CALGARY, June 25, 2013 /CNW/ - The fast, skilled response of professional fire fighters and other emergency workers who are successfully protecting southern Alberta and its residents from raging floodwaters is a testament to the value of a strong, properly-resourced public service that's ready to act when needed, says International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) General President Harold Schaitberger.
Schaitberger, elected head of the 300,000-member IAFF, is in Calgary Tuesday to survey flood damage in the region and to ensure assistance from the IAFF's Disaster Relief Fund is getting to IAFF members across southern Alberta who need it.
Schaitberger cites Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi's "hug a public servant" comment as evidence of the excellent work fire fighters and other city workers have done in response to the disaster and how important it is to have emergency response resources in place and ready to be deployed when needed.
"The amazing work that our professional fire fighters have done in the past week in southern Alberta highlights the need for a strong, highly-trained public sector workforce that's available to respond at a moment's notice to virtually any emergency, large and small," Schaitberger said. "You never know what's around the corner, that's why you need those resources in place at all times."
The IAFF, which represents close to 300,000 professional fire fighters across North America, has about 2,000 members in Calgary and surrounding communities and in places such as Lethbridge and Medicine Hat that have also been affected by recent flooding.
"Our members have been working tirelessly for many days now protecting southern Alberta residents and their property while having to worry if their own families and property are safe from the ravaging floodwaters,' said Schaitberger, a former Fairfax County, VA fire fighter who now leads the International union from its headquarters in Washington, DC.
At the same time, Schaitberger expressed concern for the situation in Rocky View County, which on Friday laid off all 12 of its full-time fire fighters, a move that dramatically reduces emergency response capabilities in the county and diminishes public safety overall. The laid-off fire fighters turned in their bunker gear soaking wet, as they had spent the previous 24 hours protecting the community from raging floodwaters. The county's response was to show them the door.
"The ability of Rocky View County to protect its residents from virtually any kind of emergency has just been dealt a major blow," Schaitberger said. "Whether it's a house fire, car accident or a major disaster such as a flood, the emergency response in Rocky View will be slower and there will be fewer personnel on scene. We will be nervously watching this one community," Schaitberger warned.
IAFF members affected by the flooding are in Calgary Local 255, Red Deer Local 1190, Canmore Local 4705, Airdrie Local 4778, Rocky View County Local 4794, Cochrane Local 4819, Okotoks Local 4829, Lethbridge Local 237 and Medicine Hat Local 263. The IAFF is also watching the flooding situation in southeastern B.C.
The IAFF's Disaster Relief Fund is supported by donations from IAFF members across North America and from donations from the public at large. It provides IAFF members who are directly affected by natural disasters with immediate financial assistance. It is known that some IAFF members in Alberta have lost their homes due to flooding, but full information on losses and evacuations won't be known for several days.
GENERAL PRESIDENT HAROLD SCHAITBERGER - CALGARY ITINERARY
June 25th, 2013
13:32- GP arrives at YYC
13:32-13:45- Pick up at YYC in Local 255 Vehicle (accompanied by some combination of below individuals)
- 6th DVP West
- President Faires
- Vice-President Henson (Chauffer)
- Sec-Tres Steenaerts
Arrives at the Local 255 office and IAFF EOC 2234-30th Ave N.E. approximately 14:00 to 14:15
14:00-19:00- Tours of city and disaster area
- 14:00-14:30- 30 minute tour of IAFF EOC and L255 Office
- 14:30-15:15- 45 minute drive to Springbank Airport
- 15:30 to 17:30- 2 Hour Helicopter Tour with "Great Slave Helicopter"
- 18:45 to 19:00 Drive to Four Points Sheraton Hotel
June 26th, 2013
08:00-09:00 Breakfast at Ric's Grill at the Four Points Sheraton with Local 255, Executive DVP West
09:00-11:00 Rockyview Meetings 2234- 30th Ave N.E. (Refer to contacts on media release)
11:00-11:30 Final wrap up meeting with local IAFF affiliate leaders
11:30-11:45 Depart with GP to YYC International
12:00 Arrive at YYC International
SOURCE: International Association of Firefighters
For further information:
Lorne West, IAFF 6th District Vice President: 604-868-8730
Mark Faires, President, Calgary Firefighters Association: 403-464-2550