2015 Conference Information

Ray Downey Courage & Valor Award

Deputy Chief Ray Downey, who lost his life while commanding rescue operations at the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001. Deputy Chief Downey was chief of rescue operations and a 39-year veteran of the Fire Department of New York. He was the most highly decorated firefighter in the history of FDNY.

The 2015 winner of the Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award is Captain Sean Killelea of the Warren Township (IN) Fire Department. He will be presented the award at the Opening Ceremony of FDIC International on April 22, 2015.


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Killelea responded as mutual aid in a commercial structure fire. He was cited for his role in rescuing Firefighter Matt O’Donnell and the attempted rescue of Assistant Chief Jamie Middlebrook, both of the New Carlisle (IN) Fire Department.  Middlebrook was lost in the building collapse. Following is a summary of the incident.

On the evening of August 5, 2014, the New Carlisle (IN) Fire Department responded to a reported commercial fire in Willis Township, Indiana. There was heavy fire on arrival, and a defensive attack was initiated. Jamie Middlebrook and Firefighter Matt O'Donnell stretched a 2½-inch handline with a ground monitor into the attached exposure to try to cool numerous acetylene cylinders. They did not know that the fire was in the truss space above the pan ceiling. The truss system failed, trapping AC Middlebrook and injuring FF O'Donnell.

Warren Township Fire Department's Squad 18 and a box chief responded as mutual aid to a commercial fire. When they arrived at the scene, Squad 18 Captain Sean Killelea and Firefighters Jay Pendergrass and Aaron Carsten were assigned to staff an attack line in the ongoing defensive operations.

Command rescinded their assignment on learning that two firefighters were in trouble. The incident commander instructed Squad 18 to serve as the rapid intervention team and to follow the hoseline that was already advanced into the building to search for the two firefighters trapped inside the structure following a collapse.

Squad 18 went on air and entered the structure through a cutout from a garage door on the north side of the structure. They followed the hoseline up to the edge of the collapse. The east wall of the collapse was fully involved in fire. They followed the hoseline until they encountered the collapse, where visibility decreased and heat increased. The east wall of the collapse was fully involved in fire.  Killelea and his crew battled horrific conditions. The building was coming down around them. They were surrounded by fire and collapse and, at one point, were forced to take cover under a truck in a barn to avoid being caught in a further collapse. Killelea and his crew located O'Connell and pulled him to the door with the help of New Carlisle Engine 191. AC Middlebrook, however, was under the roof system, which had fallen on him. After the fire condition was sufficiently knocked down, heavy equipment was used remove the roof system from the chief's body, which was then transported to an ambulance.

Captain Killelea has been in the fire service since 1999. He began his career as a volunteer with Clay Township (IN) Fire Department. In January 2012, he became a full-time firefighter with Warren Township (IN) Fire Department and was promoted to captain in mid-2013. He became a part-time firefighter for the University of Notre Dame in October 2013. He currently is serving in all three positions.

Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award


William C. Peters is the recipient of the 2015 Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award

Appointed to the Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department in 1975, Peters quickly rose through the ranks from firefighter to lieutenant, captain, and battalion chief, earning several departmental commendations for heroism including the rescue of civilians and saving the life of a fellow firefighter. After being promoted to battalion chief, he was appointed apparatus supervisor because of his knowledge and experience as a diesel truck mechanic. In this position he was responsible for the purchase, repair, and maintenance of the fire department fleet as well as the maintenance of all hose, nozzles, tools, and equipment. He responded to all greater-alarm fires to supervise the safe and efficient operation of the fire apparatus.

To become proficient in the apparatus field, he attended seminars and became heavily involved in the NFPA Apparatus Standards committee work. He served on several apparatus task groups before being appointed as a voting member of the apparatus committee representing users.

He purchased the apparatus and equipment for Jersey City's first haz-mat company and the reactivation of Rescue Company One, a heavy rescue unit that had been disbanded 20 years earlier. Peters wrote the department's Large Diameter Hose SOP and supervised the introduction of LDH supply hose as standard feed lines for the department.  He wrote the specifications for the department's first mask service unit that could supply spare breathing air cylinders as well as refill on the fire scene. After a number of aerial ladder accidents across the country, he wrote the fire department's aerial safety SOP.

