Clifton's Kincaid is Firefighter of Year

Clifton's Kincaid is Firefighter of Year

Kevin Kincaid's dad had a career in the Air Force and hoped his son would follow in his footsteps, but he had other ideas.

"The fire department is a nationwide community," he said. "The teamwork and the brotherhood appealed to me."

So Kincaid became a career firefighter and, for the past 23 years, has distinguished himself as a paramedic and in many other roles for the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. Now a Captain II, last Wednesday, Sept. 25, he was honored as the department's 2002 Career Firefighter of the Year.

"I was shocked — I didn't even know I was nominated — and very humbled," said Kincaid, 42, of the Town of Clifton. "A lot of the work I do on behalf of the fire department is very easy to do because they are the best of the best. There are more than 1,100 professional firefighters out there who are deserving of this award."

The award honors someone whose outstanding service and selfless dedication are in keeping with the highest traditions of the department, and Kincaid certainly fills the bill. Besides serving as a paramedic for two decades, he also helped establish a public-safety occupational health center.

"It gave us consistency of doctors for our physicals and medical care," said Gary Dize, chairman of the award selection-committee. "For all those with infectious diseases and cancer, he fought to get them benefits and to get them put on disability at a higher rate. He also went to the Board of Supervisors for better pay and retirement benefits for firefighters."

Born in Morocco, Kincaid lived in Japan and the Southern U.S., but settled in Fairfax at age 14. A Woodson High grad, he attended GMU and studied emergency medical sciences at NOVA. Always interested in being a paramedic and working on an ambulance, he joined the department in 1979 at age 19.

He was at Annandale's station, but worked at other stations that had paramedic units. "At the time, there weren't too many paramedics [in the whole U.S.]," he said. "I was in the third paramedic class Fairfax County ever had."

After a year, Kincaid went to the Fairview Station in Burke Centre, where his co-workers had a big impact on his career. He said his job involves "knowledge, skill, a certain amount of confidence and a tiny bit of luck. And somehow, the more knowledge, skill and confidence you have, the luck sort of follows."

He became a sergeant and spent three years at the McLean station; then came a promotion to lieutenant and "seven memorable years" at Reston's station. "In 1986, there was no Reston Hospital, and the closest other paramedic units were in McLean, Vienna and Centreville, so Reston's first-due [primary-coverage] area was huge," he said.

"It was busy and challenging," said Kincaid. "You'd have heart attacks, strokes, auto accidents, people falling off rocks into the Potomac, shootings, stabbings, drug overdoses. Very rarely would you go an entire night without getting up several times; sometimes, you'd never even make it to bed. You could run as many as 20 calls a day — and they could take an hour, on average."

Today, captains are in charge of medic units, but then, lieutenants headed their own. "It was the first time I was in charge, so it was a big deal," said Kincaid. "That was one of my initial goals in the fire department — I felt great." Again, he worked with outstanding people: "Your unit is only as good as the people on it, and the teamwork on all my crews has just been incredible."

Returning to Fairview in 1993, he led a paramedic unit for two years, before becoming a Captain I and spending the next two years as the uniformed fire officer at the county's Public Safety Communications Center. That's where the 911 calls come, and Kincaid was the medical resource, insuring that the proper chiefs were notified, calling the Red Cross, building inspectors, etc.

"That was pretty neat," he said. "On a medic unit, I only had to worry about the call I was on. This gives you a whole different perspective about the stress [people at that center] are under, trying to run fire and rescue operations throughout the entire county."

After a promotion to Captain II, Kincaid was the OSHA compliance officer, dealing with firefighter health-and-safety issues in the department's Health and Safety division. In 1997, he helped develop a public safety occupational health center. "It cuts down on sick leave and disabilities and pays for itself, over and over," he said. "We have the premier occupational health center in the nation. We worked as a team — lots and lots of people put this together and made it a reality."

After 4 1/2 years, there, he went to Centreville's Fire Station 38 in May 2001 as a paramedic EMS (Emergency Medical Services) supervisor. He was part of a battalion management-team supervising EMS activities of six stations — Chantilly, Fair Oaks, Centreville's 38 and 17, Clifton and Burke Centre.

"I loved doing that," said Kincaid. "There's a lot of independence, watching good crews work and supporting and assisting them. It gave me the opportunity to be a part of EMS on a larger scale."

Last week, he began a new chapter, moving to the department's recruitment section for a one-year detail. This office does all the recruitment and processing of new, career firefighters for the whole department. Said Kincaid: "We're trying to revamp the system to make it a little less cumbersome."

He said the toughest part of his career is dealing with all the real tragedy. "We get exposed to things that most people should never see," he said. "You never forget the devastating calls — they take a little piece of you. There were a lot of calls involving children — those were tough."

But his family — wife Gwen and sons Brendan, 13, and Brian, 11 — helps see him through: "I have two wonderful boys; we play soccer and I coach my youngest son's team. And I still play in an adult league." Kincaid also enjoys horseback riding and traveling; he and Gwen are currently planning a trip to China, Russia, Korea and Japan.

He's also active in the firefighters union: "It's been one of the most rewarding parts of my career, making positive changes in the department that'll far outlast my time here."

Battalion Chief Mike Reilly, who's known Kincaid for 24 years, said he's an outstanding man, deserving of the award. "Three words come to mind — dedicated, honest and extremely reliable — both as a friend and a co-worker," he said. "As a leader, he's frank and speaks his mind. And he can talk to people at any level — the Board of Supervisors as well as a mom who comes into a fire station with her 3-year-old kid."

Calling Kincaid bright and resourceful, Reilly said he's stubborn, too — "especially when it comes to firefighter or firefighter-safety issues. He has been a great representative of our organization to both the citizens and the elected officials in our county."