James Clack, formerly of Park Rapids, recently received the 2019 Career Fire Chief of the Year Award from the International Association of Fire Chiefs in Atlanta, Ga.
Clack’s career in the fire service began more than 33 years ago. Starting in 1986 as a rookie firefighter in downtown Minneapolis, and moving up the ranks during the next 20 years, Clack was appointed fire chief with Minnesota’s largest fire department in 2006.
A few years later, he became the first fire chief appointed from outside the fire department in the history of Baltimore, Md., where he re-established a non-profit foundation to financially help firefighters and their families who are hurt in the line of duty.
While Clack was serving as fire chief, Baltimore became the largest city in the U.S. to require residential sprinkler systems in single-family dwellings. Clack also led a successful effort to install smoke detectors with 10-year lithium batteries in thousands of homes, and partnered with John Hopkins University to complete in-home fire safety inspections in some of the most impoverished areas of the city. Due in part to Clack’s commitment to safety, Baltimore’s fire deaths decreased to an all-time low in 2012.
In 2014, Clack became chief of the Ankeny, Iowa fire department. While there, he developed a strategic plan to manage population growth and the increase in call volume. His vision, planning and leadership led to opening a new fire station last year, resulting in reduced response times citywide.
In addition to his commitment to fire service, Clack is an Army veteran, a volunteer animal rescue pilot and a Catholic deacon. Clack also served as the unified incident commander in 2007 when the I-35W Bridge collapsed over the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis, bringing together local, state and federal agencies.