Fire Chief Ben Major Retires; Deputy Chief Mike Hill Named Interim Department Chief
(Fayetteville, N.C.) — Fayetteville Fire Chief Ben Major is retiring with 35 years of service. His last day will be Thursday, Feb. 28. Deputy Chief Mike Hill, who has 31 years of experience in the fire/emergency services field, has been appointed interim chief of the Fayetteville Fire/Emergency Management Department.
A graduate of E.E. Smith High School, Chief Major was hired as a firefighter with the City of Fayetteville Fire/Emergency Management Department in February 1984 after completing undergraduate studies at Pembroke State University. He went on to complete a Master’s in Public Administration at UNCP. As a member of the department, he advanced through the ranks and served in various capacities and divisions of the department, including serving as an Assistant Fire Marshal, the Training Officer, as the Hazardous Materials Team Coordinator and Assistant Chief before ultimately being promoted to Chief of the department in October 2011. The Fayetteville Fire/Emergency Management Department consists of a total of 332 personnel committed to the preservation of life, property and the environment. As director of the department, Chief Major focused on providing effective and efficient service delivery through Public Fire & Life Safety Education, Code Enforcement, Emergency Response and Incident Mitigation, as well as personnel development and future planning.
Chief Major had a philosophy of life-long learning, leading by example by completing the four-year Executive Officer Program at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Md. and completing his designation as Chief Fire Officer through the Center for Public Safety Excellence. As leader of the Fayetteville Fire/Emergency Department, he stressed the continuous improvement of services, constant personnel and organizational development and persistent community involvement and interaction within the community.
He also helped with programs to increase diversity with the department and offered opportunities for existing firefighters to further their education. Fayetteville Fire/Emergency Management Department has partnered with Cumberland County Schools, Fayetteville Technical Community College and Fayetteville State University to establish innovative programs. Through the partnership, high school students are exposed to the fire service while attending a high school fire academy. This program allows students to attend college courses while in high school – earning both tuition free college credits and high school elective credits, and fire certifications. The program supported the building of a 19,000 square foot fire station on the Fayetteville State University campus, complete with classroom, community space and video conferencing capabilities to strengthen the education delivery system for those enrolled in the Fire Science and High School fire academy.
Chief Major oversaw the Child Passenger Safety Seat Program, with many firefighters being certified as Child Safety Seat (CPS) technicians certified through the North Carolina Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM). Technicians check and install Child Passenger Seats at their assigned stations and the Fire Department serves as the coordinating agency for all the rural participating Child Passenger Seat Program checking stations within Cumberland County. This outstanding initiative has significantly enhanced child safety in this vast military community.
The Fayetteville Fire/Emergency Management Department received international accreditation in 2011 and was re-accredited in 2016 by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI), through the Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE), which requires an embedded culture of quality throughout an organization. Maintaining accreditation is a significant undertaking and requires the combined best efforts of all members of the department. Another remarkable accomplishment, as a result of Chief Major’s direct leadership, came in 2016 when the department earned one of the highest possible recognitions by receiving a Class 1 (ISO) Public Protection Classification, which placed his department in the top 1 percent of all fire departments in America.
“Ben’s commitment to constant improvement of services and personnel was his greatest strength and, while I will really miss having him as fire chief, I congratulate him on his retirement and hope that he enjoys some rest and relaxation over the coming years, as he has certainly earned that,” City Manager Doug Hewett said. “He leaves the department in the good hands of Interim Fire Chief Mike Hill, who inherits a nationally accredited and ISO Class 1 ranked fire department, of which we attribute to Ben and his great leadership. Because of Ben’s hard work and the good systems and personnel he leaves in place, I have no doubt that the Fayetteville Fire/Emergency Management Department will continue to excel in the services that they provide residents of our community.”
Interim Chief Hill began his career following a junior high school job shadowing program in 1987 with a Fayetteville Fire Battalion Chief. He started with the Wade Community Fire Department, where he has been chief since 2004. Hill has served the Fayetteville Fire/Emergency Management Department for over 25 years, starting as a firefighter in 1993 and rising through the ranks to lieutenant, captain, battalion chief and deputy chief. He has served as a deputy chief since 2010.
The appointment of the next fire chief is expected to take several months as staff continues recruitment efforts for the position.