History of the North American Fire Training Directors

David E. Hedrick, NAFTD Vice President
Director University of Missouri Fire and Rescue Training Institute


The "History of the NAFTD" was a project of the Executive Board that was initiated in 2011. The purpose was to preserve the history of the organization and to recognize the contributions to the betterment of the Fire Service that have occurred as a result of the work of the NAFTD and its members. In sincere appreciation for the support of the Executive Board, they are: President Eriks Gabliks (OR), Vice President David Hedrick (MO), Secretary John Cunningham (NS), Treasurer Randal Novak (IA), and Past President Adam Piskura (CT).

Reconstructing the history of the NAFTD was done utilizing NAFTD archive materials, national reference sources and the assistance of past NAFTD officers and members. We gratefully acknowledge the research and recollections provided by the following individuals: John Cunningham (NS), NAFTD Secretary 2010-13; Rick Mason (NH), NAFTD President 2007-09; Adam Piskura (CT), NAFTD President 2001-03; Bruce Piringer (MO), NAFTD President 1991-95; Nancy Trench (OK), NAFTD Vice Chair 1983-85and Treasurer 1981-1997; and Bill Westhoff (MO), NAFTD Founding Member.


Firefighting has evolved through the years in response to the challenges of increasing fire risk and associated hazards. New methods and techniques of firefighting have developed, along with new technologies in order to more effectively combat the potential hazards of fire and other disasters. With each development, the increased need for training was evident. Over the last half century, fire training and education has developed into a highly specialized occupation within the fire service.

In North America, state, provincial, and territorial training systems were developed to provide consistent, comprehensive training resources to their geographic areas. Over time representatives from these fire training systems began to meet together to discuss the coordination of initiatives and share information. These initial meetings led to the formation of fire training groups that in due course transitioned to become the North American Fire Training Directors (NAFTD). Today the NAFTD is a multi-nation organization that promotes the common interests of providing a quality fire training and educational experience for firefighters. The membership is comprised of the Directors of the recognized authority of fire service training in each of the fifty states and each Canadian province and territory. The story behind the establishment of the NAFTD is a unique part of the history of the American Fire Service.

Early History of Fire Training Systems

Beginning with the establishment of the first initial state level fire training systems in the 1930s and continuing as the number of state training systems increased through the 1960s, a cooperative exchange was developed regarding fire service information and training programs across the United States. Originally information sharing and exchange of programming was done directly between entities or within regions of the country. Instructor sharing and cross training in the 1950s between state systems opened up additional opportunities, and helped drive the need to establish a national group representing the issues and needs related to the state fire training systems.

In 1960, a group of instructors came together in Memphis, TN, to form the International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI). The ISFSI was originally formed to serve as a resource for fulltime fire service instructors employed by state or municipal fire training organizations. To expand and meet the needs of part-time instructors and other contingents, the Society's Constitution and By-Laws underwent changes between 1970 and 1973. As part of these changes in 1973, sections within the organization were created to meet specialized interests. The State Directors Section of the organization consisted of fulltime state fire service training directors and executive directors of state fire commissions. The stated goal of this section was to upgrade the: "training and education programs in every state through a mutual sharing of materials, information, ideas and experiences."1 In addition to participating in annual meetings of the Society, the State Directors Section also held meetings at various other national fire service events and meetings.

At the same time that the U.S. National Fire Academy (NFA) was founded in 1979, it was recognized that the state fire training systems played an important role in the overall training and preparedness of the nation's firefighters. Working in concert with the state fire systems, the NFA developed various joint training opportunities through enfranchised, endorsed, or state sponsored programming. The development of this partnership quickly established the state fire training systems as the local point of contact for the NFA. Today, the NAFTD and state fire training systems continues to play a major role in providing local access and delivery of NFA programming.

Founding of the NAFTD

A number of State Fire Training Directors met together at an informal meeting in Stillwater, OK, during the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) annual Validation Conference in July 1981. They discussed the formation of a separate organization with its own identity to represent the specific issues of the state fire training systems. The first proposed name for the organization was the National Association of State Directors of Fire Training. Considerable discussion developed surrounding the founding of a new organization and the impact this might have on the existing ISFSI State Directors Section. Ultimately the members of the ISFSI State Directors Section would vote to disband the Section in favor of the new organization.

