Firefighters state convention set for next week in Craig

Craig next week returns to the center of Colorado firefighters' universe as host of the 86th Annual Colorado State Firefighters Association Convention.

The four-day event is back in Craig for the third time with competitions, fire-fighting instruction and a nationally renowned fire chief over four days starting Tuesday, June 17.

The association represents more than 400 Colorado fire departments, predominately the state's volunteer-run agencies, said Byron Willems, a Craig firefighter and current president of the state firefighters association.

Willems said organizers still aren't sure how many firefighters will make the trip to Craig.

"I'll be happy if we see 350 to 400 people here," he said.

Firefighters also gathered in Craig in 1986

and 1996.

Willems, who was instrumental in the association returning to Craig, said the convention in years past had been held in resort communities. Not always the most popular option among the volunteers, and certainly not the cheapest, he said.

Rooms and other facilities are needed for, among other things, a day full of fire-fighting courses. Moffat County High School will host this year's classes, he said.

"The key thing is it doesn't cost (the association) anything, as opposed to resorts," Willems said. "In Craig, everybody knows you're coming and it's a more friendly environment because you're not going to get lost in the tourists."

As host to the convention, Craig fire chief Roy Mason said his department looks to benefit on several levels.

"It lets our whole department participate in the training if they want to, which isn't as easy when it's out of town," Mason said.

Willems said he expects a day-long presentation June 19 by Phoenix Fire Chief Alan Brunacini to be the week's top draw.

Brunacini, a nationally known speaker on fire-fighting topics, has a customer-service themed presentation for attendees, Willems said.

The presentation will focus on firefighters' interaction with victims of accidents or fires,

he said. Participants literally get into the swing at a scheduled golf tournament Tuesday afternoon at the Yampa Valley Golf Course, followed the next day by fire-fighting instruction courses. The classes will cover topics ranging from officer training to continued education for medical services' personnel.

An association business meeting also is scheduled Wednesday, which will be wrapped up with a memorial service for fallen firefighters at 8 p.m.

Craig residents are invited to a catered barbecue dinner Thursday night starting at 6 p.m. at Woodbury Park.

The convention ends with a Friday full of team competitions in various fire-fighting skills -- which is also open to the public starting at 9 a.m. at Woodbury Park. Awards are to be distributed that night at the Holiday Inn to the best teams.

Craig's teams have won four state championships in the last 20 years, Willems said.

"It's about bragging rights, and the trophies look good in the station."

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at pshockley@craigdailypress.com.

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