Employee Spotlight: Sean Vizgirda, CFPS, MIFireE
A member of Kohrs Lonnemann Heil Engineers, Inc. (KLH Engineers) since 2021, Sean Vizgirda, lead fire protection engineering associate, designs fire protection systems across multiple markets including commercial, civic, education, healthcare and retail. Formerly a fire station captain in the U.S. Air Force (USAF), Sean brings worldwide experience and a versatile skill set including fire safety management planning and inspection, risk management, hazmat incident mitigation and more. He is a certified fire protection specialist (CFPS) and a member of the Institution of Fire Engineers (MIFireE).
You have a remarkable background, including serving as a fire station captain in the USAF from 2009-2013. Tell us a little bit about your experience and how you got started in fire protection engineering.
I joined the USAF in 2009 after attending the University of Kentucky. My family has a long history of military service dating back to the early 1900s in Lithuania where my great-great-grandfather was an officer in the Lithuanian Army prior to World War I. In fact, my last name translated to English means “always listening,” in context meaning “always listening for the call to protect the kingdom.”
When I joined the USAF, I told my recruiter that I wanted to do a job that would be exciting and translate to the civilian world. That’s how I got into firefighting. I was stationed in England at Royal Air Force (RAF) Lakenheath where our mission was to support the 48th Fighter Wing, which mainly consisted of F-15 Strike Eagles and HH-60 Blackhawk helicopters. After leaving the USAF in 2013, I began working for the offshore oil and gas industry in England where I was instructing oil and gas workers on emergency response for their heli-decks and operational areas on the rigs.
In 2016, I was recruited to move to Qatar and instruct emergency responders across the oil and gas industry as well as their municipal firefighters. I have instructed a wide range of emergency response from incident command to confined space rescue and industrial emergency response. I met many wonderful people from all over the world while I was in England and Qatar. Ultimately these experiences gave me a lot of perspective and taught me to be thankful for what I have and the prosperity that we enjoy in the U.S.
While I loved the operational fire fighting world, I wanted to understand fire protection from a more technical perspective. This passion drove me to go back to school and earn a degree in fire protection and safety engineering technology. I have loved every minute of my career in fire protection, which I feel attracts passionate people that value life safety and find fulfillment in creating a safer world.
Describe your current role at KLH.
My current role with KLH is a lead associate fire protection engineer. My typical duties consist of creating fire protection designs for various projects across all markets and clients KLH serves. My role is to help owners, architects and other interested parties understand the nature and capabilities of various fire protection systems. I am also very interested in passing along the knowledge I have gained to my fellow colleagues at KLH so they can have a better understanding of how the systems they design may affect the life safety of occupants of the buildings we design. My goal is to bring more attention and awareness of all aspects of fire protection design beyond sprinkler systems alone. If you have questions about fire protection, please don’t hesitate to reach out! Just make sure you have blocked off enough time, I tend to go very deep into these topics and what should be a two-minute conversation ends up being a 30-minute lesson.
Are you currently working on any exciting or challenging projects?
The most exciting project I am working on is the Kentucky State Capitol. I am incredibly proud to be able to work on such a historic building. The state capitol is getting a huge facelift and part of that is installing fire protection systems to protect historic documents and artwork throughout the building. I am also working on various projects in the residential sector which offers many unique challenges, including implementing restaurants, retail outlets and parking garages underneath the apartments in which people live. Those designs can be more challenging than one might suspect at first glance.
Tell us about your involvement with Habitat for Humanity.
I first got involved with Habitat for Humanity while I was living in Kansas City. I lived there for about a year while I waited for my wife and kids to be able to move to the U.S. from England. I was there without them and had no real connections in the area. So, I decided to start using my free weekends to give back to the community, and Habitat for Humanity seemed like a great fit. I am now involved with the organization in Cincinnati and enjoy helping whenever possible. I also get to work on my home improvement skills at the same time!
What do you do in your free time?
My son and daughter are now old and tall enough to ride everything at Kings Island, so we have passes and go there when we can. When we lived in Qatar, I coached both kids in little league baseball and served as a safety advisor for all the Girl Scout troops in Doha.
I also enjoy 3D printing as a hobby. If you are ever on a call with me and hear some oddly mechanical whirring in the background, it is probably my 3D printer making something useful for around the house or a toy for my kids.
We also have a six-month-old Bichon Frise puppy that requires a lot of attention!