An incident that sticks with Chief Russ Sanders happened on Mother’s Day, where two children were killed in a fire. This fire taught him to not take anything for granted and the importance of playing an active role in preventing fires. Having children of his own, the fire deaths of young children struck a chord and helped shape his later efforts to encourage a culture of prevention in the department.

Chief Russ Sanders

Russell “Russ” Sanders serves as NFPA’s Central Regional Director, Executive Secretary of the IAFC/NFPA Metropolitan “Metro” Fire Chiefs Association, the NFPA representative to the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the National Fire Chiefs Council of the United Kingdom (formerly CFOA), the Institution of Fire Engineers, the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council, the Global Fire Service Leadership Alliance and the International Technical Committee for the Prevention and Extinction of Fire (CTIF). Russ serves as President of the United States Delegation to the CTIF, which is headquartered in Slovenia and is also known as the International Fire and Rescue Services Association.

Russ graduated from the University of Louisville with a Bachelor of Arts Degree, a Master of Education Degree and a Master of Science Degree. In addition, he is a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program and Harvard University’s Senior Executive in State and Local Government Program. In 2012 Russ was awarded the rank of Fellow in the Institution of Fire Engineers, FIFireE, the highest grade offered by the Institution. In 2018 Russ received the Everette E. Hudiburg Fire Service Training Award from the International Fire Service Training Association. Also, in 2018 Russ was inducted into the 2018 National Fire Heritage Center’s Hall of Legends, Legacies and Leaders. In 2019 Russ received the Mason Langford Leadership Award. The award is presented by the Congressional Fire Services Institute and recognizes exemplary leaders in public safety for work to improve the delivery of fire and emergency services in the areas of prevention, mitigation and response. In 2000 Russ co-authored the first edition of Structural Fire Fighting: Strategy and Tactics and the second edition in 2008.

Prior to joining the NFPA staff in 1995, Russ was Chief of the Louisville (KY) Fire Department (LFD). He served 27 ½ years in the LFD, his last nine years as Chief of the Department.

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About the Series

Inspiration for the Next Generation of Fire Service Leadership

The Legacies in Leadership video series captures thoughts from fire service leaders with advice for the next generation of leaders. Viewers will hear how the nation's fire service legacies started their careers, learn about the impact of notable emergency incidents, and perspectives on how the fire service has changed and what the future holds.

Meet the Speakers