Nelson hosted professional firefighters from across Western Canada last week.

Nelson hosted professional firefighters from across Western Canada last week.

Professional firefighters gather in Nelson

Union calls Nelson fire department ‘chronically underfunded.’

Nelson’s professional firefighters welcomed close to 100 fire service leaders from across western Canada and beyond for the International Association of Fire Fighters’ annual western Canadian conference last week at the Prestige Lakeside Resort.

The firefighters’ conference, while putting a renewed focus on public and firefighter safety issues locally, also provides a boost to the local economy as delegates and their families support local businesses.

The firefighters, who are local and provincial firefighter association leaders from the Yukon, BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, gathered in Nelson to exchange information about current trends and issues facing professional firefighters, including public safety and firefighter health and safety issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It was an honour for us to host the Western Canadian conference in Nelson,” says Marc Thibault, a Nelson firefighter and president of the Nelson Professional Fire Fighters Association. “We’re proud to have this opportunity to showcase this great city to our fellow firefighters from Western Canada and beyond.”

IAFF general president Harold Schaitberger, one of North America’s top labour leaders, travelled to Nelson from Washington, DC to attend the conference. Schaitberger, who began his career as a firefighter in Fairfax County, Virginia in the late 1960s, has led the 300,000-member IAFF since 2000. The IAFF has 23,300 members in Canada, about half of them men and women who protect lives and property in western Canada.

In a written statement, the union said the conference in Nelson is also a show of support for the city’s professional firefighters, “who do their jobs proudly despite concerns the IAFF has with the Nelson fire department being chronically underfunded.”

“Bringing the conference to Nelson permits the firefighters to show they are proud of their city and want to see it supported economically in spite of any of those concerns we might have,” says Lorne West, the fire fighters’ senior elected official for Western Canada. “It’s also about maintaining our positive profile and the support for the fire services needed to provide adequate levels of service.”

The Nelson Professional Fire Fighters Association, IAFF Local 1343, represents 10 professional fire fighters who provide full-time fire and emergency response in Nelson, as well as in the outlying area of the RDCK covered by a contract with the city.

The IAFF is headquartered in Washington, DC. with a Canadian office in Ottawa.