success and a relatively taxing effort. Captain Leonard embodies the spirit of the fire service as a fire service leader making it better. The recognition from the Oregon Fire Chief’s Association is well deserved. Captain Leonard received a certificate, a prestigious medal and an invitation to join the Annual Conference of the Oregon Fire Chief’s Association.