Welcome to Anchorage ASFA…
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
If you see a lot of strange faces wearing out of town fire department t-shirts, or see a bunch of fire engines that don’t say “Anchorage Fire Department” downtown this week, don’t be alarmed, there’s not a major catastrophe. The Alaska State Firefighters Association (ASFA) is holding its annual conference, bringing together first responders from familiar places like Fairbanks, Juneau, and the Mat-Su Valley with participants from places like Moose Pass, Dillingham, and Kwethluk in an effort to increase the knowledge and skills of Alaska’s first responders. This year, there are even guests from Canada, Oregon, and Washington in town to experience the Conference.
For the first time in its history, The Anchorage Fire Department’s Charles Whitethorn Chapter of the ASFA is hosting the conference, with participants taking part in classes all over the Anchorage bowl, on the military bases, and even out in the Mat-Su Valley. Live burns, vehicle extrication, high angle rope rescue, and truck company operations are some of the hands on classes being given. Other participants spend time in the classroom, learning things such as how to apply for federal and state grants, ways to recruit and retain firefighters, or techniques for maintaining apparatus. Nationally renowned instructors and speakers are in town to share their knowledge, vendors are here showing off the newest in tools and protective equipment, and of course, everyone is eager to put their skills to the test in the Fire Fighter Skills Competition, which will be held downtown on Saturday on the Park Strip.
The Conference teaches new skills and techniques, but also reflects upon lessons and experiences that have occurred in past incidents. One such class looks at lessons learned by the Anchorage Fire Department during the 41st Court Fire, where several Anchorage firefighters were caught in a natural gas explosion that effectively leveled an Anchorage condominium complex in April 2008. In that incident, none of the fire fighters suffered serious injury, but everyone can learn from the warning signs that led up to the explosion. Hopefully, participants will take these lessons back to their individual fire departments increasing firefighter awareness and everyone’s safety.
Perhaps even more important then the classroom knowledge and training that the Conference offers is the chance to meet fire fighters from all over Alaska. This leads to exceptional training opportunities for all of us, like when Fairbanks firefighters came to Anchorage to teach their specialty, “Rescue the Rescuer,” or when members of the Anchorage Fire Department traveled to Sitka to teach a Truck Company Operations class.
So if you’re out and about downtown this week and you see any of these men and women, take a moment and welcome them to Anchorage. We’re proud to host them, and we hope that they have a great experience in our beautiful city.