2023 Convention Recap

Block Party Recap

Against a backdrop of one of the world’s most iconic natural landmarks, more than 500 FASNY members and their guests gathered at the Niagara Falls Convention Center Aug. 10-12 for the Association’s 151st annual Convention.

The three-day event, which was last held in this western New York city in 2009, featured a blend of prominent fire service speakers, intensive training sessions, business meetings, and fun social activities.

The agenda kicked off Thursday morning with the Opening Session and Annual Memorial Service remembering deceased members.

It was immediately followed by the presentation of the Firefighter of the Year award to Lt. Justin Berry, a seven-year member of the Riverhead Volunteer Fire Department, for his heroic rescue of a 77-year-old man at a home fire in Riverhead, N.Y. on the afternoon of Dec. 30.

“Lt. Berry acted heroically and selflessly to rescue this individual,” remarked FASNY President Edward Tase, Jr. “His intervention and quick actions saved this person’s life, and we are proud to name him as the FASNY 2023 Firefighter of the Year.”

“It is without any doubt that the actions of the first responders changed the fate of this victim, and the heroic actions of Lt. Justin Berry, who fearlessly put himself in harm’s way, saved that man’s life,” added Joseph Hartmann, chief of department, Riverhead Volunteer Fire Department. “Lt. Berry’s a really good firefighter. Very active and dedicated.”

Following lunch, David Rhodes, editor-in-chief for Fire Engineering and educational director for FDIC International, took the Grand Ballroom podium to deliver an engaging, 55-minute keynote presentation.

A 37-year fire service veteran, Rhodes serves as chief elder for the elite Georgia Smoke Diver Program, a six-day, 60-hour program designed for the experienced firefighters seeking advanced training in self-survival, firefighter rescue, advanced search and rescue, thermal imaging, emergency procedures, teamwork, discipline, team leadership, situational awareness, decision making and how to function within the elements of the Incident Command System.

During his riveting talk, titled “Nuts and Bolts,” Rhodes spoke about the Georgia Smoke Diver’s core values — competence, honor, and integrity — and how they apply to the volunteer fire services. He also explained how the fire service can instil passion and life lessons in youth — something they might not get at home.

“Through the fire service, they can learn discipline, get trained, and use those skills to overcome adversity,” he said. “Those skills are applicable to the business world and their personal life, too.”

Rhodes was followed to the podium by Tonya Hoover, deputy administrator for the U.S. Fire Administration, and Kristina Moon, wife of William P. “Billy” Moon II, a 21-year member of the FDNY and 28-year volunteer in the Islip Fire Department who died following a tragic training accident last December. Billy’s final gift was donating his organs to five desperate recipients, including FDNY members Captain Patrick Reynolds and Lieutenant Terrence Jordan. Kristina is now a passionate advocate for organ donation.

Thursday closed with a rousing FASNY Block Party on Falls Street. Attendees enjoyed tasty treats from local food trucks, free entertainment, and live, high energy music from Nerds Gone Wild, one of western New York’s premier party bands.

Friday, Aug. 11 brought a full house to the Convention Center to listen to a 2% Tax Forum and participate in business and networking sessions.

Attendees then had a chance to take part in a five-hour class that equipped them with the tools they need to safely respond to incidents involving electric vehicles.

Taught by Thomas Miller, a certified fire instructor III with West Virginia University Fire Service Extension, and sponsored by the National Volunteer Fire Council, the program featured both a classroom and hands-on component.

Miller said it’s imperative that firefighters stay up to date on lithium-ion batteries, as this technology is commonly used in cars, Apple watches, lawn equipment, and jet skis. Even the Maid of the Mist tours — which provide tourists a chance to experience the beauty of Niagara Falls aboard its catamaran-style boats — operate with electric batteries.

“Firefighters need to understand the energetic potential of dealing with an incident involving lithium-ion batteries,” he said. “From the smallest tool up to an electric vehicle, there’s a high heat potential for transmission of energy.”

The Gerard J. Buckenmeyer FASNY Memorial Scholarship Night fundraiser and networking event capped off Friday evening.

Convention drew to a close the morning of Saturday, Aug. 1, highlighted by voting for elected positions and a presentation titled, “Today’s Fires, Yesterday’s Tactics.” During the talk Chief Robert Fling, ex-chief with the Dix Hills Fire Department on Long Island, spoke about how today’s fires burn hotter, faster and produce a toxic environment for firefighters like we have never encountered before.

As attendees learned tips and tricks on size up, ventilation, line selection, and thermal imaging at Chief Fling’s session, across town at the Wheatfield Training Center, 33 Juniors/RAMS/Explorers were being put through their paces at FASNY’s annual Youth Day.

Sponsored by FASNY’s Youth in the Fire Service Committee and hosted by Frontier Volunteer Fire Company, the event gave attendees the chance to try their hand at four evolutions – search and rescue, Stop the Bleed, bailout, and fire extinguisher training.

“Through Youth Day we’re trying to get the youth engaged at a young age, so that when they become of age to join the fire service, they have four or five years behind them in experience and they can hit the ground running,” explained Jerry Presta, co-chair, FASNY’s Youth in the Fire Service Committee. “Events like this give kids the opportunity to see the different types of jobs they can do, and give them an array of community service, which are great leadership skills for the future.”

Liam Reynolds, one of the participants from the Hamburg Volunteer Fire Department, said he especially enjoyed the Stop the Bleed training, which taught him how to handle trauma bleeding.

“It’s a good skill to know for yourself because if you get a deep wound you need to know what to do,” he said. “It’s something we can use in the real world to help save lives.”

FASNY President Edward Tase, Jr. of Lockport said next year’s 152nd annual FASNY Convention is scheduled to return to Niagara Falls in August 2024. Come join us!

Convention Recruitment Video