City of South Burlington Fire Chief, Steven Locke, addresses the Federation of the European Fire Officers
The Federation of the European Fire Officers (FEU) is an organization representing 52 countries speaking 24 different languages. The FEU is open to the fire chief or agency head of the fire department. In some countries the fire service is federalized (one fire department for the entire country), regionalized (example is Finland has four regional departments) or municipal (what we are accustomed too). The FEU Council meeting had delegates from many of these regions.
Chief Ken Stuebing (IAFC Past President and Fire Chief of Halifax NS) and I were asked to represent the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) at this meeting to present an update on what is happening within the Association. One of the strategic priorities of the IAFC is to increase our international footprint and relationships with fire service leaders around the world. We were joined by Chief Robert Rocha (Corpus Christie, TX) who is president of the Metro Section of the IAFC. The Metro Section is comprised of fire chiefs in communities with at least 350 firefighters. The FEU is interested to expand their relationship with both the IAFC and Metro Section.
The primary theme of the FEU Council meeting was climate change and the impact on the fire service. We heard about serious wildfires that occurred in Spain and the United Kingdom. The delegate from Spain discussed the way they have managed the increase in wildfires and how they deploy resources across the County. A Deputy Commissioner from the London Fire Brigade did a presentation on a series of wildfires that happened in their City in 2021 that overwhelmed their capabilities and resulted in several destroyed structures. In was the first time since World War 2 that all the City’s fire apparatus were committed to emergency incidents. A fire researcher from the Netherlands spoke of the increased numbers of large wildfires. This is a new problem for the Netherlands which normally had been too cool and wet to have wildfire incidents. They are adapting to this problem and finding alternative method of extinguishment (backfires, etc.).
We were given a tour of the 112 center for the city of Madrid. It is like our 911 system, and the dispatch center handles approximately 4 million emergency calls annually. It was interesting to see how they are using computer aided dispatch to move units in an efficient manner.
In a somber presentation we heard from a Ukraine General (via video) who oversees the Country’s fire service; he spoke of the challenges facing the firefighters. The General stated 49 firefighters had been killed, while 1,600 vehicles and 205 stations destroyed. The FEU group re-committed their support for the Ukrainian firefighters.
Thank you for the opportunity to attend this meeting, represent the City of South Burlington and the men and women of the South Burlington Fire Department.