Fire departments from as far away as Japan and Australia are summoned to the town of Alamo for a three-day conference involving the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
SAN ANTONIO — Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas spoke to hundreds of fire chiefs around the world on Wednesday, addressing current firefighting challenges.
“The work of firefighters and other first responders is more difficult, dangerous and stressful than ever,” Mayorkas said.
The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) is holding its annual conference this year at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center where fire officials from as far away as Japan and Australia gather for the three-day event.
The mayorkas shed light on the obstacles facing the fire service.
“The impacts of climate change, severe flooding, heat, fires and winds are impacting the daily lives of people around the world. New technologies such as lithium-ion batteries introduce new risk factors,” Mayorkas said.
He praised the billions of dollars in grants available designed to help firefighters fill positions and purchase equipment. But he acknowledged that not all departments are getting the vital resources they need.
“I am very aware that the resources we have to provide you with do not meet your request. And I see the number of applicants, and the mismatch is something we just need to fill,” Mayorkas said.
San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood noted that there have been 13 fire-related deaths so far in 2022. He stressed that the work of firefighters continues to go well beyond responding to fires. fires.
“No one thought we would respond to some of the active shooters and truck tragedies we’ve seen recently. Anything that’s expected of us, we’re going to deliver, and I’ve always said we’re the urban peace corps in the city,” Hood said.
The mayorkas met with fire chiefs after the morning opening session to discuss homeland security and hear from departments about the challenges they face.
Hood noted that he looked forward to learning from other fire departments during the three-day conference.
“It’s just a great opportunity for us to learn together, to network, and to try to make this community we live in and the United States much safer.”