 He has written more than 100 articles for Fire Engineering; the pamphlet “Final Farewell to a Fallen Firefighter,” outlining procedures and considerations for planning a fire department funeral; the book Fire Apparatus Purchasing Handbook; and the apparatus chapters in the Fire Chief's Handbook and produced a video of how to efficiently perform factory inspections of new fire apparatus.

Peters has worked with the NIOSH Firefighter Fatality Investigation Unit, examining aerial apparatus that were involved in serious or fatal accidents. As a result of these investigations and published reports, critical changes have been incorporated into the apparatus standards to help prevent future accidents.

After his retirement from the department, Peters continues to assist fire departments around the country with their apparatus justification and purchasing needs and answers questions from members of the fire service. He continues to serve on the NFPA apparatus committee as a special expert and for the past 12 years has been the sole author of the apparatus supplement that accompanies the June issue of Fire Engineering.

 FDIC Education Director Bobby Halton says: “William Peters, a.k.a. Willy P, Billy Peters, and Mr. Apparatus, is recognized this year for his lifetime of service to his community, to his country, and to his calling. Aside from being the author of one of the most widely read and often-cited books in the fire service, the Apparatus Purchasing Handbook, Chief Peters has made numerous significant contributions in everything from large diameter hose to aerial training. Chief Peters is a decorated veteran with combat service in Vietnam and one of the most widely recognized and honored members of the Jersey City Fire Department. He has contributed hundreds of articles and has supported thousands of departments in their efforts to purchase and specify the correct apparatus and tools for their needs. Over the years, he has instructed hundreds of seminars dealing with apparatus purchasing, as well as classes on other apparatus related maintenance and safety issues all over the United States and Canada. He has been a role model and unassuming hero for firefighters throughout the United States and Canada.”


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The Lifetime Achievement Award is named for Tom Brennan, who was the editor of Fire Engineering for eight years and a technical editor. Brennan had more than 35 years of fire service experience, including more than 20 years with the Fire Department of New York and five years as chief of the Waterbury (CT) Fire Department. He was co-editor of The Fire Chief’s Handbook, Fifth Edition (Fire Engineering Books, 1995) and the recipient of the 1998 Fire Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award


Eddie Buchanan is the recipient of the Fire Engineering/ISFSI George D. Post Instructor of the Year Award.

            Eddie Buchanan began his fire service career in 1982 and is a division chief for Hanover Fire & EMS in Richmond, Virginia. He is a past-president of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI) and author of the Volunteer Training Officer’s Handbook. He serves on the advisory boards of Fire Engineering and FDIC and on the Technical Committee for Fire Service Training for the National Fire Protection Association. He is a past board member of the VCOS and past chairman of the CFSI National Advisory Committee. He was instrumental in the initial development of the firefighter survival program in Virginia “Mayday-Firefighter Down” and created the acronym “SLICE-RS” and has worked with the ISFSI to get the message out. 

Steve Pegram, president of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors, which co-presents the award, says: “Like all good fire service instructors, Eddie enjoys working a problem and finding a solution. He did this as he led the ISFSI into the future, and he did it again when fire dynamics became firehouse kitchen table talk. Through his work as a fire officer, instructor, and national fire service leader, Eddie did what he does and threw his ideas up on the wall to see what stuck. The result was SLICE-RS, an acronym originally designed to help his department deal with the modern fire problem. Like any good instructor, Eddie wrote a policy, wrote a training plan, and then worked the kinks out. After a few tweaks, it was approved for implementation, and his department’s training and deployment policies were adjusted. There are many great fire service instructors; some of the best are the ones who share their ideas with everyone. Eddie shared the SLICE-RS concept with the ISFSI, and through grant funding it has now gone viral. Eddie’s creative mind, ability to work a problem, leading attitude, and overall desire to make the fire service--not just his fire department--better are why he is being recognized with this award.”

The award, which incorporates the Training Achievement Award previously given by Fire Engineering at the FDIC, is named for George D. Post, who was a long-time member of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI). Post was a member of the Fire Department of New York, an illustrator of fire service publications, and a developer of instructional materials and is considered by many to be the father of visual training material used to train fire service personnel around the world.

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