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Quick take: 3 things from FRI’s general session

Two rescue teams took home a prestigious award while two fire service leaders bid farewell


SAN ANTONIO — Fire-Rescue International officially kicked off Thursday morning with its general session, a three-hour affair that includes the group’s annual business meeting, swearing in of new officers and awards.

Here are three items of note from the general session.

  1. Farewell, part one

    U.S. Fire Administrator Ernie Mitchell kicked off his address by saying that if asked by the next president to remain on in his post, the answer would be “no.” Mitchell took over the role in 2011 when Kelvin Cochran resigned to return to run the Atlanta Fire Department.

    “This has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my career,” he said.Mitchell also used his final address to FRI as the nation’s fire chief to push for more residential sprinklers urging chiefs to convince the public of their value. If the public demands them, the market will provide them, he said.

    IAFC President Rhoda Mae Kerr gave Mitchell her presidential award of recognition and commended Mitchell’s service. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without his leadership, friendship and service,” she said.

  2. Farewell, part two

    The meeting also marked the end of Kerr’s one-year term passing the torch to in-coming President John Sinclair. Kerr was the first female to serve as president in the group’s 143-year history.

    During her address, Kerr called on the fire chiefs to put an end to discrimination, harassment, hazing and bullying in the fire service. She told the group to call out and stop this behavior when they see it, as turning a blind eye is the same as condoning it.

  3. Heroes honored

    IAFC and Motorola gave their annual Ben Franklin Award for Valor to two urban search and rescue teams who flew to Nepal to rescue victims from a 7.8-magnitude earthquake in April 2015. In early May, after most international rescue teams returned home, a second quake hit a nearby region, Motorola’s Dhiren Chauhan told the attendees.

    USA 1 — Fairfax County (Va.) Fire Department search and rescue members Lt. Robert Garza, Lt. Lawrence Mullin and technician Ryland Chapman — and USA 2 — Los Angeles County (Calif.) Fire and Rescue search and rescue members Capt. Gerald Gonzalez, firefighter Daniel McKeen and firefighter-paramedic Matthew Prasch — were airlifted to the site of the second quake where they freed a woman from an unstable building with primitive rescue tools.

    The team worked for several hours to free the woman, who was trapped between collapsed floors, as aftershocks rocked the area.