The second of four children, Leo D. Stapleton was born in the South Boston neighborhood of Boston, MA. 

He is a veteran who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II in the Pacific until the war ended.  Leo was assigned to Task Force 58 for two campaigns— Okinawa, and the bombardment of the Japanese Home Islands. He was discharged in 1946.

Leo was a member of the Boston Fire Department for thirty-nine years, serving as both Commissioner and Chief of Department during the last seven years of his career.

Commissioner Stapleton’s father, John V. Stapleton, was appointed Chief of Department in 1950. Leo has two sons, Leo Jr. and Garrett, who took their oath as Boston Fire Fighters during the 1970s.

Leo married Doris White of South Boston in January of 1950. Together they raised five children in their hometown. Today, Leo is a proud grandfather of twelve and great-grandfather of nine.

Commissioner Stapleton has been a popular speaker at fire conferences and seminars across the country and has received numerous awards for his valuable contributions to the American fire service, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from Fire Engineering magazine in 2006.

Fire Engineering 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award

Leo D. Stapleton’s illustrious fire service career began in 1951 as a firefighter in the Boston Fire Department. He rose through the ranks and served as fire commissioner/chief of department from 1984 through 1991. As a chief officer, he commanded literally thousands of fires including those that occurred during the civil disturbances of the turbulent 1960s.

Among the 150 three-alarm-or-greater fires he directed as fire commissioner was that involving the 52-story Prudential Tower (1986). Approximately 1,500 occupants were rescued from the 38 floors above the fully involved 14th floor. As a result of this successful operation, the state passed legislation, sponsored by the fire department, requiring that all high-rise buildings in Massachusetts be equipped with automatic sprinkler systems. This included the retrofitting of existing construction. The mandatory installations were completed in 1997.

Stapleton served on numerous fire service committees that promoted firefighter safety, particularly those related to respiratory protection. Among them were the National Fire Protection Association’s Urban Fire Forum, the NASA Users Requirements Committee on Firefighters’ Breathing System, and the NASA, IAFF, NFA Users Requirements Committee, Project FIRES. He was a visiting lecturer on breathing apparatus at the Harvard School of Public Health; a charter member of the International Society for Respiratory Protection; and a featured speaker on respiratory protective equipment at various symposia, conventions, and schools.

Leo D. Stapleton, Boston (MA) Fire Commissioner/Chief of Department (Ret.) was the recipient of this year’s award. Stapleton began his fire service career as a firefighter for the Boston Fire Department in 1951. During his career, he rose through the ranks, and was fire commissioner/chief of department from 1984-1991. “There is no higher honor in Boston, other than perhaps being a member of the 2004 World Champion Red Sox,” said Halton. “But for a Boston firefighter, however, it is everything to have your brothers and sisters call you a good Jake. I have the honor this morning, and I say honor with tremendous humility, to present the Fire Engineering 2006 Lifetime Achievement award to Boston’s own Jake of Jakes, Commissioner (Retired) Leo D. Stapleton.

During his career, Stapleton was a visiting lecturer on breathing apparatus at the Harvard School of Public Health; a charter member of the International Society for Respiratory Protection; a featured speaker on respiratory protective equipment at the first IAFF Redmond Symposium, Notre Dame University, 1971; a speaker at the International Society for Respiratory Protection Convention, San Francisco 1989; and a keynote speaker at the Michiana School of Fire and Emergency Services, Notre Dame University, June, 2001. “Leo Stapleton was a lifetime union member and always considered a leading force in the advancement of firefighter safety,” said Halton. “It is universally accepted that largely due to Commissioner Stapleton’s initiation of the NASA Firefighters Breathing System Program, the introduction of the high-pressure SCBA was fast tracked for acceptance worldwide. The firefighters’ lives saved by this one act alone are countless.”

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