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Dozens of Fire Chiefs Converge in Cedar Rapids

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - About 80 fire chiefs from all over the Midwest are in Cedar Rapids.

Organizers chose the city for the Missouri Valley Fire Chiefs Conference.

This year’s event is hosted by the Cedar Rapids Fire Department. It features several speakers, exhibits and even fun activities. The event started Wednesday at the Cedar Rapids Convention Complex and wraps up Friday.

While they are all from different parts of the central U.S., the participants realized they have a lot in common.

“You find out that the same issues that they have here in Cedar Rapids with regards to patient care and patient access or maybe structure fires or vehicle rescues -- we have those same issues,” said Wyoming’s Sweetwater County Fire Chief Jim Wamsley.

Organizers said a big topic of discussion focused on budget struggles and budget cuts, especially as departments look to the future.

“Looking at budget and making sure that we can operate within that budget but still provide the same amount of services to everyone in the city,” Cedar Rapids Assistant Fire Chief Curtis Hopper.

“It has kind of happened over a 30-year period but over the last probably five years the fire departments have pretty much gone down to the barebones of what they can do,” said Mason City Fire Department Chief Bob Platts.

Others wanted to share stories and suggestions about mental and emotional health for firefighters.

“We tend to shoulder other people’s burdens,” Chief Wamsley said.

Through all the networking, the chiefs from near and far say in the fire business, it’s always a learning process.

“I’m able to travel to the different conferences and learn what different communities are doing, steal great ideas and bring them back to my community and hopefully make things better,” said Colorado’s Westminster Fire Department Chief Doug Hall.

The Missouri Valley Division is made up of departments in Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota.

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