West Virginia firefighters and emergency responders are welcoming a new leader for West Virginia University’s Fire Service Extension and its State Fire Training Center.

Jeffery A. Simpkins is the new director of Fire Service Extension (FSE) at West Virginia University. He began work May 16.

“I’m excited that we have such a well-qualified, in-state person to take this very important position,”said Larry Cote, WVU associate provost and director of the WVU Extension Service.”Jeff has the vision and ability to lead the Fire Service as it continues training more than 13,000 firefighters and first-responders every year and develops the new Fire Academy at WVU Jackson’s Mill.”

For the past year, Simpkins has been serving as an Extension fire service specialist, directing the airport rescue firefighting program. He is also a fire crash rescue specialist and staff sergeant with the West Virginia Air National Guard.

The Princeton native was the safety manager for AVCO Aviation, an aviation services company in Indonesia, from 1999 to 2001. Prior to that, he spent four years as the superintendent of fire, rescue and special projects for the P.T. Freeport Indonesia Co. For 20 years, he held various safety-related positions in the Princeton area, including firefighter, paramedic, adult educator and underwater search and recovery diver. He also has entrepreneurial experience as a small business owner.

Simpkins studied business administration at Concord College and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management from Regis University. He has an associate degree in fire service from the Community College of the Air Force and a master’s degree in strategic leadership from Mountain State University in Beckley. He has taken numerous fire and rescue courses from FSE , the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Fire Academy, and he has served as a trainer at many rescue schools.

As a member of the East River Volunteer Fire Department, Simpkins was named West Virginia Firefighter of the Year in 1985. He’s also received several commendations from the Air National Guard and the state, including recognition for his work in”Operation Southern Storm”after the 2001 floods. Simpkins served as a member of the Princeton Fire Department for 17 years.

The FSE director position was held by J.T. Hodges, who resigned to become an assistant prosecuting attorney in Marion County.