National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Donor Profile – Karl Ristow

Karl Ristow
CFAI Program Director
Center for Public Safety Excellence
NFFF Giving Circle Member

Karl Ristow

What First Attracted Your Attention to the NFFF?

I have been in the fire service for over 40 years now. While I always knew of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) I did not realize the significance of the organization from a personal level until 2007.

I was the fire chief to the neighboring Charleston Fire Department. As you know, they lost 9 firefighters on June 18th of that year. I was part of the incident management team that developed and executed the memorial service and burials. A year later I was the incident commander for the Charleston Fire Department backfill operation so they could remember that fateful day. Going through this event and losing one of my own that year (non-LODD), really drove me to give back and help.

I know it takes a lot of funding to help and support these families, and my wife and I wanted to help. Additionally, we got involved in the Hal Bruno camp for kids. It was such an awesome experience that it drove us even more to help.

I actually started doing an annual NFFF Golf Tournament in the Charleston area until my retirement in 2013. Now, I help to organize the tournaments, attend a few to help out, and donate as I can. My wife, Barbara, and I also continue to volunteer at the annual camp and like to donate to the NFFF annually to help with the family programs.

Why Is the NFFF Your Charity of Choice?

We both like giving back to our communities. We volunteer in other capacities where we live but with my involvement and career with the fire service, we also want to give back to a system that has provided so much to me and my family.

What Do You Want People to Know About the NFFF?

Our message when we speak follows the NFFF mission. We want to help the Foundation remember our fallen, provide resources so families can rebuild, and prevent others from having to endure loss through preventing firefighter injuries and fatalities.

We also talk about giving back to our communities that have done so much for us. We think of John McCain’s final message before he died when he thanks the nation for the privilege to serve. It is our privilege to serve and inspire others to follow us.

While we cannot do it all, we can help try and make a difference where we are today. It’s our duty as public servants.