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Barry L. Becton, assistant chief for fire protection with the Area III Fire Department at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, was honored Tuesday for his selection as Fire Officer of the Year by the U.S. Army Installation Management Agency - Korea Region Office.

Barry L. Becton, assistant chief for fire protection with the Area III Fire Department at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, was honored Tuesday for his selection as Fire Officer of the Year by the U.S. Army Installation Management Agency - Korea Region Office. (Courtesy of U.S. Army)

CAMP HUMPREYS, South Korea — A veteran firefighter in charge of fire safety at Camp Humphreys has been named the Army’s top firefighter on the Korean peninsula.

Barry L. Becton, assistant chief for fire protection at Camp Humphreys, a U.S. Army helicopter base, received Fire Officer of the Year honors from the U.S. Army Installation Management Agency-Korea Region Office.

“I was surprised, excited … this is a great honor, especially in firefighting,” said Becton, who began as a firefighter in the U.S. Navy in the 1970s.

“His function is sort of separate from what the operations firefighters do,” said Becton’s boss, Area III fire chief Anthony J. Marra.

“Operations firefighters jump on the truck, go put out the fire, versus his office, which is the guys going out all the time and saying, ‘Don’t have fires and this is the safe way of not having fires.’

“He goes out and does fire extinguisher instruction, how to store hazardous fuel and stuff in flammable storage lockers,” said Marra. “He reviews all of the new buildings that are being built, he reviews the design plans to ensure that they have all of the required fire protection already installed and that it’s compatible with the systems we have already installed, so that we don’t waste money there.

“One thing is that he’s a walking library of information,” said Marra. “I ask about, ‘Can you install a certain thing at a certain location?’ and he just rattles off” the precise reference to a national fire protection rule that “‘doesn’t allow you to use that and here’s the reason why. …’”

The Army honored Becton on Tuesday in a brief ceremony at the Camp Humphreys firehouse.

“You protect us every day to make sure that we are safe at night, safe in the morning, safe on weekends,” Brig. Gen. John A. Macdonald, director of IMA-KORO, told the assembled firefighters.

“We are here not only to praise Mr. Becton, but to say thanks to you. … As you know, this was a competition all across Korea. We have 24 fire stations, so … it is significant that one of your folks got this.”

Becton said his selection reflected “a team effort … so I want to thank all of you.”

One of his fire prevention emphases has been to reach adults by aiming the message especially at youngsters. “They will remember … ‘Stop, drop and roll.’ They will remember an escape plan. … They take it home to Mom and Dad. They go to Mom and Dad” with a reminder to “test that smoke detector,” Becton said.

But Becton indicated he also spends some time trying to prevent logistic, as well as real-time fires: He’s already keeping a concerned eye on the broad program of new construction now under way at Camp Humphreys.

The fire inspection workload and staffing levels are governed in part by the total amount of square footage the office is responsible for inspecting, he said. With the Army spending millions of dollars for new barracks, family housing and other quality-of-life improvements at the camp, “right now the square footage … is supposed to triple. … If that’s the case, then yes, my office should triple in size as far as inspectors to be able to handle all the risk assessments” and other fire safety and prevention work.


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