Esteemed fire marshal and expert witness, John Stickevers, dies at 79
John Stickevers joined the FDNY in 1959 and was assigned to Engine Co. 231 in Brooklyn. The former FDNY chief fire marshal who fought to reform the way the department investigates arsons, died Saturday. He was 79.
The Howard Beach, Queens, resident died of heart failure after a prolonged battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, his son John Stickevers Jr. said.
"I think he just really enjoyed being a fireman," his son said. "That was his life ... being a fireman and being part of that crew."
But Stickevers wasnâ€™t your ordinary fireman.
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In a career that spanned 37 years, he was a fireman and a fire marshal before switching gears and for a time working as a police officer.
After a brief stint with the NYPD he returned to the the FDNY, where he became chief fire marshal in 1994.
"He was a burly gum-chewing fireman," his son said. "A newspaper described him like that once and it always stuck with me. He was a big, burly guy ... a big, huge strong man with a very big presence."
"He commanded respect and gave respect," his son added. "That was his way of doing things. It was very honorable."
Stickevers joined the FDNY in 1959 and was assigned to Engine Co. 231 in Brooklyn. He became a fire marshal six years later.
At the time, fire investigations were looked down upon, said Bill Kregler, president of the New York City Fire Marshals Benevolent Association.
"The Division of Fire Investigation was made up of civilian investigators with firemen detailed to the unit," Kregler said. "Fire investigations and those assigned to do it were not given the same respect as the others within the New York City Fire Department."
John Stickevers died in his Queens home on February 18, 2017.
Stickevers pushed for the state to give marshals "police officer" status, and essentially wrote the book on fire investigation training, Kregler said
He penned journal pieces on how to determine the cause and origin of blazes and how to conduct fatal fire investigations, Kregler said. He also wrote on pyromaniacs and juvenile firebugs.
"John Stickevers took a loosely run civilian operation within the Fire Department and created a genuine police investigative department of expert witnesses," Kregler said. "Basically he created his own Police Department."
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro called Stickevers a "tremendous investigato."
"New York City is safer today thanks to his dedicated work educating a generation of Fire Marshals," Nigro said.
Stickevers was brought in as an expert to investigate a Holiday Inn fire in 1978 that killed 10 people-and determined the blaze was arson.
He retired in 1996.