Almost 200 fire chiefs from across the province gathered at the Sheraton Hotel for the 70th annual Conference and Trade Show of the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association (AFCA).
“This annual event is extremely important as it provides an opportunity of Alberta’s fire chiefs to learn new skills, share ideas and prepare to better lead their local departments,” said Peter Krich, president of the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association and Camrose fire chief.
The event ran June 10th to 14th.
He said they combine the event with educational components, training and learning symposiums and keynote speakers, and a trade show.
“We are the largest trade show for the fire service in Western Canada,” said Krich.
He said the biggest attraction for bringing a group together like this is the networking aspect of it. “It’s being able to share information with each other. We’re all in the same industry, we’re all doing the same thing and we get an opportunity to share educational components.”
This year’s theme of the conference is ‘Leadership and Building Together’, and this year ran three different streams of educational sessions on the aspects of administration, operations and leadership.
One of America’s best known firefighter, instructor, author and speaker, Frank Viscuso, deputy chief of Kearny New Jersey joined the event, speaking for the first time in Canada. His topic was ‘Step up and Lead’. Other speakers included former MLA and author Dough Griffiths, retired Prince Alberta Fire Department Chief Les Karpluk and retired Lamont County Regional Fire Chief Randy Siemens.
Registered this year in the program was 170 delegates from across Alberta.
“We also have a couple of representatives from British Columbia and Saskatchewan, because we are partnered with both and that’s vice versa. When they have their conferences and stuff like that members from our side will go over,” said Krich.
Part of the annual conference is a medal ceremony where commitment and service is recognized. This year 193 medals were presented to outstanding firefighting professionals from throughout Alberta. Her Honour Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell attended both the opening ceremonies and medal ceremony. Alberta’s Municipal Affairs Minister, Honourable Shaye Anderson also joined the official events.
Another highlight of the conference was the annual trade show where exhibitors present and occasionally demonstrate the newest equipment and technologies for firefighting, emergency response and fire department management. Over 120 exhibitors participated with both indoor and outdoor exhibits.
They also said a fond farewell to retiring Executive Director of AFCA Bill Purdy.
For Krich, who is going into his 37th year of fire services in Camrose, firefighting has been a great career choice.
“It’s the best job of my life. It’s the best job of anybody’s life and I think you can go back to every child’s dream is to be a firefighter.”
He started his career as a volunteer firefighter and went up through the ranks, being full time now for 27 years.
The AFCA is comprised of fire chiefs from 450 fire departments from across Alberta. Collectively they represent approximately 13,000 firefighters, 11,000 of which are volunteers.