Metro Chiefs Headed to Memphis

With the big day just around the corner, the Memphis, TN, Fire Department is planning to host the 45th annual Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association conference. Commonly known as the "Metro Chiefs," it is an opportunity for all the fire chiefs from the largest metropolitan areas to come together to network, learn the latest trends and have fellowship.

The Metro Chiefs is an organized section of both the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC). Eligible candidates must be members in good standing of both the NFPA and IAFC in departments with at least 400 fully paid career firefighters. The conference dates are May 15–20, 2010. This will be the second time the City of Memphis has hosted this prestigious event, with the first being in the late 1970s.

No conference would be successful without a conference planning committee. The Memphis Metro Chiefs Planning Committee is extremely busy preparing with one meeting after another. Undoubtedly, this planning committee understands that the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Conference is not just another annual 15-syllable conference boasting of revolutionizing or transforming a fire department into becoming a lean mean firefighting machine. Rather, it's where the fire chief of the department, the lead decision maker, meets with all of the other metro department leaders to tackle some of the major issues facing metropolitan areas today. High on the list certainly are homeland security, budget constraints, and improving health among the rank and file. What's unique about the Metro Chiefs is that only the fire chief or the highest-ranking department officer for that particular city or jurisdiction can attend. The deputy or assistant chief cannot attend, which creates an atmosphere whereby the Metro Chiefs members can speak candidly about their experiences and concerns.

The Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association was established in 1965 in Miami, FL, and this year's conference will be the 45th annual event. One of the Metro Chiefs' early goals was to promote the establishment of a National Office of Fire Defense. This office was to have two primary goals: obtain federal money to help cities get needed equipment; and create a National Fire Academy. In 1974, nine years after the historic Miami meeting, Public Law 93–498 — The Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act, was passed, providing authority for the creation of today's U.S. Fire Administration and sub-areas such as the National Fire Academy.

The Metro has specific bylaws, policies and procedures as well as a designated executive board to guide and maintain the organization. Chief Robert Hendricks of the Lexington, KY, Division of Fire/Emergency Services is the current president. Former Metro Presidents include Chief William Stewart of the Toronto, Ontario, Fire Department, Chief Luther Fincher Jr. of the Charlotte, NC, Fire Department, Chief Russell Sanders of Louisville, KY, Fire/Rescue and the current U.S. Fire Administrator, Kelvin Cochran, when he was chief of Atlanta, GA, Fire Rescue. Members who retire or leave organizations can retain affiliation with the Metro as senior members. Memphis was chosen in 2007 as the host city for the 2010 conference, as the Metro Chiefs accepts proposals three years in advance. This helps with the amount of planning that is involved. The Metro Chiefs outlines its mission as: To ensure the highest level of quality fire, EMS and specialized services in our metropolitan communities through leadership, action and partnerships with all levels of government.

Many thanks to all of the sponsors that support this event. Year after year, industry experts from the public and private sectors forge partnerships and achieve common goals that ultimately keep our number-one resource, the human resource, safe and secure. Please visit for more information.

Sources: Metro Chiefs; International Association of Fire Chiefs; National Fire Protection Association; and special consideration is given to Russ Sanders (NFPA), Metro Chiefs board secretary, for "The Early Days."

ALVIN BENSON is chief of the Memphis, TN, Fire Department. He joined the department in 1987 as a firefighter assigned to Engine 16 and later to Air Crash before being promoted in 1994 to fire inspector. After promotion to fire prevention supervisor in 1998, Benson was assigned to the Fire Museum of Memphis and oversaw the museum's public fire safety education program at the new facility. In 2002, he was appointed chief fire marshal. In April 2004, Benson was appointed deputy director and he became fire chief and director in July 2008. He holds a bachelor of professional studies degree in fire prevention technology and fire administration from the University of Memphis and master of business administration degree from Webster University.