An organizational meeting for the new proposed state directors' group was held on October 5, 1981 in Kansas City, MO, at the Hilton Airport Plaza Inn. A constitution for the organization was drafted and the official name of the organization was the National Association of State Directors of Fire Training and Education (NASDFTE). The interim officers for the NASDFTE were: Keith Royer (IA), Chairman; Joe McDonagh (SC), Vice Chair; and Nancy Trench (OK), Secretary/Treasurer. Membership was open to one eligible member from each state that was responsible for the administration and delivery of statewide fire training and education. The purpose of the organization was:

to serve as a vehicle for direct representation of state fire training and education programs to organizations and agencies whose decisions, policies, or programs have an impact on individual statewide fire training and education programs; and to serve as a forum for the enhancement and enrichment of state fire training and education programs and their managers. 2

Original founding organizers of the National Association of State Directors of Fire Training & Education, which became the North American Fire Training Directors (NAFTD). Picture left to right: Max Thomas (KS), in back Joe McDonagh (SC), Nancy Trench (OK), Bill Westhoff (MO), Keith Royer (IA), Wayne McLaughlin (NE), and Jerry Monigold (IL).

The first official meeting of the NASDFTE was held on March 26 – 27, 1982, in West Memphis, Arkansas. The members present drafted another version of the organization's constitution and by-laws as well as set membership requirements and scheduled future annual meetings. The officer nominating committee recommended that the current interim officers continue to serve until the annual meeting at which time an official election would be held. The first annual meeting of the organization was held October 5 – 6, 1982, in Ames, IA, at the Fire Service Extension facility. The organization voted and approved the NASDFTE Constitution and By-Laws on October 5, 1982.

Prior to and during the founding years of the organization, a number of individuals provided strong leadership roles in state fire training system and national fire service issues. As a tribute to two of these important individuals, the NASDFTE granted Honorary Life Memberships to Keith Royer (IA) and Henry Smith (TX) during its annual meeting in College Station, TX, on October 5, 1988.

Changes to the Organization

In the 1990s discussions began about the sharing and exchange of fire training information with the NASDFTE contemporaries in Canada. Canadian fire training systems at the provincial and territorial level had similar operations and training issues as state fire training systems. With the passage of a new constitution on Oct. 14, 1995, Canadian provincial and territorial fire training directors were admitted for membership in NASDFTE. With the multi-nationality membership, the name was changed from NASDFTE to ASPTDFT, or the Association of State, Provincial, and Territorial Directors of Fire Training.

The organization adopted a new constitution and set of by-laws on March 20, 1998. The name of the organization was changed, once again, to the name it carries today, the North American Fire Training Directors (NAFTD). Within the new by-laws and constitution, the composition and titles of the governing officers of the organization changed. The titles of Chair and Vice Chair were changed to President and Vice President respectively, and the position of Past President was added to the Board. In 2005, the North American Fire Training Directors incorporated in Iowa as a not-for-profit organization, and was ruled by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)3 organization.


NAFTD members serve as the primary point of contact for fire training and education conducted throughout the United States and Canada. Each year the NAFTD member training systems provide training to over 940,000 firefighters and emergency responders ranging from basic entry level fire-fighting instruction to professional development courses for chief fire officers. The NAFTD state, provincial, and territorial fire training systems together own or operate approximately 469 classrooms, 1,925 fixed or mobile props and have access to hundreds more through collaborative agreements. Many NAFTD members are responsible for training standards and requirements within their jurisdictions, and either conduct or link with certification programs that are nationally or internationally accredited.

Recognized by other major fire service organizations, governmental entities, and legislators as key stakeholders, the North American Fire Training Directors organization is often sought out as a source of expertise, information, and resource on fire service related issues and policy.


Recommendations on the Relationship Between the National Fire Prevention and Control Administration and the State-Level Fire Community, "Final report of A Working Seminar", prepared by the State Directors of Fire Training Section ISFSI, under a grant from the National Fire Prevention and Control Administration, 1977, p4.

NAFTD Archives, "Meeting Minutes of the National Association of State Directors of Fire Training and Education", October 5, 1981.

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