The largest gathering of volunteer firefighters in the State drew more than 520 to Syracuse in early August.
The 147th Annual FASNY Convention kicked off with Committee meetings and the Past President All-You-Can-Eat Clam Bake Thursday, August 8, before an official opening on Friday, August 9.
Guest speakers underscored the Convention theme of recruitment and retention, including 40-year volunteer firefighter and State Assemblyman Joe DeStefano.
“We need to do everything we can to keep our volunteer firefighters here,” he said. “You have a friend in the fire service.”
National Fire Academy Superintendent and Keynote Speaker Tonya Hoover’s presentation outlined the changing role of emergency services, which are more likely to be involved in natural disasters and even active shooter incidents than ever before. From 2009-2018 fire only accounted for 4.6 percent of emergency calls. EMS accounted for 44.4 percent and 18.5 percent “special incidents.”
“We do more than just fire,” Hoover said. “Who would have thought [firefighters and EMTs] would respond in something other than PPE? Now we’re putting them in body armor.”
Meanwhile, the fires burn faster and hotter than ever before because of modern building methods and materials. Hoover also highlighted the new hazards presented by residential solar panels and other “off-the-grid” energy storage.
“And energy storage locations are not in the middle of big cities,” Hoover said. “They’re in areas that most of you represent.”
In addition to explaining the new needs of communities and the necessity of training in the fire service, Hoover offered some words of encouragement to the audience.
“There’s not a better profession in the world,” Hoover said. “As leaders, it’s our job to connect with our communities, understand where we are going … and be able to bring our communities and potential new members along.
“I encourage you to go out there and gather more folks and share with them what a great opportunity it is to be part of such a great profession,” she said.
This recruitment video for the Fire in You campaign premiered at Convention
Both recruitment and the fire service’s new challenges were addressed during packed presentations for the FASNY Convention Speaker Series Friday and Saturday. Dr. Candice McDonald presented “Breaking Through Recruitment and Retention Challenges” while State Trooper Brian DeRochie addressed “Active Shooter for Fire and EMS: An Integrated Response.” Fire Engineering Magazine Editor in Chief Bobby Halton returned to Convention for “The Responsibilities of the Company Officer” and Ex-Chief Robert Fling presented “Every Fire Is a Hazmat.” A panel discussion about post-traumatic stress closed out Saturday’s educational programming.
Sunday saw the Firefighter of the Year Award go to Jason Bernfeld of the Melville Fire Department and the EMS Provider of the Year go to Christopher Tracey of Brighton Volunteer Fire Co. No. 5.
New Director Don Farrell and Director Jose DaRocha were sworn into the FASNY Board of Directors for five-year terms while Director Andrew E. Pilecki was sworn in for another year. Doug VanEtten joined the Home Board of Trustees for a five-year term while Dennis E. Eickhoff, Marilyn L. Schrader and Peter U. Cincotta were sworn into their second five-year terms.