Author(s): Lisa Braxton. Published on January 1, 2011.

Campaign Support
Putting out the call for Rolf Jensen award nominees

NFPA Journal, January/February 2011

If Terry Campbell had his way, the Sparky the Fire Dog® Fire Prevention Parade would become a national event held each year, drawing as much attention as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.


Former Jensen Award winner Mike Masserey


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And the winner is... It’s award time at NFPA

Campbell, a firefighter/paramedic with the Glenwood, Illinois, Fire Department and an NFPA public education advisor, organized the parade during Fire Prevention Week 2000. The 23-city tour kicked off near the site of The Great Chicago Fire and ended at the home of a third-grader who helped his mother escape from a house fire using messages he learned from the Learn Not to Burn® curriculum. To the delight of parade goers, Sparky rode a fire truck from each department along the parade route, climbing aboard a new truck as the previous vehicle reached its city’s limits.

The Glenwood Fire Department and its partner organization, Rhodia Chemical Heights Plant, were honored in 2001 with the NFPA Rolf H. Jensen Partners in Public Education Award for the program. "I was very proud when we won," says Campbell. "The award was stunning. I still have that plaque." 

Now known as the Rolf H. Jensen Memorial Public Education Grant, the award is given annually to a local fire department in the United States or Canada to support a community-wide fire- and life-safety education program or campaign. The award’s namesake, Rolf H. Jensen, P.E., was a leading authority on fire protection engineering who served on the NFPA Board of Directors and on more than a dozen technical committees.

Other fire-safety educators from winning departments say that they, too, treasure the Jensen Award, which helped to enhance their fire-safety education programs.

Snohomish County Fire District #8, in Lake Stevens, Washington, began conducting NFPA’s Risk Watch® injury prevention program at Sunnyside Preschool in 1998. With the help of partner Fred Meyer/Rubbermaid, the program expanded to 75 classrooms in seven elementary schools and two private schools. Fire Marshal Robert Marshall says the Jensen Award, received in 2002, helped with program expansion. "It was phenomenal getting that award," Marshall says. "We’re still going strong. We have more than 3,000 kids doing the program every year. The award has played a big part."

Mike Masserey, retired captain of the Winnipeg, Manitoba, Fire Department and now the lead fire instructor at Parkland Regional College in Saskatchewan, was assigned in 1994 to develop the SAFE (Smoke Alarms for Every) Baby program, a two-year pilot program in which parents of Winnipeg newborns were given fire and burn prevention kits, including a smoke alarm, when leaving the hospital. The Kiwanis Club of Winnipeg was the partner organization. In February 1994, Masserey’s own family experienced a tragedy when his sister’s house burned, and his brother-in-law and 10-year-old nephew died in the fire. Masserey resolved that no one should have to live through the grief he endured. "I thought I could make a difference to other families," he says, "that I could educate adults to make changes in the way they live and make them aware that proactive firefighting is better than reactive firefighting."

Masserey delivered 26,000 kits to families of newborns in Winnipeg over a two-year period. He says a family of five was saved when their SAFE program smoke alarm activated. The program was expanded, and 60,000 kits were delivered to birthing hospitals across Manitoba. British Columbia and Ontario were inspired to launch similar programs. In 1998, the fire department and the Kiwanis Club won the Rolf Jensen Award. "For Winnipeg to receive the award was humbling," Masserey says. "We were able to reach an awful lot of people."

The application deadline for the next Jensen award is February 4. For more information, visit

Lisa Braxton is project manager for NFPA's Public Education Division.