Chief James P. Seavey, Jr.
The Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Department (CJPVFD) mourns the loss of beloved Retired Chief James P. Seavey Sr., who passed away September 4, 2018 after years of battling non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a blood cancer.
Jim Seavey was a first responder in the greater D.C. area for 42 years, starting as a 16-year-old Walt Whitman 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 and took office as Fire Chief January 1, 1992. He held the post 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. For many years he was the officer of E16, the fire engine dubbed the Midnight Express at the station that has the White House as “first due,” meaning that its firefighters are tasked with being the first at the scene. Seavey retired from the D.C. Fire Department in January 2016.
Chief Seavey’s enthusiasm for everything related to firefighting, including activities having nothing to do with trucks and hose lines, was on display throughout his career. He was an active member of the DC Emerald Society Pipes and Drums, kilt-wearing firefighters playing bagpipes and drums. He often marched with them in parades, bearing their banner, and was their first Honor Guard Sergeant. A few days before he died, the band visited him at home and played a number of the marching songs that he loved. We invite photos of him in a kilt!
His love affair for Jack Daniels was equally passionate, as demonstrated by his status as an Honorary Fire Chief of the Jack Daniels Fire Brigade in Lynchburg, Tennessee.
Chief Seavey was always looking for ideas and strategies to enhance the operation of CJPVFD, many of which have been woven into the culture of our Department. His “fireside chats” with new Probationary members were legendary. He would talk about his history with the fire service and how it set him in the right direction for life. He inspired many young men and women to volunteer or seek a career in the fire service.
Chief Seavey’s interests and influence reached far beyond the D.C. area. A recent example: He researched and co-authored the Lavender Ribbon Report: Best Practices for Preventing Firefighter Cancer, published just last month by the International Association of Fire Chiefs, where until his death Chief Seavey was on the board of the Volunteer and Combination Officers Section. The report sets out 11 actions that can dramatically reduce cancer cases caused by fighting fires.
During his time at Cabin John, Chief Seavey served as Chairperson of the Maryland State Firemen’s Association (MSFA) Executive Committee, the governing body for that organization. He was actively involved in the FROG programs—hands-on learning opportunities for leaders of the volunteer and combination fire service. Chief Seavey was always a vocal advocate for the advancement of the volunteer fire service. At the time of his death he was the Maryland representation on the board of the National Volunteer Fire Council. Previously he served as president of the Eastern Division of Fire Chiefs, a division of the IAFC that represents chief officers in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Washington, D.C.
In 2009, Chief Seavey 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. This is the highest honor awarded by the Maryland Fire Chiefs. He was also recognized by the MSFA for his service as well as locally by the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire Rescue Association.
Those of us who knew Jim Seavey suspect that while he valued the honors and plaudits and high offices, he would trade them all to hear from the youngsters he mentored. We think he would be warmed by a reminiscence from Ana Soule, a member of CJPVFD from 2003 to 2008:
“I joined Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Department at 16 years old. I oftentimes credit the fire department for helping me get my ass in line and away from a self-destructive teenage path. Chief Jim Seavey was a big part of that. He could have easily dismissed me and the other junior members as annoying kids tromping their way through his house, but he really embraced us. He had an almost rock-star status among us probies, and he made us WANT to achieve. The fire department led me to my career as a nurse and shaped the person I am today. While it has been many years since I have been active, CJPVFD and Chief Seavey still hold a very solid place in my heart. The world lost an incredible man today, my heart goes out to his family, fire department family, and friends. I’m cherishing and laughing at the memories today. Rest easy, Chief.”