Stephen D. Coan, the recently retired Massachusetts State Fire Marshal, received the 2016 James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal for his tenure with the fire service, his years of fire investigation and code enforcement leadership in the Bay State, and his extensive fire safety education efforts.
Coan headed the Department of Fire Services since its creation in 1995, and was Massachusetts’ longest running state fire marshal with 20 years of service. Prior to that he was the director of the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy. During these two roles, Coan oversaw the construction of two Fire Services campuses in Greater Boston and Western Massachusetts.
Coan’s significant contributions to the fire safety field include his advocacy for effective fire prevention codes, strong enforcement practices and community outreach. He prioritized public fire and life safety education, working tirelessly to ensure that Massachusetts adopt the Student Awareness of Fire Education or S.A.F.E. Program. This program has reduced child fire deaths by more than 70 percent in the past 20 years. Building on this success, Coan then launched the Senior S.A.F.E. Program to help reduce elderly fire deaths.
Following the 1999 Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Fire that killed six firefighters, Coan led the charge for changes to fire service response. Within a year of the 2003 Station Nightclub Fire in Rhode Island, where 100 lives were lost, he spearheaded the Massachusetts Fire Safety Act, which led to sweeping safety regulations that are considered among the toughest in the country. Additionally, Coan was a strong advocate for Nicole’s Law, which requires carbon monoxide detectors in most homes; and was a chief driver in the passage of the fire safe cigarette law in the Commonwealth.