Approximately 1,500 leaders from the fire service and fire service industry traveled to Washington, DC to participate in the 2016 National Fire and Emergency Services Symposium and Dinner. Sponsored by the Congressional Fire Services Institute, the event provided opportunities for interaction with federal agency leaders, congressional staff and fire service peers. During their time in Washington, DC, fire service leaders made their presence known on Capitol Hill and delivered important messages about federal programs and legislation that benefit our nation’s one million firefighters and emergency services personnel.
The two-day program featured a series of seminars covering a broad range of national issues and conducted by a distinguished list of public safety experts. Seminar attendees received Continuing Education Units from Columbia Southern University. When not attending the seminars, many attendees were either visiting their congressional offices to discuss legislative priorities or engaging in discussions with each other.
CFSI has been hosting this event for 28 years. It is the organization’s major fundraising program. It’s the only event in the fire service that draws local, state and national leaders from the entire spectrum of fire and emergency response, providing a rare opportunity for interaction between industry leaders and fire organization leaders under one roof: the Washington Hilton.
On the evening of May 5th, all 1,500 guests gathered together in the International Ballroom of the Washington Hilton to pay tribute to our nation’s fire and emergency services. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack delivered the keynote address. A former governor of Iowa, the Secretary focused much of his remarks on the growing challenges this country faces with wildfires. In 2015, wildfires burned over 10 million acres across the United States, and fighting these fires required the US Forest Service to spend a record amount of its budget to protect lives, property and habitat.
US Fire Administrator Ernie Mitchell also addressed the dinner, sharing with the audience his thoughts and reflections on serving as Fire Administrator for the past six years. This was Chief Mitchell’s last address at the dinner as fire administrator. Having been appointed by President Obama, Chief Mitchell will step down from his position when a new administration takes over in 2017. At the conclusion of his speech, CFSI Executive Director Bill Webb honored him with a special recognition award for his leadership and commitment as our nation’s highest ranking fire service official.
CFSI conducts four major award programs that recognize individuals and organizations for exemplary leadership. Each award has a co-sponsor. The awards are not based on valor but on leadership in making our fire service safer and stronger and in advancing public safety. Each year, the recipients of these awards are honored at the Dinner. This year, CFSI honored the following individuals and organizations:
- Chief Carl Holmes (Ret) of the Oklahoma City Fire Department, was the recipient of the 2016 CFSI/Motorola Solutions Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award. This award embraces the importance of advocacy and leadership on behalf of all firefighters and emergency services personnel. Chief Holmes was among the first 12 African Americans firefighters hired by the Oklahoma City Fire Department in 1951. Through hard work and determination, Holmes became the department’s first African American assistant fire chief. In 1991, he established the Carl Holmes Executive Development Institute to develop the management skills and leadership potential of African American firefighters.
- Gerry Bassett, the recently retired Public Education and Training Program Management Chair at the National Fire Academy, was the recipient of the CFSI/IFSTA Dr. Anne W. Phillips Award for Leadership in Fire Safety Education. An original member of the National Fire Academy staff, Bassett devoted his career to pursuing the spirit of Dr. Phillip’s minority report to America Burning that advocated for fire prevention. During his tenure at NFA, he was a pioneer in developing courses that stressed the importance of community risk reduction.
- The Olathe (KS) Fire Department and the Kittitas Valley (WA) Fire and Rescue Departments were the co-recipients of the CFSI/Masimo Excellence in Fire Service-Based EMS Award. The departments were recognized for developing innovations to enhance the delivery of emergency medical services in their respective jurisdictions.
- The Fire Department Safety Officers Association received the CFSI/NFFF Senator Paul S. Sarbanes Fire Service Safety Leadership Award for its work to promote safety standards and practices in the fire, rescue and emergency services. Much of their work has been driven by the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives developed over ten years ago by the national fire service organizations. FDSOA Chairman Rich Maddox accepted the award on behalf of the organization. State Farm and VFIS serve as the corporate co-sponsors of the award.
The date for the 2017 National Fire and Emergency Services Symposium and Dinner is April 5-6. CFSI is available to discuss sponsorship opportunities for organizations seeking a major presence at next year’s event. This summer we will have an open call-for-proposals for the seminars program. Later in the year, we will be encouraging individuals and organizations to submit applications for our awards program. If you want to receive the alerts for the opening of the application period, please send us an email at [email protected].
If you want to make a difference for the fire service at the national level, then you should circle April 5-6, 2017 on your calendar and plan to attend our program. When 1,500 fire service officials are seen walking the halls of Congress, that will get the attention of our elected officials.