Hundreds of firefighters and Firehouse World attendees turned out for the opening ceremony and keynote speeches Wednesday morning in San Diego as the classes resumed and the exhibit hall floor opened for the first time at 10:15 a.m. The show will remain open until 3 p.m. Thursday as will the classes.
San Diego Fire Chief Javier Mainar
San Diego Fire Chief Javier Mainar welcomed Firehouse Editor-in-Chief Harvey Eisner and the Cygnus staff, as well as the firefighters and responders from around the country who came to participate in the event.
Mainar said he knew it was a challenging time for fire departments to find money in their budgets to send people to training sessions, and he appreciated having Firehouse World in his city providing firefighters the opportunity to participate in top-notch training right in their back yards.
“In this worldwide recession, it is a difficult time to do all the things we need to do,” Mainar said.
In a polling of the audience by raised hands, Mainar quickly learned that virtually every fire department had experienced some form of budget setbacks and even “personal anguish” attributed to the soft economy.
Many in the public are now focusing on firefighter compensation and retirement packages rather than recognizing “the great service we provide for our communities.”
He said that group is small but vocal and challenged responders to keep their chins up and be personally accountable for their actions, knowing that they are, indeed, providing an invaluable service.
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, who was elected to the city’s top political post about two months ago, echoed many of Mainar’s thoughts and said not only do firefighters have to endure criticism from the public, but they now face the new threat of terrorism by those bent on harming firefighters.
Filner said it’s time for society to say "thank you" to firefighters for the work they do and give them the paychecks, benefits and retirements they have earned and deserve.
“It’s time to stop the vilification of firefighters,” Filner said in his brief remarks.
The Firehouse World opening was also a time for a sneak preview of a new wildland fire safety video produced by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
National Fallen Firefighters Foundation
The NFFF’s Executive Director Ron Siarnicki said the new video, directed by Rob Maloney, will be released later this spring and focuses on part of the foundation’s “Everyone Goes Home” initiative.
The clip of the video Siarnicki shared focused on the testimony of survivors of the South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain in Colorado in 1994. Fourteen lives were lost in that blaze and those interviewed for the story said the mountain exploded in what seemed like seconds, leaving everyone running for their lives in advance of flames leaping up to 300 feet in the air.
Siarnicki said it was just one of the initiatives the NFFF has undertaken in the past 10 years in an effort to be proactive in preventing firefighter line of duty deaths.
California State Firefighters’ Association
The California State Firefighters’ Association was on hand to present the 11th annual Fire Training Officer of the Year award to Menlo Park Fire Protection District Division Chief Frank Fraone.
CSFA President Kevin Nida, representing the 20,000 members of the organization, introduced Menlo Park Fire Engineer Andrew Murtagh who nominated Fraone for the award.
Murtagh said his division chief had been in the fire service for longer than he had been alive and was a mentor for not only himself, but many others in the fire service.
In accepting the award, Fraone said he had unsolicited testimony that the training officer position was the most important position in the fire department because it set the stage for all future generations of firefighters.
“I believe that,” Fraone said, adding that it was an honor to be the person responsible for teaching the fundamentals and building the foundation for so many recruits.