Minnesota Fire Chiefs Gather At The DECC

DULUTH, Minn. — Many of those who often put their lives at risk for us every day, are gathering in Duluth for the next few days.

The Minnesota Fire Chiefs Association is using the time to share knowledge, solve challenges facing their departments, and learn about some of the new technology in fighting fires. Almost 550 chiefs and firefighters are here.

The goal of the association is to develop current and future leaders. Departments are also finding themselves working together more and more often.

John Cunningham, President of the Minnesota State Chiefs Association said, “It’s also about networking. Because everything we do in the fire service is as a team, whether that’s your own local fire department, or you’re calling in your neighbors and your mutual aid partners. The last few years alone, we’ve had fire departments traveling from one end of the state to the other, to help other jurisdictions out that aren’t even neighbors. They’re traversing counties and literally going from one side of the state to the other.”

Over the years, there has also been a growing awareness of the importance of mental and emotional health for firefighters. It’s no longer just about carrying heavy equipment up and down ladders. It’s also about dealing with horrific accident scenes, or traumatic fire deaths that can stick with a firefighter for years. Back in the day, a firefighter was expected to just tough it out.

“A lot of times the veterans would look at you and say, ‘What did you expect to see, kid?’ You know, this is the fire service, welcome to it. Well now we know all that builds up over the course of a career, and it can really take a toll on the mental health of the providers. Every year four to six firefighters across the state of Minnesota commit suicide. And what we want to do is change the stigma around mental health, so that people recognize that mental health is no different than cardiac health. You’ve got to take care of your brain, and you’ve got to take care of your heart, and you’ve got to take care of your body,” said Executive Director of the Minnesota Firefighters Initiative, Wayne Kewitsch.

Other challenges facing departments include everything from exposure to chemicals, to recruiting future fire fighters.

Categories: Minnesota, News, News – Latest News