The American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) held its 2023-2024 officer elections during the September 2023 Board meeting. Linda M. Biernacki, Fire Tech Systems, Inc., Shreveport, Louisiana, was elected as Chair of the Board. Paul DeLorie, Hampshire Fire Protection Co., Londonderry, New Hampshire, was elected First Vice Chair; and Jay Strickland, Strickland Fire Protection, A Pye Barker Company, was elected Second Vice Chair. Jeff Phifer, Crawford Sprinkler Company of South Carolina, Lugoff, South Carolina, was re-elected Secretary; and Rod DiBona, C.O.O of Rapid Fire Protection Group (R.F.P.G), the sprinkler division of Pye Barker Fire and Safety, Rapid City, South Dakota, was re-elected Treasurer.

Board members re-elected to another three-year term were At-Large Director Jack Medovich, P.E., Summit Companies out of Mendota Heights, Minnesota; At-Large Director Wayne Weisz, Cen-Cal Fire Systems, Inc., Lodi, California; and Region 7 Director Paul DeLorie. Newly elected to the 2024 Board was Brooks Bayne, AFP Systems, Inc. in Tualatin, Oregon.


Serving as Chair of the Board and Region 4 Director, Linda M. Biernacki is the founder/president of Fire Tech Systems, Inc., Shreveport, Louisiana. Fire Tech Systems is an AFSA Quality Contractor, ISNetworld Certified, and is licensed in six states (Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas). With over 33 years of experience, Biernacki provides industry experience, knowledge, and background. She is past chair of the NICET board of governors (June 2022-June 2023), past board member and current member of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) board of directors, past president and current board member of the Louisiana Fire Sprinkler Association (LFSA), represents AFSA on the NFPA 232 Committee for Protection of Records, and is past AFSA40 Convention Committee and Membership & Chapter Development chair. Biernacki is certified in NICET Level III Fire Protection Engineering Technology Water-Based Systems Layout and is certified by the Women’s Business Council Gulf Coast. 

Biernacki is proud and honored to have been elected Chair of the Board for AFSA and has several initiatives for 2024. “As the Board and I allow the mission and vision statements to guide us, I would like to focus on these goals,” states Biernacki.

Training and education are what AFSA is known for; that’s the biggest ‘bang for the buck’ for our members,” she comments. “That’s what Bob [Caputo] has focused on, and I want to continue with that emphasis. AFSA has an incredible new headquarters with the top training lab in the country. We want to make sure that every member has access to it and can experience the best-in-class technology that we have to offer.”

Recruiting the next generation of leaders into the industry is also on Biernacki’s to-do list. “Recruitment is a long-term plan. It’s a call to action for all of our members—get into the high schools to educate students about our industry and work within our chapters to spread awareness locally. We need to attract smart, diverse leaders to our industry. We must think nationally and act locally.

Biernacki would also like to build stronger relationships with industry partners such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), International Fire Sprinkler Association (IFSA), National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM), and the four major universities that offer fire protection education.

Linda comments, “Amy Poehler said, ‘Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.’ This is exactly how I feel about my industry and AFSA.”

As Chair of the Board, Biernacki leads the AFSA Board of Directors, which is comprised of seven Regional Directors (one for each of the seven membership regions), At-Large Directors, and the Immediate Past Chair. The Board has a wide array of expertise, experience, and education that provides strong support to both the Chair and the association as a whole.


AFSA members have elected Brooks Bayne, co-owner and vice president of operations of AFP Systems, Inc. in Tualatin, Oregon, as a new At-Large Director for the association. Bayne started in the fabrication shop working for his uncle, AFP Systems founder Jim Bayne, after graduating from McQueen High School. After earning his journeyman license through the AFSA apprenticeship program, Bayne worked in the field as a foreman before becoming superintendent in 2007.

Bayne was inspired to go further in the industry, learning sprinkler system design, estimating, and project management. In 2017, he stepped into the roles of co-owner and vice president of operations after working 20 years alongside his uncle.

“I’ve brought my family’s values of integrity, community, caring, and doing what’s right to AFP Systems and the fire protection industry,” comments Bayne. “I’m pleased that AFP Systems has continued to excel under my leadership while maintaining our core family values.”

AFP Systems has been an AFSA Contractor member since 2012. The company has provided service throughout the Pacific Northwest for over 35 years and is a proud member of the Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC) Pacific Northwest Chapter and ABC Inland Pacific Chapter, Inc. 

“I am looking forward to meeting and working with great people who have the same goals in the fire sprinkler industry,” Bayne states about joining the Board of Directors. “The fire protection industry’s current state is constantly changing in my eyes. With all the new system designs and ongoing industry material improvements, we must stay ahead of the curve to succeed.”


