Service Before SelfMay 01, 2017 ● By Carolyn Cameron
Indeed, it takes a special breed of men or women to take up the calling and enter the ranks of the fire safety profession. While firefighters are called to bravely fight fires in an instant, they also demonstrate admirable qualities such as compassion and empathy for those in serious, compromising situations, as well as encouraging fellow firefighters to achieve all they can be. In a nutshell, firefighting is about service before self, and one Frisco firefighter, with the clear mission of serving others before himself, is Deputy Fire Chief Shaw Eft.
“Growing up, I always knew I wanted to help people by serving others and making a difference. Being a firefighter seemed to be a great fit for me because I understood I never wanted to sit at a desk all day or spend hours in an office setting,” notes Deputy Fire Chief Eft. “Throughout my life, I have tried to live by the golden rule -- treat other people the way you want to be treated. Firefighting is not about being active or heroic; it has been about doing the best for others and helping them in their time of need.”
Deputy Fire Chief Eft was born into a firefighting family. With both his grandfather, his great uncle and his younger brother serving as firefighters, some might say firefighting runs deep in their lineage. He remembers fondly the stories of fire service his grandfather would tell, and it often peaked his interest. After his family moved to Texas, when he was five years old, Deputy Fire Chief Eft spent his days as a typical growing boy, enjoying physicality in the outdoors and wanting to escape from school. Entering the reserves immediately after high school, he served one weekend a month and two weeks over the summer. He also worked a job at his girlfriend’s parents’ store, but in his spare time, he decided to register for Frisco’s then 5,000-person community volunteer fire department.
Prior to Frisco’s population boom, the fire department operated one official station and had initiated a second. The volume of calls was low per month, but this training time allowed Deputy Fire Chief Eft to learn the insides and outsides of the company, studying and mastering the ropes of firefighting. “Back then, if I was not working my nine-to-five job, and I had spare time, I was at the station. I literally spent most of my days and nights there, and the guys there were my family. We would cover one another’s shift or just hang out during off hours. It was great camaraderie and such a wonderful time,” he shares.
Hired on as a full-time firefighter in January 1998, Deputy Fire Chief Eft married his long-time girlfriend, Kristi, in July of that year, and they purchased their first house in Carrollton. Working diligently as a firefighter in engine company number two, he was promoted to lieutenant in the year 2000. As a young city, Frisco was growing so fast, requiring every function to evolve and change with it. Many individuals were placed in higher roles and enjoyed opportunities for growth that a “typical” city might not experience. “I was so honored by my promotion, but I realized I was young for the position. Only 23 years old, I had only two full years of experience, and that is not generally the expected course of action. Usually, firefighters spend eight to 12 years in a firefighter roll capacity before eligibility is available for promotion,” he notes. “I certainly did not turn it down. I jumped at the chance.”
Exceeding expectations with management, Deputy Fire Chief Eft was promoted to captain in 2003 and battalion chief in 2005. As chief, he was responsible for multiple stations within a district, and in this position, he oversaw roughly 25 to 28 personnel. Overall, Deputy Fire Chief Eft was viewed as someone with a listening ear, wanting the best for his men or women, and as a trusted resource.
Mrs. Eft explains, “As the saying ‘actions speak louder than words’ goes, Shaw is a man who walks the walk before he talks the talk. He understands he must have leadership characteristics as the guiding principles in work and life before the he can pass them on to others by example. He works hard to create camaraderie within the fire department and, therefore, he knows how important it is to be approachable. It has been something he has done throughout his career with the Frisco Fire Department.”
In 2013, Deputy Fire Chief Eft was handpicked for the position of training chief by then First Chief, Mack Borchardt. Frisco required additional administrative positions. Understanding the call for leadership and knowing what was best for his career, in addition to wanting to serve his management, Deputy Fire Chief Eft took the position and began a new journey. “Looking back, I find it interesting I am now working a desk job in an office environment with ‘regular’ working hours -- everything I vowed I would never do when I first started as a firefighter, but it was the best decision for me,” he says. “I have been able to spend more time with my family, including my two daughters, Emerson and Olivia. Plus, I do not miss the sleepless nights.”
Now leading as the deputy chief of operations, Deputy Fire Chief Eft continues to offer an open-door policy with each of his comrades. By serving his fellow co-workers in action, in department leadership and in Frisco, Deputy Fire Chief Eft has garnered quite a reputation throughout the community. To his shock and dismay, he won Officer of the Year, a highly-coveted annual award, not once, but twice, during his 20-year tenure.
His brother, Colin Eft, explains, “As his brother, but also as his co-worker, I can vouch that Shaw is viewed extremely well by his peers and management. He is a go-to guy because whatever he does, he is trusted, does his best and follows through. I believe his track record clearly explains why he is so respected throughout the Frisco Fire Department and beyond.”
Mrs. Eft adds, “My husband does what he does because he has such a strong desire to make a difference in the lives of others. This is a quality he not only possesses as a chief, but also as a husband, father and friend. I can earnestly say his impact in Frisco reaches far and wide by his collaborative leadership. I believe he is making that difference.”
With 20 years of service, Deputy Fire Chief Eft still enjoys the challenges and all the intricacies that come with his position. “I can vouch that the fire service offers both the most rewarding highs and the greatest lows of any job I know, but, there is nothing like it. I would not change a thing.”