Fire Service Industry Legends and Icons

FDIC International is unique in that the biggest names in the fire service industry all take the time to attend.
As I write this, FDIC International 2021 is three weeks in the rear-view mirror, but I am still a little high on the rush from visiting people I have known and for whom I have had deep admiration for decades.

The fire service has dozens, perhaps hundreds, of legends and icons, and they all deserve our respect and adulation. However, I must acknowledge there are perhaps just as many in the fire service INDUSTRY who should be considered legends and icons. Some have been in the business longer than I’ve been alive, and that’s saying a lot, as I am quickly approaching Bill Adams’ “Raisin Squad” status.

I was thrilled to see Dick Young in the Performance Advantage Company (PAC Tool) booth. At 91, he’s getting around great with a motorized chair. I felt privileged to be able to sit and chat with him for a while, as he had lines of admirers waiting to say hello. For the uninitiated, Dick grew up in the fire service industry, as part of a family-owned business that started in 1885. He helped build some of the most innovative fire trucks in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1992, he started PAC Tools, a company that manufactures and markets high-quality tool-mounting brackets.

As Dick conversed, he pointed out a feature on the side of the company demonstrator truck—an iconic Young Fire Equipment logo placed prominently on the body near the rear left wheel well.

“That ought to cause some conversation,” Dick said with a sly smile. “Maybe people will think we’re getting back into building fire trucks.” For the record, they’re not, but he still liked the idea.

Across the exhibit floor, Bill Foster sat on the front bumper of a Spartan cab and chassis. One can always find Bill Foster on the bumper of a truck at virtually any fire show. His spot is almost as iconic as he is. Bill is the former director and vice president of Spartan, which is now part of the REV Group. His position with Spartan as a founder goes back to 1976, back to the days when he was a firefighter himself. The origins of Spartan date back to 1975, when three young engineers with Diamond Reo Truck Company struck out on their own after Diamond Reo became insolvent. Bill’s knowledge as a firefighter and an inventor has led to some of the most innovative features in fire truck cabs and chassis offered to date.

Alan Saulsbury was over in the Trident Air Primer booth talking about products as the international sale manager for his latest company. Alan, who is in his 80s, has a long history in the fire service, including building some of the finest stainless-steel apparatus the fire service has known with his family-owned company Saulsbury Fire Apparatus, a New York-based business sold to E-ONE in 2003.

And even though half my face was covered with a mask as a COVID precaution, Paul Darley came right out into the show floor aisle with a greeting and a hearty handshake. Paul Darley is president of W.S. Darley & Co. as a proud member of the third-generation family-owned and -operated business. If ever there was an icon in the fire service, it is the Darley name, having made first-class pumps for decades. The company continues to grow exponentially, providing pumps and equipment to virtually every apparatus maker in the nation and around the world. The Darleys and their products are truly legendary in the business of fire service.

A shout out to a few other people with whom I crossed paths include Roger Weinmeister, president of Super Vacuum Mfg.; Phil Gerace, vice president of marketing for TFT and his colleague, Doug Miller, pricing manager; Mike Cheek, Dräger’s marketing manager for the fire segment; Chris Ferrara, founder and owner of US Fire Pumps; Joe Hedges, product manager at aerial platforms and ladders with E-ONE; Jerry Halpin, co-owner of C.E.T. Fire Pumps; Bill Dickson, vice president of sales, breathing air products for Bauer Compressors; Toh Meng, senior vice president, fire, EMS & industrial products for FRC; and even Captain Dave Fornell, a former long-time contributor to this publication, who is now the deputy fire commissioner in Detroit.

FDIC International is unique in that the biggest names in the fire service industry all take the time to attend the premier show in North America. Nowhere else will you see so many fire service industry luminaries in one place, all available to talk to customers and potential customers.

I can’t wait until April 2022 to catch up with more old friends and make new ones.

FDIC is the place where it all happens.

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