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20 Questions with Shane Parkins of the National Firefighters Endowment

Read other “20 Questions” interviews here

Shane Parkins is the President of the National Firefighters Endowment. He is a good friend of the Fire Critic although we have never met in person. Shane’s work with the NFE has been inspirational.

Shane resides in Sacremento, California with his wife and two children. They are expecting their third child in August.

Here are his answers to my “20 Questions” interview. You might notice that there aren’t exactly 20 questions below because he answered some of them in other questions. I will roll with it. Who’s counting anyways?

Be sure to check out the NFE on Facebook and Twitter too!

What is your connection to the Fire Service?

A woman asked me recently, “What made you want to be a firefighter?” Without over thinking it I shot back and said, “The same thing that makes little boys want to be superheroes.”

My grandfather rode the 4 Engine with San Francisco Fire Dept. Two of my uncles also served as Chiefs in a nearby beach community and Silicon Valley. Like many in the fire service, I studied Fire Science in college and served as a Reserve Firefighter/EMT with my local department, Sacramento Fire.

While my legacy and history with the fire service has given me experience and insight, I would say what truly connects me can be found in the heart of that little boy and his cape.

After a neck surgery and the discovery of cardiac abnormality, you won’t find me pulling much hose anymore. But I can still do something brave. I can still do something that matters.

What is the National Firefighters Endowment?

National Firefighters Endowment is a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to support fire departments that may lack the resources to effectively do the job. More specifically, our focus is on ensuring firefighters have the tools to respond in times of crisis, and do so safely.

There is a significant disparity between our nation’s fire departments and the resources they have on hand. What is constant however, from station to station, state to state, is that a firefighter can always be counted on to respond in times of trouble regardless of the resources they have to help.

A firefighter was telling me recently that her department does not perform interior fire attack and they are severely restricted on rescue operations. The reason is because they do not have enough SCBAs.

While others may run away from fire, a firefighter is a unique breed.  They instinctively are drawn into the flame. For them, there is no greater prize in that moment than the life of a stranger whose last hope lies with them. I can think of few things so cruel than to restrict a firefighter from doing so in that moment; to ask them to turn away from victim, simply because we failed to provide the proper tools.

NFE exists for that reason. To respond when our brothers and sisters call for help, before the tones drop. To put the tools in their hand and the gloves on their hands.

Who benefits from the National Firefighters Endowment?

Fire departments of every city, town, fire district and authority within the United States, are eligible to apply for funds.

How can departments receive funding/grants from the NFE?

We are currently accepting video applications from departments to win one of several grants throughout the coming year. The process is not much different from applying for Extreme Makeover-Home Edition. Grab a camera phone and follow the outline that we provide on our website. We want to hear your story and be inspired by what you do. Videos will be voted on by the public, so it also is a great opportunity for departments to connect with their community and raise local support as well. More information can be found here.

How can individual firefighters help with the NFE?                       

The best way for individual firefighters to help is by becoming a member of our Officers Club.

Explain The Officers Club.

The Officers Club is an exclusive cadre of brothers and sisters who have pledged to participate in the mission of NFE. It is limited to 343 members in each of three levels. Their monthly contributions are responsible for every piece of equipment that NFE is able to place in-service.

By the way, thank you Rhett (if that’s your real name) for joining The Officers Club as a Chief. Your limited edition (005/343) gold challenge coin is on its way. Keep it handy or you may end up buying drinks.

How can departments help out other departments through the NFE?

I asked Willie Wines Jr. once how much money it would take for him to shave his trademark mustache. I was joking.  He got quiet for a moment, and then said with a solemn conviction, “I’d lay it down if it could help a brother.” He meant it. That was the birth of Brotherhood Cuts.

Brotherhood Cuts is a way for departments to “lay it down for their brother” by hosting a mustache and head shaving event. The money raised goes to support a specific department or need. In fact, just recently firefighters in Surrey County, North Carolina made the shave to buy bailout kits for several neighboring fire departments. It was an inspiring display of brotherhood and sacrifice to protect the lives of brothers and sisters they have never met.

Another way is to host a bucket brigade or fill the boot style fundraiser. Whether it is to benefit the mission as a whole or to sponsor a specific department, we are happy to match it to the preference of the dept.

Who are some of the companies who have already helped out or partnered with the NFE?

We have worked closely with MN8-Foxfire to help get their illuminating technology out to over 40 departments in the last 6 months. Many of those grants resulted in departments coming back to MN8 to order enough to equip all of their firefighters.

We have also worked closely with Phenix Fire Helmets. In fact, their leather helmet has become our favorite thank you gift to our fundraisers who have helped raise $1,000 or more through their bucket brigade. See firefighterbucketbrigade.com for more information.

The NFE is a distributor for Phenix helmets. Why should firefighters purchase their helmets through the NFE?

Yes, you can now purchase Phenix helmets directly from NFE. We have created rescueswag.com as an online, custom shop where you can spec it just how you like it. 100% of the proceeds go back to NFE. Pretty cool eh?

Name a couple of companies you would like to partner with? 

It would be great to collaborate with a reputable PPE/turnout company as well as an SCBA manufacturer. While financial or product donations are great we also look for cause-related partnerships. We believe in mutually beneficial partnerships and we work hard to ensure everyone receives value.

We are also looking for someone willing to donate an RV that will allow us to deliver equipment in person on a coast to coast US tour. I’m sure there is an apparatus company that would be willing to let us roll an RV into their paint booth or even to re-upholster the rig to match the interior of their engines.

Who in the Fire Service would you most like to meet? 

I don’t mean to sound cliché but I would really most like to meet the firefighters who carry the gear we give out. I want to share a meal and get to know the names of their spouses and their kids. I want to hear their stories so I never lose sight of why this work is so important.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • north chief

    Thanks for letting us know of this organization. I never heard of the organization and when I got an e mail thought it was a scam. I will now go back and join and support this group. Keep up the good work!

    • The Fire Critic

      Thanks Chief. You are quite welcome! The NFE is just getting its stride.