June 5, 2015, Toronto – I'm becoming quite fond of the left coast. And for good reason! Six of our columnists are from beautiful British Columbia, and I will see them all next week at the BC Fire Expo and Fire Chiefs Association of BC (FCABC) conference in Penticton.
This trip was not on the agenda but with two weeks notice I managed to find a room and a flight that arrives in the Okanagan Saturday afternoon, with time to spare for some sightseeing (wine tasting?) before the trade show opens Sunday.
Columnists/chiefs Dave Balding, Tom Bremner, Tom DeSorcy, Gord Shreiner and Keith Stecko, and Deputy Chief Arjuna George, will be in Penticton. As will blogger Les Karpluk and – I'm told, by special invitation from FCABC president Tim Pley – Grand Falls-Windsor Chief Vince MacKenzie, also a columnist. I hope to see regular magazine contributors Steve Sorensen and Len Garis too.
Remarkably, Shreiner, Stecko, George, Karpluk and MacKenzie are speaking at the conference, as is Richmond Hill, Ont., Chief Steve Kraft, a former columnist, and Shayne Mintz, who writes NFPA Impact and is on what seems to be a perpetual nation-wide speaking tour!
All of which, to me, speaks to the depth of our magazines and the issues our writers tackle every month.
The Fire Fighting in Canada/Canadian Firefighter presence in Penticton also presents a bit of a conundrum: some columnists are speaking concurrently – Vince MacKenzie and Gord Shreiner are doing a session on marketing your fire department at the same time as Shayne Mintz's aptly titled, "You're the fire chief – what can you tell me about residential sprinklers?" It seems I need a clone, or perhaps a drone (watch for July cover story on unmanned aerial vehicles!).
The FCABC has done solid work in the last few years – its fire-services liaison group report, "Transforming the Fire/Rescue Service," led to new minimum training standards. It has hosted brainstorming sessions with fire chiefs and CAOs – a bit of a radical concept that is getting rave reviews. It is working with partner agencies and organizations to promote the smoke-alarm campaign "We won't rest until you install and test."
This FCABC conference will be my fourth in eight years – Kelowna in 2007, Nanaimo in 2009, and Victoria in 2014. I didn't know a soul in Kelowna. Not surprising to those of you who have met Hope Fire Chief Tom DeSorcy, he took me under his wing. A few years later, at the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) conference in St. John, N.B., in 2010, I introduced Tom and Vince, the now-famous Volunteer Vision duo. I swear it was as if they'd been separated at birth! (As an aside, the three of us are presenting Volunteer Vision – LIVE! – a rollicking, bear pit session, at the CAFC conference in September in . . . Victoria!).
My point? A lot of good comes from conferences. Seeing our writers often and knowing them well helps me better understand and edit their columns and the issues they dissect. When conference delegates see us all together – we often do a get-together and photo session – they ask how they can be part of what we do. I know this is a shameless plug and a little lighter than recent blog offerings about fire marshals and unflattering reports about the fire service, but it's Friday and I'm going to picturesque Penticton and, at least for a few days, I'm adopting the laid-back B.C. attitude! In between conference sessions, of course.