Bryan Kleskie Named 2013 Safety Officer of the Year

Bryan Kleskie Named 2013 Safety Officer of the Year

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Battalion Chief Bryan Kleskie, health and safety officer for the Charleston (S.C.) Fire Department, was named the 2013 Safety Officer of the Year today at Fire-Rescue International in Chicago. The award is given annually by the IAFC’s Safety, Health and Survival (SHS) Section and co-sponsored by FireRescue magazine and the Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA).

Kleskie was assigned as the health and safety officer in August 2007, just two months after the tragic Sofa Super Store Fire that killed nine CFD firefighters. Immediately following the tragedy, the department endured a wave of criticism related to the tactics employed at the fire, as well as the department’s overall operations. As a result, the department went through a significant overhaul, particularly concerning its approach to safety.

According to his nomination, Kleskie was a big part of that change. “His appointment was a landmark assignment as the department did not have a health and safety officer. From 2007 to 2013, Battalion Chief Kleskie quietly and diligently built a health and safety program from the ground up, putting the City of Charleston Fire Department on a path to safer overall operations.” He is credited with improving the department’s safety and wellness “exponentially,” a task that was no small feat given all of the changes the department has experienced since 2007.

His nomination detailed many of the projects and programs in which Kleskie was involved, including developing and overseeing the department’s hose testing practices, as well as its respiratory protection program and SCBA maintenance program; presiding over the accident review panel; working on essential SOPs related to incident command, maydays, RIT deployment, etc.; coordinating the department’s medical physicals; establishing a deputy safety officer program to provide a shift safety presence; obtaining a grant that resulted in the creation of a rehabilitation trailer; and investigating injuries and collisions involving CFD personnel and apparatus, and making recommendations for preventing future occurrences.  

In addition to Kleskie’s emphasis on field operations improvements, he is also credited with making a significant impact on improving living conditions inside the CFD stations, many of which are more than 125 years old.

FireRescue magazine Editor-in-Chief Tim Sendelbach said he recognizes Kleskie’s award with pride and admiration. “In the darkest hours following the loss of nine firefighters, Chief Kleskie assumed the daunting task of making safety a top priority for the Charleston Fire Department. Today the Charleston Fire Department’s safety program is quickly becoming a model for others to follow. Chief Kleskie is a true representative of what it takes to be an effective safety officer in today’s fire service.”

Kleskie says his award nomination came as a surprise. “There are so many health and safety officers in this country who are working tirelessly every day to ensure that each of their department’s personnel completes every shift and their entire career safely that it is hard for me to believe that I am the most deserving,” he says. “I feel very fortunate to have been selected to receive this award.”

Kleskie joined the CFD in 1980 at the age of 18, resigned in 1981 to serve four years with the Army, and then returned to the CFD in 1985 after receiving his honorable discharge from the Army. Following the tragic events of June 18, 2007, Kleskie says he was proud to have the opportunity help the department heal and to be part of the change process instead of just waiting for it to happen.