It’s a reunion of sorts in Hartford this week.
"To see them and to miss the folks that we don’t see here, especially some of our elders, it’s a blessing, it’s a blessing just to be here," said Gary Tinney, vice president of the International Association of Black Firefighters.
More than 1,000 firefighters from around the world are gathered in Hartford for The International Association of Black Professional Firefighters convention.
The first convention was held more than 50 years ago right here in Hartford, during the Civil Rights Era.
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Carrie Edwards-Clemons is the first female President of The International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters. She says one of the organization’s goals is to lift up women of color.
"We are in existence to help African-Americans, minorities, women in the fire service advance up the ladder, provide fire prevention activities in the community, and support each other in an atmosphere and in an environment that wasn’t always welcoming to us," Edwards-Clemons said.
This gathering marks 52 years since the last time the convention was held here in Hartford. Some longtime members say they’ve watched the topics evolve and say the convention will continue to expand its services to meet the current needs.
"Firefighter mental health is a big one. We have a lot firefighter suicides within the fire service. So we have organizations coming in to help address that," Edwards-Clemons said.
But in the end, this is also a fellowship and gathering that rejuvenates and reinvigorates firefighters to go back to their communities and serve.
"It’s like you get lit right back on fire they start that spark. They give us the strength we need to go back to our communities and fight" says Edwards-Clemons.