“Our past history informs our present condition, as we chart our course for the future,” this is the tagline that Rodney Slaughter, CEO/President of the National Fire Heritage, uses to remind people of our purpose. The mission of the National Fire Heritage Center (NFHC) is to preserve the perishable history of the fire services and fire protection disciplines. This mission is significant because the history of our industry and community is a microcosm and reflection of our Nation’s trials, tragedies, and triumphs.
As the fire protection industry and emergency service-related organizations continue to evolve socially, technically, and economically, we have the opportunity to choose what part of our heritage we want to highlight and which of our storied traditions we should selectively carry forward. Preserving our history, traditions and culture allows us to make these types of informed decisions.
In 2021, the NFHC will post over 15,000 historical documents to our website in a searchable and downloadable database. The strength of this database system, and it’s future potential, will allow the NFHC to assist in cataloging historical documents in other collections, fire museums, education, and fire research facilities around the country. In this way the NFHC will become the largest neuro-network of fire history nationally.
President Slaughter reminds the NFHC Board of Directors and Board of Trustees that we need to be conscious of the organization culture we are creating for ourselves. In his work as an organization consultant, Rodney often references the Native American activist, Shining Arrows; “If you have 100 people who live together, and each one cares for the rest, you have one mind!” For the past decade, we’ve been pounding on the drum for more funding. Our fortune, however, is in the nurtured relationships we maintain internally and externally. Funding will follow our shared humanity.
The NFHC is ahead of the pandemic in that we are geographically dispersed around the country; we already work from our home offices in the service of preserving fire-related history from three different time zones. With thanks to a grant from the Delaplaine Foundation, we are now connected remotely with video-conference technology, allowing a higher level of collaboration and engagement as a team of professionals dedicated to the organization’s mission and vision.
After a 43-year fire service career, Rodney’s practice as a culture consultant provides organization assessments to business, nonprofit, and government agencies. Rodney studied Fire Science at Honolulu Community College, has a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from California State University, Sacramento, and holds a Master of Science in Organization Development (MSOD) from Pepperdine University, The George L. Graziadio School of Business and Management in Malibu, California.