NVFC executive director dies unexpectedly
Heather Schafer joined the National Volunteer Fire Council in 1993 and had served as executive director and CEO since 1994
By Laura French
WASHINGTON — National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) Executive Director and CEO Heather Schafer has died, NVFC officials announced Tuesday.
Schafer joined the council in 1993 and had served as executive and CEO since 1994, according to the NVFC.
"Her vision, innovation, and dedication has guided the organization through a period of tremendous growth. She was an unwavering advocate for the volunteer emergency services community and will be greatly missed," NVFC officials said in a statement. "Please keep her family and loved ones in your thoughts and prayers as they navigate through this incredibly difficult time."
Shafer had served as an administrative member of the Arnold Volunteer Fire Department in Maryland since 2020. She previously worked for the chief of staff during the Clinton administration and for FEMA during Hurricane Andrew. She was a graduate of Ohio State University, held a master's degree in nonprofit and association management from the University of Maryland, and earned her Certified Association Executive credential from the American Society of Association Executives.
Lexipol Senior Fire Advisor Deputy Chief Billy Goldfeder, who was friends with Schafer for many years, said her passing was a terrible loss: “Heather was a positive, friendly but tenacious leader facing the greatest challenge in our business – the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters and the overall survival of the volunteer fire service. Faced with so many societal challenges, her team and the leadership of the NVFC worked tirelessly every day to support and grow the volunteer fire service. As sad as it is, at a time when Heather is so needed most, we lose her. A reminder of how precious life is. Thankfully, due to Heather's dedication and leadership, her work, ideas and vision will last for many years to come. My sincere condolences to her family, friends and the team at NFVC. ‘What Would Heather Do?’ will be on the minds and hearts of so many in the days, weeks and years to come as her legacy continues on. She made such a difference, and she is gone far too soon. Rest in peace, my friend.”
FireRescue1 Executive Editor Fire Chief Marc Bashoor worked with Schafer during his time in Prince George’s County, Maryland: "Heather’s energy, smile and passion for the volunteer fire service were infectious. To have held her position for 27 years is a testament to her dedication to service. Heather’s talents will most certainly be missed by many of us."
"We will most assuredly miss her leadership abilities, her institutional knowledge and all of her efforts on behalf of the volunteer fire service in American," NVFC Chairman Steven Hirsch said in a statement.
"Heather had a sunny personality and was always willing to go the extra mile. She will be missed by all who knew her," the Minnesota State Fire Department Association wrote on Facebook.