First ever World Fire Congress co-chaired by UK held in Washington DC

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International collaboration at World Fire Congress

The first ever World Fire Congress was held in Washington DC from 7th to 8th May 2024.

The event, hosted by the United States government, aimed to address the global challenges faced by fire and rescue services.

The Congress brought together representatives from 54 countries, including UK delegates Mark Hardingham, Chair of the NFCC, and Sarah Gawley, Director of Fire and Major Events at the Home Office.

The Congress was co-chaired by US Fire Administrator Dr Lori Moore-Merrell and NFCC Chair Mark Hardingham.

During the event, the World Fire Congress Charter was signed, demonstrating a commitment to international collaboration on fire-related issues.

At the conclusion of the event, it was announced that the UK would host the next Congress in 2026.

Focus on key fire and rescue challenges

The Congress covered four main themes over its two-day duration.

On the first day, discussions centered around structural fires, especially those in tall buildings, and the impacts of climate change, including wildfires and flooding.

The second day focused on emerging energy technologies, particularly the risks associated with lithium-ion batteries and battery energy storage systems, as well as firefighter health and wellbeing.

Delegates from various countries shared their experiences and insights on these topics.

The event highlighted the importance of addressing these challenges collectively.

Most countries in attendance agreed to participate in online communities of practice, which will meet monthly to share knowledge and progress on these key issues.

Future plans for the World Fire Congress

It was agreed that the World Fire Congress would rotate around different continents.

After the UK hosts in 2026, the United Arab Emirates is scheduled to host the event in 2028.

The US will facilitate online communities of practice for each of the four main themes, promoting continuous collaboration and knowledge exchange.

NFCC Chair Mark Hardingham expressed his gratitude to the US hosts and emphasised the importance of global cooperation.

He said: “It was a huge honour to be in Washington to co-chair this historic event, which is the first of its kind.

“I want to express my gratitude to our US hosts for their hospitality and for putting on such a fantastic Congress.

“The Congress stood as an important reminder that the UK FRS is not alone in the challenges it faces, whether that be fires in tall buildings or dealing with the worst impacts of adverse weather.

“I firmly believe that there’s a huge amount to be gained by sharing ideas and expertise with global partners and working collaboratively to find the necessary solutions.”

IFSJ Comment

By bringing together delegates from 54 countries, the World Fire Congress facilitated valuable discussions on key challenges such as structural fires, the impacts of climate change, and the risks posed by emerging energy technologies.

The signing of the World Fire Congress Charter underscores a collective commitment to addressing these issues through shared knowledge and cooperation.

The decision to rotate the Congress among different continents ensures that diverse perspectives and experiences will continue to shape the global approach to fire and rescue challenges.

With the UK set to host the next Congress in 2026, there is an opportunity for further advancements in international collaboration.

The establishment of online communities of practice will enable ongoing dialogue and progress, fostering a global network of expertise.

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