March 20, 2011, [Maryland]… William Smith, Deputy Fire Chief with the West Lanham Hills VFD / President PGCVFRA, Deputy Fire Chief Pete Mellits with the Bowie Volunteer Fire Department and Tim Tharp, District Heights VFD were invited to serve as national representatives to the National Volunteer Fire Service Summit hosted by the International Association of Fire Chief’s Volunteer and Combination Officers Section (VCOS).
The goal of the Washington, D.C. - based summit was for fire and emergency service leaders to address the challenges facing the volunteer fire service today and explore ways to move volunteer and combinations departments forward in the 21st century—inclusive of volunteer, on-call and part-time personnel. Chiefs Smith, Mellits and Tharp were part of just 125 fire and emergency service leaders from the U.S. and Canada who participated in an unprecedented three-day gathering of public safety and other government officials, held two blocks from the U.S. Capitol, from March 17th to the 19th.
“The opportunity to be invited to participate, in an industry changing program, is an honor and helps one realize the importance of our work,” Mellits said.
“Many volunteer fire departments are at a crossroads: the economy, the increasing demand for local and regional emergency services, new roles in national preparedness and response and changing social norms are creating shifts in the way we do business,” said Chief Tim Wall, Chair of the IAFC’s Volunteer and Combination Officer’s Section. “These changes aren’t necessarily good or bad in-and-of themselves, but it’s clear that if we are dedicated to continuing our tradition of service and excellence, we need to bring the community together look at what works in this new environment and what new ideas are out there.”
Among the topics addressed in the summit were the impact of the new economy, recruitment and retention, firefighter health and safety, local government relations, and national legislative issues impacting volunteers. Participants, who were largely nominated to attend by State and National fire service organizations; spent the majority of the time in smaller group work sessions which were tasked with developing recommendations that will be incorporated into a national report issued by VCOS, later this year.
Deputy Chief Smith is a 28 year member of the West Lanham Hills VFD. He currently serves as the President of the PGCVFRA.
Deputy Chief Mellits is a 24 year member of the Bowie Volunteer Fire Department (BVFD) and is a past Chief of the BVFD. He also currently serves as the Secretary for the Maryland Fire Chief’s Association and 2nd Vice President of the Eastern Division of the International Association of Fire Chief’s.
Chief Tharp was a 20 year member of the Prince George’s County Fire Department (Ret.). He is a current member of the District Heights VFD.
L-R: Chief Pete Mellits, D/C BVFD; Chief Tim Wall, Chair, VCOS IAFC; Dave Lewis, 1st VP MD State Fireman's Association; Chief Bill Smith, D/C West Lanham Hills VFD, MD / PGVFRA President
The IAFC (www.iafc.org) represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders worldwide. IAFC members are the world's leading experts in firefighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous materials spills, natural disasters, search and rescue, and public safety legislation. Since 1873, the IAFC has provided a forum for its members to exchange ideas, develop professionally and uncover the latest products and services available to first responders.
About the IAFC Volunteer and Combination Officer’s Section (VCOS)
VCOS (www.vcos.org) provides chief officers who manage volunteers within a volunteer or combination Fire, Rescue or EMS delivery system with information, education, services and representation to enhance their professionalism.