International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) General President Edward Kelly opened the 2024 Affiliate Leadership Training Summit (ALTS) and Human Relations Conference (HRC) in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., with a message of unity and determination: “When we fight, we win.”
The conference, held from January 25-28, served as a platform for U.S. and Canadian fire service members and affiliate leaders to exchange experiences, gain insights, and reinforce their commitment to excellence.
Kelly spoke about the unpredictability of fire service and union work, likening it to responding to emergencies: “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.”
This sentiment underlines the dynamic and challenging nature of their profession.
General Secretary-Treasurer Frank Líma emphasized the importance of competency in leadership, sharing his experiences and growth in the fire service and union.
Líma’s journey from a young firefighter to a seasoned leader highlighted the critical role of skill and knowledge in effective leadership, especially in high-pressure situations.
The conference featured numerous workshops and breakout groups focusing on equipping members with essential knowledge and skills.
These sessions were particularly geared towards enhancing leadership capabilities and navigating the unique challenges faced by firefighters.
The Generals’ Award for Excellence in Leadership was presented to various leaders, including Joshua Fannon, Matthew Coster, Adam Casillas, Lloyd Zwack, Matthew Brozovich, Alexandra Jonker, Chris Ross, Ben Carter, Barbara Sellers, Pat Cleary, and Casey Yeager.
These leaders shared their stories, challenges, and triumphs, providing insights into the diverse experiences of union leadership.
Recipients of the Generals’ Award, like Shreveport, LA Local 514 President Barbara Sellers, spoke about facing and overcoming significant challenges with the support of the IAFF.
Sellers’ experience with shutting down a toxin-flagged fire station exemplified the organization’s readiness to tackle issues head-on.
General President Kelly emphasized the importance of mutual support and solidarity within the IAFF community: “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, appointed Chair of the Elected Human Relations Committee, underscored the value of understanding and serving the community better.
Keynote speaker Erin Jones, author of “Bridges to Heal US: Stories and Strategies for Racial Healing,” urged kindness in a world filled with challenges: “Just be kind. It does not cost anything.”
The 2024 ALTS and HRC demonstrated the International Association of Fire Fighters’ (IAFF) commitment to fostering leadership, resilience, and unity among its members.
The emphasis on adapting to unpredictable situations, developing leadership competencies, and focusing on education reflects the organization’s dedication to preparing its members for the multifaceted challenges of the profession.
The presentation of the Generals’ Award for Excellence in Leadership and the sharing of personal stories and triumphs highlighted the diverse experiences and strengths within the fire service community.
These elements, combined with the focus on human relations and racial healing, illustrate the IAFF’s holistic approach to supporting its members, both professionally and personally.