Region Forward Blog

Q&A: Richard Bowers Fairfax County Fire Chief

Feb 27, 2014

In 2013 the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors appointed Richard R. Bowers Jr. as the county’s fire chief. A 35-year veteran of the Montgomery County Md. Fire and Rescue Service Bowers served as MCFRS fire chief from 2008 to 2013. A Pentagon and Hurricane Katrina New Orleans Citation Award recipient he was Montgomery County’s Firefighter of the Year in 1985 and received the Marvin Gibbons Award for Excellence in Firefighter I – Recruit Class 35-1977. Bowers attended the University of Maryland University College where he earned a master degree certification in human resource management a bachelor of fire science degree and a public fire-protection management and administration education certificate. He holds an associate degree from Montgomery College (Rockville). Currently chair of the Council of Governments Fire Chiefs Committee Bowers is a past chair of COG’s Fire Health and Safety Subcommittee. He also has served as an adjunct professor for the Montgomery College Rockville Fire Science Program and was a Pentagon 9/11 operational response task force member and served as a member of the FEMA USAR Oklahoma City bombing disaster response team.

What got you interested in firefighting?

My interest in the profession began early in life as I was always amazed at the fire units and work that firefighters and paramedics do. I was inspired and drawn to the profession in an effort to help those that are having the worst moments in their life at the time they call 911. The profession has been so good to me and I make every effort to give back more than I have received. I am very fortunate to have a professional public service career in which the profession is honorable and admired.

What brought you to this region originally? If you are from the region what kept you here?

I am born and bred from this great region. I was born at Doctors Hospital in Washington D.C and my parents moved to Rockville Maryland in Montgomery County. I grew up in Rockville went to school in Rockville and began my firefighting career in Rockville during the 1970s. I have experienced the incredible growth in this region and it is a beautiful area to live work play and pray.

What has been the biggest challenge in moving from Montgomery County to Fairfax County?

The biggest challenge continues to be doing everything possible to “prevent the 911 call” for the residents of Fairfax County! In the fire -EMS profession prevention is our number one priority. Another challenge has been to learn the Fairfax County governmental process and the diverse geographical areas of the county.

What are some of the region’s key areas of progress after 9/11 in emergency coordination and response?

Without question the collaboration communication cooperation and coordination among public safety and government agencies have continued across the region with a primary focus of working together. Across the region our preparedness and operational readiness has been significantly improved and solidified because of the coordination and collaboration. The region has leveraged the talent and expertise of the personnel in our area and the benefits have been enormous. The most significant accomplishment since 9-11 for the entire region has been achieving interoperability and strengthening our seamless mutual aid response.

What are the benefits to area fire departments who work together as part of the COG Fire Chiefs Committee?

The most significant benefits are the relationships that are formed the sharing of information and the leveraging of regional resources. Being able to pick up the phone and having the ability to ask a colleague for information or assistance is extremely comforting.

All the COG Fire Chiefs are signatories to the COG Fire and Rescue Mutual Aid Operational Plan (MAOP) that was established a few years ago. How does this MAOP benefit the Fire Chiefs in the region?

The MAOP is a huge benefit to the COG Fire Chiefs and the population of the region. The MAOP provides seamless response with automatic and mutual aide response. This occurs day to day on small and large scale incidents. The MAOP improves response times and saves lives property and the environment.

Is this region a leader in certain areas of firefighting and emergency response?

This region has been and continues to be innovators and leaders as “all-hazards” fire rescue and EMS departments. The region is known for being innovators and leaders in the areas of Hazardous Materials response technical rescue and fire-based EMS services. Of particular note is that the region has two highly experienced Urban Search and Rescue FEMA technical response teams. These sponsoring agencies are Fairfax County Virginia Task Force 1 and Montgomery County Maryland Task Force 1. Fairfax County’s Task Force Team is also an international technical rescue response team.

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