Hazmat Guru, Chicago Deputy Chief Dies

Updated: 05-21-2007 04:09:33 PM

Firehouse.Com News

The man whose fingerprint is embedded on countless hazardous materials issues is being remembered by colleagues as a committed individual who remained dedicated to his mission to the end.

John Eversole, retired District Chief of Special Functions for the Chicago Fire Department, died Sunday.

"John was not only well respected in the fire service, but by the industry and government. He had a firm handle on the direction that needed to be taken," said Tim Butters, assistant chief in Fairfax, Va.

Eversole, who headed the hazmat committee of the IAFC for more than 20 years, was pushing the importance of training and high-tech equipment for responders long before it became a hot button issue.

Colleagues called him a man ahead of his time, who refused to quiet down when it came to issues involving the handling of chemicals or weapons of mass destruction.

"He dedicated his life to the businesses. John wanted to make sure the guys on the street have what they need to do the job. He never lost sight of that; and he never forgot where he came from."

Eversole set the course for the committee, and built a strong, effective group. Even after he turned over the baton to Butters, he remained actively involved.

"He didn't slow down, and was keeping up on progress. I sought John's counsel, and he was always willing to offer his assistance."

In addition to pushing legislation through Congress, he also was involved with the Inter-Agency Board (IAB), a quality-control group.

"There are a lot of things that come on the market (for hazmat teams). Without consistent standards, he wanted to make sure the product did what it said it would do."

The IAB, comprised of experts from various disciplines, evaluates equipment but does not endorse.

"When he took something on, he was totally committed. These weren't social groups. He chaired very important committees."

Greg Noll, who accepted the reins of the NFPA 472 Committee from Eversole, said his predecessor excelled in many areas, and was admired for expertise.

"He stressed the need for people to be practical in hazmat response," Noll said, adding that Eversole had an "innate ability to communicate the most complex issues."

Noll said Eversole made sure that no one ever forgot the mission. "He would always say: 'Whatever we do, it has to work on the street.' "

Colleagues also said Eversole touched lives by the way he proceeded to get things done. "He made the people around him better people," Noll said. Alan Caldwell, senior advisor of the IAFC Government Relations Section, said despite health issues, Eversole never lost his passion or drive.

"He was at the top of his game for hazmat for America's fire service??? He was passionate, and went the extra mile to do what he could."

Caldwell also said Eversole never left anyone questioning how he felt about a particular issue. "You never wanted to be on his bad side."

John Eversole