Fire Chief W. Keith Brower heard the mayday call as he was approaching the scene of a home fire in 2008. The thought that a member of his crew was in danger filled him with dread. “When the mayday was called, I was approximately seven to eight miles out, and my heart stopped,” Brower told NFPA. “I feel a sense of personal responsibility to get them home safely to their families and loved ones."
As his firefighters entered the burning house, a fireball erupted on the first floor, trapping them upstairs. The flashover was so intense, their hose line burned in two. Fortunately, the four firefighters escaped the burning home, but one sustained serious burns and his injuries forced him to retire.
“When I see this firefighter, I don’t know what to say,” said Brower. “I really feel awkward saying” Hey, how’s it going?‟ because I know how it’s going. He’s partly incapacitated. He can’t do the job he loves.”
In Brower's opinion, fire sprinklers are the answer to end these tragedies. As one of NFPA's Faces of Fire, he has been a staunch, sprinkler advocate for years. Brower was recently honored for these and other life-safety efforts; he received the 2018 Governor's Fire Service Award for Career Fire Chief of the Year.
Retiring this spring, Brower has served Virginia's Loudoun County for 44 years and has been an advocate for fire prevention throughout the state and country, states a recent news article. His support for home fire sprinklers and "engagement with many national organizations is unprecedented," states the article.
NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative team congratulates Brower on his accolade, and wishes him a happy retirement.
Watch the video Brower recorded for NFPA's Faces of Fire campaign that underscores his support for home fire sprinklers: