Seymour Fire Chief Brad Lucas has been named president of the Indiana Fire Chiefs Association.
He was sworn into office Saturday during the Indiana Emergency Response Conference in Indianapolis.
The association was founded in 1926 and advocates for Hoosier firefighters and advances the fire service profession in Indiana.
Throughout the year, IFCA offers educational opportunities, conferences and networking events. A monthly newsletter, a website and social media keep members current on events throughout the state and beyond.
Lucas has been a member of the organization for the past five years. He has been Seymour’s fire chief for five and a half years.
“Four years ago, they asked me if I would be third vice president, so it’s a succession,” Lucas said. “It wasn’t a surprise. I got into it knowing it would happen and when it would happen.”
Seymour and Jackson County are included in District 8 of the association’s 10-district coverage. Lucas also serves as director of District 8, which encompasses Jackson, Bartholomew, Brown, Washington, Lawrence and Orange counties.
Officers of the IFCA meet monthly either by teleconference or in person in Indianapolis, Lucas said.
Membership in the association is about 850, he added. Active members are chiefs of departments or any chief office rank, such as battalion chiefs. Associate members include individuals from any Indiana fire department, including volunteer fire departments, not holding the title of any chief officer rank.
One of the group’s main purposes is to work with a lobbyist to represent firefighters and advocate for public safety funding, policy and legislation at the Statehouse.
Association members can be called on to testify before legislative committees on issues that could impact the firefighting field.
“I suspect I’ll be doing that some,” Lucas said.
One issue currently being discussed is presumptive cancers because the current pension system does not recognize these cancers as a result of line of duty.
“A lot of firefighters are coming down with these cancers in their 40s and dying,” he said. “These types of cancers can be caused by being exposed to the ash and soot or other carcinogens that are a result of being in a fire.”
Several years ago, late 50s was the expected age of a firefighter to live because of the hazardous conditions in which they work.
That age has increased, Lucas said, but cancer is still a significant threat to firefighters because of the chemicals they inhale at the scene of a fire. That’s why it’s important for firefighters to have access to clean turnout gear and good equipment in working order, including air tanks, Lucas said.
“It’s not just about the 20 minutes you’re doing a rescue,” he said. “We’ve got to get the guys, especially young ones coming in, to realize these dangers are out there. The association wants to raise awareness and work with legislators to recognize these cancers as a result of line of duty so we can get them increased benefits.”
Besides legislation, the association also is in charge of the Fire Alliance, which brings several groups together once a month, including volunteer firefighter associations, homeland security, the state fire marshal’s office and the state firefighters union.
“That way, we’re all on the same page,” Lucas said. “We get together to see what our issues our, what our priorities are. It’s one of my favorite things.”
As president, Lucas will be required to represent the Indiana Fire Chiefs Association at different functions, including the annual emergency response conference, which the IFCA sponsors. They also have a special track day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a legislative day at the Statehouse and an awards banquet.
Lucas said he is honored to be a member of the group and will do his best to lead it.
His predecessor, Fred Hines, served on the IFCA board of directors nearly his entire career as Seymour’s fire chief and also was president for a time. He won an award for fire chief of the year from the association.
“It’s a great organization. I really love it,” Lucas said. “It’s given me the opportunity to meet a lot of people I never would have. A lot of fascinating people out there, smart people.”
Before becoming chief himself, Lucas said he didn’t really care about what other firefighters or departments were doing. His way of thinking has since changed, he said.
“When you get out and see people and talk to other chiefs or firefighters across the state, you really get a feel of what’s going on,” he said. “You realize they are having the same issues you’re having, whether it be funding or staffing or anything fire-related. There is somebody else dealing with it.”
He hopes to be able to spread the word about the association.
“We don’t have a lot of representation in southern Indiana because we’re more rural and less populated,” he said. “That’s going to be one of the things I try to do, get more representation for the southern part of the state.”