I awoke on Tuesday, September 4 from my overnight shift at the fire station to find the on-duty crew preparing to hang black bunting over the engine room bay doors. My friend, James P. (“Jim”) Seavey, Sr., retired chief of the Cabin John Park VFD, had passed away in the early morning hours of September 4, surrounded by family, after several years of battling non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He was 58 years old.
Jim Seavey’s name was synonymous with volunteerism in the fire service. At the time he died, Jim was on the Board of the Volunteer and Combination Officers Section of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and was the Maryland representative on the board of the National Volunteer Fire Council. He also served as Chairperson of the Maryland State Firemen’s Association (MSFA) Executive Committee and had previously served as president of the IAFC’s Eastern Division. In 2009, Jim was recognized by the IAFC as the Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year. He also received the Leslie B. Thompson Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Maryland Fire Chiefs Association, its highest honor. He was also recognized by the MSFA for his service as well as locally by the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire Rescue Association.
In addition to being a fierce advocate for the volunteer fire service, Jim Seavey worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the need for preventing cancer in firefighters. In addition to being featured in a public service video on the subject, Chief Seavey co-authored the Lavender Ribbon Report: Best Practices for Preventing Firefighter Cancer, published in August 2018 by the IAFC. The report sets out 11 actions that can dramatically reduce cancer cases caused by fighting fires.
Chief Seavey was a first responder for 42 years, starting as a 16-year-old high school volunteer at Glen Echo Fire Department in 1976. He rose to the rank of Assistant Chief before moving to the Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Department in 1992 to become Fire Chief, a post he held until retiring December 31, 2017. As a career firefighter, he served the D.C. Fire and EMS Department for 30 years, rising to the rank of Captain. He retired from the department in January 2016.
Jim Seavey was a good friend for many years. He and I often disagreed on department issues, fire service politics, etc., but we agreed on the important stuff like responder safety, the need to have a good time in everything you do, how worthless some rookies can be, how worthless many veteran firefighters are, and on the fact that water is best served frozen and surrounded by a delicious adult beverage. Jim embodied the indomitable spirit of the fire service – dedication, humor, and courage. He mentored young people, encouraging them to become better people and better responders, and he gave back to his community in innumerable ways. He leaves behind his wife, Mary, and his son, Jimmy, Jr. (who is a volunteer with the Rockville Fire Department and a career firefighter with the D.C. Fire and EMS Department). Jim will be sorely missed – around the dinner table, in the fire station, and in the community. I will miss him immensely.