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Battalion chief has fire in the belly

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in Leaders & Managers

At age 32, Marcel Melanson of the Compton Fire Department in California is one of the youngest battalion chiefs in America, yet he conveys a mature vision: to improve public safety nationwide.

Melanson has used his platform on the reality show First In to engage corporate partners, including Cisco, which is building a wireless network in Compton linked to a citywide camera system.

“Imagine an earthquake,” Melanson says. “We could get a virtual look at the entire city and understand where damage is worst before putting boots on the ground.”

The battalion chief also made sure every firefighter has a two-way radio.

“It was insulting,” he says. “Most fifth-graders have cells. But you have a firefighter on the ground and we can’t communicate.”

The lesson: If Melanson can find a way to obtain gear for his small, cash-strapped department, anyone can.

— Adapted from “Most Creative People 2010: Marcel Melanson,” Stephanie Schomer, Fast Company.

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