Region 1 Director Lyle Hall, president and co-owner of Western Fire Protection in Poway, California, has been in the fire sprinkler industry for 45 years, with the last 29 years at Western Fire. Prior to that, he was a helicopter-based wildland firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service. He has a degree in fire science with continuing education at the University of California San Diego. Hall started in the fire sprinkler industry as an apprentice pipefitter and worked his way into design, project management, sales, and eventually, management. His past accomplishments include past director on the San Diego Fire Protection Association board; past chair of the San Diego Chapter of the AFSA; past chair of the California American Fire Sprinkler Association—Unilateral Apprenticeship Committee; and past chair of the California Fire Training Alliance. Hall currently serves on the California American Fire Sprinkler Association—Unilateral Apprenticeship Committee and was the Chair of AFSA’s Apprenticeship & Education Subcommittee to develop the ITM program. He currently serves on various AFSA committees and is on the board of directors for AFSA’s San Diego Chapter.

Region 2 Director is Don Kaufman, president of Kaufman Fire Protection, Albuquerque, New Mexico. With over 48 years in the sprinkler business, Kaufman was instrumental in starting AFSA’s New Mexico Chapter and is a past president of the chapter. On the national level, Kaufman served as the 2009-2011 Chair of the Board and has chaired several committees. He also served as chair of the New Mexico State Board for Professional Engineers and Surveyors, three terms as chair of the New Mexico State Apprentice Council, and served on the New Mexico Construction Industries Commission. He is an active member of ABC, past president of ABC’s New Mexico Chapter, member of the American Society of Professional Estimators, and past charter president of Albuquerque Rotary Del Sol.

Region 3 Director and Treasurer Rod DiBona is the C.O.O of the sprinkler division of Pye Barker Fire and Safety, with branches throughout the United States. He lives in Rapid City, South Dakota. DiBona entered the fire protection industry in 1990 and started in the AFSA apprenticeship program in 1991. In October of 1993, he was asked by Marty Hammon to join him, his son, and his son-in-law to create Rapid Fire Protection. In 1995, DiBona was a Top 7 finalist in the AFSA annual National Apprentice Competition. In July of 2021, Rapid Fire joined the Pye Barker Fire and Safety family. DiBona is a NICET Level III Certified Engineering Technician in Water-Based Systems Layout. 

Region 5 Director and Secretary of the Board Jeff Phifer is president and CEO of Crawford Sprinkler Company of South Carolina, based in Lugoff, South Carolina, one of the oldest family-owned and continuously operated fire sprinkler contractors in the nation. Crawford celebrated its 100th year in 2020. Phifer has been at Crawford for 44 years, working as a fitter, service technician, and in administration. In 1999, he became the third generation to be president and chairman of the board at Crawford Sprinkler Company. 

Region 6 Director Michael F. Meehan is chairman of VSC Fire & Security, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. A 1981 graduate from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, Meehan began his fire sprinkler career working summers as a pipefitter apprentice. He is a NICET Level IV Certified Engineering Technician in Water-Based Systems Layout and has more than 44 years of experience in sprinkler design engineering, estimating, project management, and senior management. Meehan is a past AFSA Chair of the Board and represents installing contractors and AFSA on the NFPA 13 committee.

Region 7 Director and Second Vice Chair of the Board Paul DeLorie is senior vice president of Hampshire Fire Protection Co., based in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Hampshire Fire Protection is one of the largest merit shop fire sprinkler companies in New England. DeLorie is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire. He has over 38 years of experience in sprinkler design, estimating, sales, project management, and senior management.


At-Large Director Chris Johnson is president and co-founder of Piper Fire Protection a Fortis Brand, located in Clearwater, Florida. He has led Piper since 2002. Johnson is a NICET-certified fire protection Engineering Technician, holding a level III certification in fire sprinkler design. He has served AFSA’s Florida Chapter since 2011 as Education and Legislative Committee chair as well as vice chair and immediate past chair of the chapter. Johnson has served on the board of ABC for the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter since 2015, is the chair of that chapter for 2023, and he has also served on the ABC Florida State board as well as the ABC National board. Johnson was elected and sworn into office as Largo City Commissioner in November 2022. His mission is to utilize his time, treasure, and talents to advocate for the fire sprinkler industry throughout Florida. He holds a Florida Fire Protection Contractor I License and Fire Equipment Dealers’ Licenses Class A and D. 

At-Large Director and Immediate Past Chair Jack A. Medovich, P.E., is with Summit Companies out of Mendota Heights, Minnesota. A 1983 graduate of the University of Maryland School of Fire Protection Engineering, Medovich served three years as fire marshal of Fairfax County, Virginia, before joining the fire sprinkler industry 37 years ago. He has been active in AFSA since 1991, is a past chair of the Chesapeake Bay Chapter, and served the Virginia Chapter as chair and as a member of the board of directors for many years. He represents AFSA on the Correlating Committee on Automatic Sprinkler Systems, encompassing NFPA 13, 13R, 13D, 24, and 291. In the past, he has served as a member of the following NFPA committees: NFPA 14, 20, 25, 101, 750, and 5000.

