200 firefighters receive training at Va. conference
The Journeyman Conference provided knowledge and resources to firefighters from rural areas and included firefighter training and mental health talks
Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)
WEST POINT, Va. — In 2019, 300 firefighters, from as far as Alaska and Los Angeles, found their way to West Point, Virginia. This year, nearly 200 made the journey to the Robinson Olsson Auditorium to attend the weekend-long second annual Journeyman Fire Conference.
When firefighter Kiel Samsing got the gut-wrenching news that his close friend had died in the line of duty, he knew he wanted to do something to celebrate his life and the principles he and his friend believed in.
According to Samsing, firefighters work in a perishable trade. There is no way to completely master the craft. It is a job that calls for constant learning.
“Once you have mastered one skill, you’ll forget another one,” he said. “So, you are forever stuck having to learn new skills and perfecting old ones.”
With years of experience, Samsing has made a name for himself teaching valuable skills at conferences across the county. While easily accessible to bigger cities that have more resources, smaller, rural communities often miss out on conferences that provide valuable training, Saming said. He set out to change that.
The Journeyman Conference which ran Jan. 18-21 featured day-long itineraries with keynote speakers, presentations and training. Talks ranged from utilizing new equipment to coping with PTSD to addressing firefighter suicide, and the goal was to teach new skills, hone old ones and bring resources to rural areas.
“Often times, there isn’t a lot of funds available for rural areas,” Samsing said. “This is a way to draw people in with big-ticket names and allow local guys to get their start. It also helps bring opportunities to people who might not have them."
All the money made from ticket prices -- $350 a head -- goes to charity. The conference brought in $30,000 in its inaugural year. It was split between VCU Evans Haynes Burn Center and the Central Virginia Burn Camp, and the money went to help people recover from burns.
This year, Samsing estimates the conference brought in close to $18,000 that was given to Sons of the Flag, an organization aimed at helping people recover following traumatic burns.
Firefighter Ryan Parrott, Sons of the Flag founder and conference keynote speaker, shared his story and his charity’s mission.
Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Parrott joined the Marine Corps. While in Iraq, he was caught in an explosion in which he sustained burns. Upon his return to the states, Parrott founded the Sons of the Flag to help other people who have suffered from burns.
“By the end of it, every person heard about our mission and has the potential to spread the word and to tell people that if they have or know someone who has been burned to reach out," Parrott said. “We are an organic organization that is naturally growing across the country.”
©2020 the Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)