David Demers, 59, passed away on August 19 after a long illness. Demers received a bachelor degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Mechanical Engineering as well as a master's degree in Fire Protection Engineering. He went on to serve on the Lunenburg Fire Department from 1969 to 2008, acting as Deputy Chief for his last 8 years there. He was also a highly regarded fire protection consultant for a company he owned and operated called Demers Associates Inc. He was a NFPA Fire Investigator and served on the Governor's Task Force in Building Fire Safety, Massachusetts Board of Fire Prevention and the Applewild School Board of Trustees. He was a former NFPA Standards Council member and a member of the committee on Venting Systems for Cooking Appliances (Chair from 1996 to 2005).
Below are some thoughts from those who knew him - please feel free to add any additional thoughts or memories below in the comments section.
In the NFPA codes and standards process Dave was truly a special participant. Most notably he was a Technical Committee (TC) Chair that cycled through multiple tenure positions. The Standards Council called upon him several times to be the Chair of troubled TCs, in which they disbanded the TC, had everyone reapply, and brought in a neutral but tough unbiased Chair (Dave) to get them back on track. The parallel is a marshal in the wild west being brought in to “clean up dodge”. As I recall he did this with the committee’s involved with venting systems, portable extinguishers, and air conditioning, and he served on multiple other TCs as well. I’m also surprised how many people, including current staff, don’t know that Dave was himself a member of staff for something like half a dozen years. As an example of the interesting connections, Dave was Jean O’Connor’s first boss when she started at NFPA. On top of all this, for us WPI graduates Dave is remembered as graduate #1 (i.e., the first graduate) from the FPE program. - Casey Grant, Fire Protection Research Foundation
I grew up in Dave’s hometown of Lunenburg, and met him when I joined the fire department in 1984 when I was 16. He was the one who introduced me to fire protection engineering, WPI, and NFPA. I remember when I was in high school reading the MGM Grand Hotel Fire Investigation Report, which he co-authored, and thinking, “This is what I want to do.” I had no idea at the time how fortunate we were to have such a valuable asset on our small-town fire department. On the fireground, it was good to see him there with the chief providing his technical expertise. Our safety as firefighters was always his number one priority. He was a strong advocate for safer equipment, helped the department design and procure modern fire apparatus, and introduced the Incident Command System. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that when I started, we used to ride on the tail-step of our 1958 brush truck, hanging on for dear life. He (thankfully) put a stop to that soon after I joined! He truly helped modernize the fire service in a region that wasn’t, at the time, particularly progressive. It was a privilege to know serve under Dave (who I’ll always remember as 19-C2). - Greg Harrington, NFPA
Dave was a legend in his own time. All of us who came to the [WPI FPE] program followed in his footsteps as we created our own. Always a smile, always up-beat, always moving. That is how I will remember Dave. We all had such a lot of respect for Dave, he knew of what he spoke! God rest his soul. My sincere condolences to his family. - April Leyla Berkol
This is indeed very sad. I remember standing in Morgan Hall in 1970 where we lived as freshmen when Dave pointed out the window towards the north saying that's where he lived. I remember Dave putting together his own undergraduate educational program so that he could get the equivalence of an undergraduate degree in Fire Protection Engineering. I remember following Dave at work at Firepro, and all the stories that came from that place including his wife. I remember Dave entering our MSFPE program and being a leader, graduating as our first student; doing a thesis on smoke control in atria. Dave's career which was already leading the profession, took off from there and some how he remained a dedicated family man despite running to California to help fight bush fires and traveling all over the world investigating and testifying about fires that had a significant impact and often resulted in change in our building regulations. Dave played a major part in Massachusetts working as a volunteer for the state to insure our building code and fire code was current and relevant to our local needs. There are so many more stories...Dave had an amazing impact on our profession, on his family and on all his friends. He will truly be missed. - Jonathan Barnett
I joined the FPE faculty in 1982 and knew Dave for the last few years of his studies for his MSFPE and many years beyond By that time he had taken most of his classes and developed much experience in the fire protection field. I recall that, in class, Dave was a real contributor of actual experience and gave a reality perspective to the materials being discussed. He was also a stalwart participant in the "Just One Club" at WPI's Goat's Head Pub (now Gumpie's), organized by Dougal Drysdale, which met after class during the early part-time program. The JOC was actually the just one MORE club. During his years of successful practice, he continued to support the program by recruiting possible future students, teaching, advising and mentoring students. Dave became widely known and respected in the FPE profession through his engineering and fire investigation practice, his contributions to the fire service and to fire safety building codes and standards development. He will be sorely missed by his family and his peers. - Richard "Dick" Custer
It’s very sad to see the passing of Dave. I found an article of his this past week and was thinking about the old days and everybody in the program and how we all stayed in touch. He will be missed by many. - Rich Bielen, NFPA
Although I am not a WPI grad, I can tell you that Dave set a pretty high bar for himself and for all of the students who have since passed through the program. Dave could be a harsh critic of your effort (as I found out while teaching a class in 1988 that Dave was attending) but in a proactive and helpful way-and taking his time to help you do a better job next time, like he did with me. His time at NFPA allowed him to make myriad contributions, but his best known work is probably on NFPA’s MGM Hotel Fire Investigation report. I am guessing 500 (maybe more) folks streamed through the funeral home this past Wednesday evening. The scheduled 7:00 PM service was pushed back until after 8:00 PM in order to get everyone through the receiving line. The NFPA alumni turnout was nice to see-and the number of visitors with connections to WPI, SFPE as well as current and retired fire service and fire protection engineering folks was pretty amazing. It is a real tribute to Dave’s impact on this profession no matter what angle you come from. -Robert Solomon, NFPA