In a powerful demonstration of unity and resilience, the 2024 Affiliate Leadership Training Summit (ALTS) and Human Relations Conference (HRC) kicked off in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., echoing the resounding message from General President Edward Kelly during his General Session introduction: “When we fight, we win.”
The conference, held from Jan. 25-28, provides a platform for members and affiliate leaders in the U.S. and Canada to share experiences, gain insights, and reinforce their commitment to excellence.
Addressing the challenges of the profession, Kelly emphasized the unpredictable nature of their work in the fire service and the union. “It’s like being on the job. We don’t get to pick what fire we go to; we don’t know what our next call will look like. We have a plan in our head where you have to adapt, overcome.”
General Secretary-Treasurer Frank Líma shared his experience growing in the fire service and union. “I came on at the age of 19 and went through a lot of big incidents, from the civil unrest in Los Angeles in 1992 to the earthquake in North Ridge. I went through my career trying to learn my job, and trying to be competent because when people look at leaders, they do not want leaders who cannot do their jobs. Competency is a key part of leadership.”
Education took center stage with numerous workshops and breakout groups designed to equip members with the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in and out of the line of duty. A particular highlight was the focus on leadership, examining how fire fighters navigate challenges.
The Generals’ Award for Excellence in Leadership was introduced during the General Session, honoring leaders from various regions including Baltimore Fire Officers, Local 964 President Joshua Fannon; Baltimore, MD Local 734 President Matthew Coster; Duluth, MN Local 101 President Adam Casillas; Saskatchewan Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics Association President Lloyd Zwack; Salem, OR Local 314 President Matthew Brozovich; Hollywood, FL Local 1375 President Alexandra Jonker; Montreal, QB Local 125 Chris Ross; Mountain View, CO Local 3214 President Ben Carter; Shreveport, LA Local 514 President Barbara Sellers, Chicago, IL Local 2 President Pat Cleary, and Boeing Fire Fighters Local I-66 President Casey Yeager.
Kelly and Lima invited the recipients on stage to share their stories, challenges, and triumphs as union leaders, which ranged from handling the mental toll of a multiple line-of-duty death to battling and eventually defeating a mayor determined to strip fire fighters of their benefits to the success of presumptive cancer coverage in Canada.
“Whenever you are faced with something that seems bigger than the imaginable possibility, know that the IAFF stands ready to meet that challenge head on,” said Shreveport, LA Local 514 President Barbara Sellers, who worked with IAFF legal, health and safety, and communications experts to shut down a fire station that was flagged for potential cancer-causing toxins.
“We took an oath that requires us to risk our lives, and sometimes that comes home,” said GP Kelly. “What unites us, we owe it to each other, to ourselves, and our families to protect each other, to stick together, and that’s the secret to the success of the mission of the IAFF.”
7th District Vice President Ricky Walsh thanked Kelly for appointing him Chair of the Elected Human Relations Committee. “We’re learning about each other so we can better serve you out there and I do not think that has ever been done where we get to know each other on a deeper level,” he said.
Before the Elected Human Relations Committee nominations took the floor, Walsh introduced keynote speaker Erin Jones, author of the book, “Bridges to Heal US: Stories and Strategies for Racial Healing.
“It feels like there are so many fires burning in the world right now and that can feel overwhelming, and this is what I challenge people: just be kind. It does not cost anything,” said Jones.
To view the full livestream of the 2024 ALT/HRC General Session, visit the link here.