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Battalion Chief Tom Browning at Fairgrounds Foundation Speaker Night

On August 11, 2014, while working on a fire in the Klamath National Forest, Tom Browning and two others were forced to take refuge in fire shelters while the fire burned over them. Tom, a retired Fire Battalion Chief, shared this near death incident on Tuesday night with more than 20 FFA and 4H students from Bear River and Nevada Union high schools as part of the Nevada County Fairgrounds Foundation’s Speaker Series. The series brings business education – through access to business leaders, life experiences, and leadership tips – to local high school students.


Caption: On Tuesday night, Tom Browning, a retired Fire Battalion Chief and current Nevada County Fairgrounds Board member, shared a near death experience and lessons learned from the experience to local 4H and FFA students as part of the Fairgrounds Foundation’s speaker series. This monthly series provides business advice, tips and leadership experience to local high school students.


When faced with an adverse or dangerous situation, Browning’s advice to the students is to “stay calm.  You can’t think when you panic or are overwhelmed. Being calm is contagious.”

Browning has more than 40 years of firefighting experience, including 34 years with the City of Grass Valley Fire Department. He retired as a Battalion Chief in 2011. Since his retirement, he has been a member of the North San Juan Fire Protection District, where he serves as volunteer Battalion Chief.  He is also a member of Nor-Cal Team II, a federal Inter Agency Incident Management Team, whose responsibility is to help manage large wildland fires on federal responsibility lands.

Browning is a sixth generation Nevada County resident, and has served as past president of the Nevada County Livestock Producers and the Nevada County Farm Bureau; and is a current board member and past president of the Nevada County Fair Board. He holds his AA degree in Administration of Justice and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management.

In sharing leadership and life experience advice, Browning emphasized to the students that they should “focus on education and learn as much as they can; experience and learn from life’s lessons; be ethical by doing the right thing even when no one is looking; never give up; and never stop learning.”

The Fairgrounds Foundation’s speaker series, which began in October, featured six speakers. Students had an opportunity to hear about the speaker’s career path, how they achieved their goals, insight regarding their area of expertise, and an opportunity for questions. The series, sponsored by Sandy Ballou of California Outdoor Properties, will start up again in October and high school students are invited to attend.

About the Nevada County Fairgrounds Foundation: The Nevada County Fairgrounds Foundation’s mission is to support and improve the community’s Fairgrounds, and to support youth in agriculture. For more information about the Fairgrounds Foundation, or to become a member, visit NevadaCountyFair.com/foundation/.



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