Plano, TX Local 2149 hosted its first Fire Ops 101 event April 16. Dubbed “Leadership Fire Academy,” 19 local and state leaders participated in the event. “We named it the Leadership Fire Academy because we didn’t want anyone to ‘Google’ what it is they would be doing,” says Local 2149 member and Vice President of Media and Communications Wesley Holland. “We really wanted the participants to be completely surprised.”

The 19 participants included planning and zoning commissioners, all eight city council members, a county commissioner, deputy city managers, the city manager, the city attorney and two members of the Texas House of Representatives. The interactive course consisted of four scenario-based events: a fire attack, a search and rescue, a vehicle extrication and a cardiac arrest that provided a hands-on experience of what fire fighters go through on daily basis.

The feedback for the event was overwhelmingly positive and even more important was the invaluable relationships that formed between Plano fire fighters and local leaders — some almost immediately after the event.

Representative Matt Shaheen (R) reached out to Local 2149 President Beau Simpson soon after the event to talk about issues important to fire fighters.

“Our state leadership takes pride in being conservative,” says Holland. “State Representative Shaheen showed up in a suit and tie, and didn’t even get to participate fully in the event, but he still got the message and was impacted by the presentation. It really brought it all to life for him.”

Holland says that Shaheen was completely misinformed about one of the major propositions on the recent ballot for the Republican primary. President Simpson was able to educate Shaheen on the facts about the legislation and what it really means for fire fighters.

Although Local 2149 has maintained a solid relationship with Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere, it was immediately after having participated in the Leadership Fire Academy that Mayor LaRosiliere’s support was so keenly reflected. In a recent state hearing on property tax reform, a Texas state senator suggested that LaRosiliere look at police and fire when it came to lowering his own city’s budget. Holland says that their mayor was stoic in his response, insisting that he was unapologetic for what they pay their fire and police and refused to back down.

“We really are just blown away by the impact that this event has had both locally and state-wide,” says Holland. Holland is a recent graduate of the IAFF Communications Training Academy and attributes what he learned there with the success of the Leadership Fire Academy event. “I took everything I learned there and brought it home,” he says.

In addition to the four events, Local 2149 provided participants breakfast, lunch and even childcare. The final component after lunch was the opportunity to ride in Plano Fire Rescue’s 110-foot aerial bucket as one member captured images on a drone.

“I think the icing on the cake was when I heard a city council member from a neighboring city say that he hoped his local would put this event on in place of the city council retreat,” says Holland. “We really want this to spread because the outcome for us has been hugely beneficial. Those relationships we made were built in the best way possible — first-hand experience.”