Leadership on the line

Fire chiefs talk safety at annual conference in the township

Christine Harkinson/The Sun
The Eastern Division of the International Association of Fire Chiefs conference earlier this month included a demonstration that involved two hotel rooms in Mount Laurel set on fire to emphasize the effectiveness of indoor sprinklers.

The Eastern Division of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (EDIAFC) sponsored its two-day 2024 annual conference on the weekend of May 10 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Mount Laurel.

A portion of the proceeds was donated to the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation. The EDIAFC represents fire chiefs from New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.

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“The conference is held every year,” said Chief Jim Yates of the EDIAFC. “Some years are more successful than other years and that’s not from lack of trying by all of the states. It’s just that some are more successful than others.

“This was highly successful,” he added of the Mount Laurel conference. “We typically get, at a conference, between 50 and 75 participants. At our conference we had 240 firefighters on Friday and 140 on Saturday.”

This year’s conference theme was Leadership on the Line and it included presentations from prominent fire from around the country, including IAFC (International Association of Fire Chiefs) president Chief John Butler; Fairfax County, Virginia, fire rescue; past fire commissioner now managing director in Philadelphia, Adam Theil; past IAFC president Chief Kenneth Stuebing; Halifax, Virginia, fire rescue; state fire marshal Richard Mitkutsky; National Fire Academy superintendent Eriks Gabliks; and retired deputy U.S. fire administrator Dr. Denis Onieal.

The IAFC represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders around the world, and its members are the world’s leading experts in firefighting; EMS; terrorism response; hazardous materials spills; natural disasters; search and rescue; and public safety policy, according to the association’s website.

“The IAFC has a large footprint on Capitol Hill,” Yates noted. “The bills impact the fire service and public safety in general – they come from the federal government – and the IAFC has impacted them. We have legislative people on the hill all the time, and that’s been very successful.

” … The IAFC helps make sure Congress understands the value of them, and without them, a lot of local fire departments have taken advantage of those grants.”

Yates noted that absent the international fire chiefs, those grants would not materialize.

“The bottom line is, it takes money to have people on the hill doing this and the dues pay for that,” he pointed out. “For the firefighting community, I would encourage them to join the International Association of Fire Chiefs.”

As part of the conference, vendors displayed fire equipment, supplies and services. Included was one of Belfor Property Restoration’s mobile command centers, which are deployed to any significant disaster in the nation to assist with disaster recovery and property restoration. There was also a demonstration on the benefits of sprinklers involving adjacent rooms at the DoubleTree.

“In the demonstration on Friday,” Yates explained, “a small fire is lit in the middle room, not using anything other than normal household combustibles, and it shows how rapidly a smoke detector activates (and) the value of having smoke detectors. And then it shows what happens after a period of time when the sprinkler activates and … controls the fire.”

“If you had a fire sprinkler system in your home, that would happen well before the arrival of the fire department.”

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