The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) held a special event in Washington, D.C. recently, and local firefighters made the trip to participate in the occasion.
Tony Harris, president of Hamilton IAFF Local 20, which represents Hamilton firefighters and paramedics, said the event revolved around a monumental birthday.
“The Local 20 celebrated its 100th birthday with the IAFF,” he explained. “We are one of the (66) charter Locals that formed the IAFF, so we were invited to take part in the event.”
The IAFF now represents more than 300,000 full-time professional firefighters and paramedics in the United States and Canada.
Charter members from across the country and Canada made the historic trip in late February to take part in the birthday celebration.
“We also had a banquet at the Marriott in Hamilton for our active and retired firefighters to celebrate this milestone,” Harris said. “We are the oldest union local in Ohio and the 20th oldest in the country.”
The connection with IAFF has been been a special and historic one for the Local 20 according to Harris.
“It has always been a great point of pride for us to be part of this select group and have ‘20’ as our number,” he explained. “Those that formed this group 100 years ago were doing it to assure that those that came after them would have better working conditions and be able to provide a living for their families.”
The group that formed the Local 20 worked very hard to make sure it was successful and Harris noted that their efforts are still appreciated today.
“Many of those that formed Local 20 were working 144 hours per week and only getting one day off,” he said. “Around the time the union formed, they were able to be the first fire department in the state of Ohio and only the fourth in the country to add a second shift, allowing their workweek to only be 84 hours.”
The Local 20 has been dealing with heavy hearts in the fire department over the past two years. Firefighter Patrick Wolterman died at the age of 28 on Dec. 28, 2015 battling a blaze on Pater Avenue.
The community rallied around his family and the fire department to show love and respect for the fallen firefighter and the Local 20 reached out to say “thank you” to all who embraced the department in such a tumultuous time.
“Thank you is not enough to say to him (Wolterman), but thank you is also not enough to say to everybody who did something for us,” Harris said.