Famed Boston Fire Commissioner, Chief Leo Stapleton Passes Away

Stapleton was a popular speaker at fire conferences and seminars across the country and has received numerous awards for his contributions to the fire service, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from Fire Engineering magazine in 2006.
(Boston Fire Department photo)

Stapleton served the Boston Fire Department
from 1951 to 1991

FirefighterNation Staff

BOSTON, Massachusetts – The Boston Fire Department announced on Monday the death of Boston Fire Commissioner/Chief of Department (retired) Leo D. Stapleton.

Leo Stapleton was a member of the Boston Fire Department for forty years, serving as both Commissioner and Chief of Department during the last seven.

His father was appointed Chief of Department in 1950. He has two sons, Leo Jr. and Garrett, who were also Boston firefighters.

Stapleton was a popular speaker at fire conferences and seminars across the country and has received numerous awards for his contributions to the fire service, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from Fire Engineering magazine in 2006.

“Leo D. Stapleton, Boston (MA) Fire Commissioner/Chief of Department (Ret.) was the recipient of this year’s award. Stapleton began his fire service career as a firefighter for the Boston Fire Department in 1951. During his career, he rose through the ranks, and was fire commissioner/chief of department from 1984-1991. “There is no higher honor in Boston, other than perhaps being a member of the 2004 World Champion Red Sox,” said Halton. “But for a Boston firefighter, however, it is everything to have your brothers and sisters call you a good Jake. I have the honor this morning, and I say honor with tremendous humility, to present the Fire Engineering 2006 Lifetime Achievement award to Boston’s own Jake of Jakes, Commissioner (Retired) Leo D. Stapleton.

During his career, Stapleton was a visiting lecturer on breathing apparatus at the Harvard School of Public Health; a charter member of the International Society for Respiratory Protection; a featured speaker on respiratory protective equipment at the first IAFF Redmond Symposium, Notre Dame University, 1971; a speaker at the International Society for Respiratory Protection Convention, San Francisco 1989; and a keynote speaker at the Michiana School of Fire and Emergency Services, Notre Dame University, June, 2001. “Leo Stapleton was a lifetime union member and always considered a leading force in the advancement of firefighter safety,” said Halton. “It is universally accepted that largely due to Commissioner Stapleton’s initiation of the NASA Firefighters Breathing System Program, the introduction of the high-pressure SCBA was fast tracked for acceptance worldwide. The firefighters’ lives saved by this one act alone are countless.”

Upon receiving the award, Stapleton said, “To be able to work at an occupation which brings tremendous personal satisfaction, and to enjoy the association with the marvelous people we have been privileged to work with, makes firefighting enviable to those sentenced to much more mundane walks of life. The fire service is truly a most noble vocation, and I am extremely pleased to have spent so much of my life as a member of this vital organization.””

Fire Engineering: Leo Stapleton, Former Boston Fire Commissioner/Chief of Department, Passes

Stapleton was the author of 11 books about the fire service and firefighting. His most notable work, “Thirty Years On The Line,” chronicled his career in the fire service.

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