Fire Service Advisory Council Meets Again after Pandemic Hiatus

Raymond O’Brocki

August 24, 2023

In 2019, The American Wood Council and the Construction Fire Safety Coalition brought together a group of fire service experts from across the country to provide the wood products industry advice and guidance on fire safety strategies and tactics regarding wood construction, wood products and improving the industry’s connection with the fire service.

At the time, it was our hope and intention for the Fire Service Advisory Council (FSAC) to meet routinely to discuss issues and strengthen engagement between the fire service and wood products industry. Then a pandemic got in the way and scuttled all in-person meetings.

So, I’m excited to say that the FSAC and its members are back on track.

Earlier this summer, FSAC members convened for our first in-person meeting since the pandemic. We timed the meeting in conjunction with the annual Congressional Fire Service Institute Conference in Washington, D.C., which enabled FSAC members to attend a dinner event attended by some of the highest level influencers in the fire service.

After such a long hiatus between in-person meetings, I can’t say how valuable and productive it was to sit down across the table and share ideas and thoughts about moving FSAC and its mission forward.  The agenda was varied and ranged from general construction site fire safety to wildland urban interface codes.

We also covered some of the misconceptions amid the fire service about wood construction. This is a constant battle we face here at CFSC and within the wood products industry. I spend a lot of time traveling around the country talking to fire service officials about fire and wood products, especially the new line of engineered wood products like cross-laminated timber and glued laminated timber. Both of these materials have proven in multiple tests to have inherent fire resistance that enables these products to be exposed in buildings – and still earn a fire resistance rating – that are just a few stories tall to structures built taller than 18 stories.

We also discussed AWC’s collection of fire service education programs and strategies raising the wood products industry’s profile within the fire service.

Members who attended the summer meeting included: Chief Carley Helwick of the Denver Fire Department; Rich Mikutsky, State Fire Marshal for New Jersey; Terri Reid, Captain in Baltimore County and active in the national “Women in Fire” organization; Adolph Zubia, former South Carolina State Fire Marshal and Past President of the ICC; Ray Reynolds, Fire Chief of the Nevada, Iowa Fire Department and former Iowa State Fire Marshal; Larry Conley, Deputy Chief for the City of St. Louis; David Blenman, Lieutenant in Baltimore County and President of the local chapter of the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters.

In closing, I’m more than willing to entertain adding new FSAC members. So, if you’re interested, please reach out and I’m more than happy to schedule a time to talk more about the group, its mission, and ways you can help.