Los Alamos County Fire Department Awarded International Accreditation

At the awards banquet Thursday in Atlanta from left, CPSE Technical Advisor Gerard Kay, Deputy Chief Justin Grider, Fire Chief Troy Hughes, CFAI Commission Chair Steven Westermann, County Manager Harry Burgess, CPSE Technical Advisor Team Lead Gary Aleshire, IAFF President Bert Quintana and EMS Battalion Chief Ben Stone. Courtesy/LAFD

During the accreditation hearing last week in Atlanta, from left, County Manager Harry Burgess, Gary Aleshire, Chief Troy Hughes, Deputy Chief Justin Grider and EMS Division Chief Stone. Courtesy/LAFD

 

By CAROL A. CLARK
Los Alamos Daily Post
 
Affirming its ranking as one of the top fire service organizations in the world, the Los Alamos County Fire Department has earned International Accreditation – for the fourth time.

The Commission on Fire Accreditation International unanimously approved LAFD for International Accreditation.

County Manager Harry Burgess, Fire Chief Troy Hughes, Deputy Fire Chief Justin Grider, LAFD Union President Bert Quintana and EMT Supervisor Ben Stone traveled to Atlanta to accept the award on behalf of the department. They received the award Thursday evening at a special ceremony in the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel in downtown Atlanta.

Chief Hughes explained that the accreditation is a measure of the department in many was such as how it treats its people and the service it provides to the community, County and Laboratory. He added that LAFD was one of the original fire departments in 1997 that was a beta site for the accreditation process when Doug MacDonald was fire chief.

“We’ve been able to maintain that excellence but it gets harder every time because they set the bar higher … but we’re up to the challenge and the plan is to continue to get better.”

Accreditation Manager Norma Jean Valdez was unable to attend in person but did participate in the hearing from Los Alamos.

“Norma is a key piece and most important person in this process but it takes everyone to make it happen,” Hughes said.

Technology played a role in the hearing process for the first time, he said, adding that, “staff members were able to get face time during the proceedings … and they cheered and toasted with apple cider when we received the accreditation.

LAFD’s accreditation will remain in place for five years.

“This is my fourth time being a part of our accreditation process but the first time participating in the commission hearings so it’s very powerful,” Grider told the Los Alamos Daily Post during a telephone interview from Atlanta Thursday night. “I started back with Chief Mac (Doug MacDonald) and County Administrator Max Baker … this award tonight represents 20 years of operational excellence.”

He explained that the department is held to a higher standard with each accreditation process.

“The commissioners really dug deep and got into the heart and soul of our department,” Grider said. “They gave us nine specific and 13 strategic recommendations – three of which we’ve already addressed. All were things we’ve self-identified … there was nothing we didn’t already know.”

Some of the recommendations were budget driven, he said, and related to having older fire stations that will cost a lot of money to replace.

Grider also commended Valdez and called her the driving force behind the department’s accreditation. He also spoke of the people who make up the department.

“It’s humbling and an absolute honor to be working with the men and women of LAFD,” Grider said. “I was able to be here to receive this award but it was all their hard work that made this possible.”

Quintana represents Local 3279. “I’m here to help reinforce the labor – management relationship built over the last four years with Chief Hughes and his management team,” he said Thursday from Atlanta. “The accreditation is a great program and we are proud to be part of this process.”

Also during the events in Atlanta, EMS Division Chief Benjamin Stone became accredited as LAFD’s first certified emergency medical services officer.

“I took me a year to do the paperwork, then an interview with the fire chief out of Florida who was part of the certification team and another two months to find out if I made it,” Stone said.

The intense certification process is a full assessment of a firefighter’s career with elements such as public involvement and outreach, training, education, attendance at the National Fire Academy and more.

Stone began his career at LAFD in 2003 where he has served as a firefighter, driver, captain and now chief of the EMS Division.

“Being acknowledged in front of my peers was amazing,” Stone said.

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