Jay Strickland serves as an At-Large Director. He is the president of Strickland Fire Protection. After 39 years, he partnered with Pye Barker and Rapid Fire Group in 2021. Strickland Fire Protection is in Forestville, Maryland, and was established in 1983. Strickland has been involved in the fire protection industry for 40 years. He is certified in NICET Level II, Fire Protection, Water-Based System Layout. He is a past chair of the AFSA Chesapeake Bay Chapter. He also serves on the board of Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) Foundation, a 501(c)3 corporation. The organization’s mission is to secure and steward private funds to enhance the educational endeavors of the college. This includes creating a new pathway to earn a college degree that many skilled craftsmen and women may have never considered as an option. A new Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree program at AACC will enable students who have completed apprenticeship programs to earn credits for their hard work. This will include pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs. The degree will be part of the school programming to ensure that students have the resources they need to pursue lifelong careers and that local businesses have a pipeline of employees ready for roles from entry-level through upper management.

At-Large Director Wayne Weisz started his career in the fire sprinkler industry in 1979. He started as an apprentice and quickly worked his way through the ranks as a foreman and then general superintendent with American Fire Systems in Lodi, California. In 1986, Weisz, along with his brother Byron, founded Cen-Cal Fire Systems, Inc., also in Lodi. In 1997, the brothers established D-M Fabrication, which ran as an independent pipe fabrication facility supplying fire sprinkler piping throughout the western United States. Cen-Cal Fire became a member of AFSA in 1987.

Weisz became a member of the AFSA Board of Directors in 2005. He has chaired multiple AFSA national committees over the years and in 2017-2018 served as AFSA Chair of the Board. In 2018, he was appointed by the California State Fire Marshal’s Office to serve on the State Automatic Extinguishing Systems Advisory Committee. Weisz is active in California apprenticeship issues and sat on the CAFSA apprenticeship board of directors for over 20 years. He is a founding member of and active in the AFSA Sacramento Valley Chapter.

Ex-Officio (non-voting) members of the Board are Don Becker, AFSA Life Member, Dallas Center, Iowa; Joe Heinrich; Bamford Fire Sprinkler Co., Inc., Salina, Kansas; Bob Rees, API, High Point, North Carolina; Manning Strickland, Strickland Fire Protection, Inc., Forestville, Maryland; Willie Templin, American Automatic Sprinkler, Fort Worth, Texas; Larry Thibodeau, Hampshire Fire Protection Co., LLC, Londonderry, New Hampshire; Jack Viola, JFV Engineering, LLC, South Hadley, Massachusetts; and AFSA President Bob Caputo, CFPS.


At-Large Director Ted Wills is retiring from the Board this year. He is president of Anchor Fire Protection Company, Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania. He was an active member of AFSA in its early years, serving on the AFSA Board of Directors from 1987-1993, and began a second run in 2008. He was Chair of the Board from 2019-2021.

Wills began his fire sprinkler industry career in 1972 in the sprinkler division of his father’s mechanical company. Upon graduation from Waynesburg College in Pennsylvania, he and his father started Anchor Fire Protection as a separate company. 

Wills was recognized by 2022 Chair Jack Medovich during AFSA’s Board Meeting in July 2023. “Ted Wills has been a steady rock on our Board for many years,” says Medovich. “He has always been a Board member who provided guidance and wisdom, even when it might not be so popular to do so. AFSA and our entire industry owe Ted a debt of gratitude for his service over the years. He will be sorely missed.”

AFSA President Bob Caputo, CFPS, appreciated Wills’ support when he was named president of the association. “When I came aboard, I wasn’t really sure about the specifics of the job or the role,” comments AFSA President Bob Caputo, CFPS. “Ted made my transition very easy with encouragement, advice, and a great sense of humor. I hope he doesn’t fade off into the sunset, but if he does, I’ll expect random phone calls sharing his exploits with a deep-sea fishing pole and the occasional joke or two. I hope Ted enjoys the best life has to offer in the future!”


AFSA’s Board of Directors is strongly committed to the continuance of the merit shop philosophy, the promotion of property and life safety through the use of automatic fire protection, and the continued development of training for fire sprinkler fitters, layout technicians, inspectors, and management.

AFSA members are encouraged to ask questions or voice suggestions with any board member or staff. If you have a question or comment, please see the list of Board members and key staff on page 6 of every issue of Sprinkler Age or visit the Board of Directors webpage or the staff webpage.

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