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Celebrating 150 Years of IAFC: A Legacy of Fire Service Excellence

The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) stands as the unwavering voice of America's fire service, boasting a rich history of leadership, innovation, and respected advocacy. As IAFC celebrates its 150th anniversary, it's a perfect time to look back at its remarkable journey from its inception in 1873 to its current status as a global force in firefighting and emergency services.

In the 19th century, as major U.S. cities transitioned from volunteer to paid fire departments and faced devastating fires, visionary fire chiefs from across the nation saw the need for a united front. In 1873, they gathered in New York City to witness a demonstration of aerial ladders and decided to form a national association. The inaugural convention was set for October of that year, with Chief Engineer John S. Damrell of Boston elected as the first president. Initially named the National Association of Fire Engineers, the organization later became the International Association of Fire Engineers in 1884, welcoming Canadian fire chiefs. In 1926, it adopted the name we know today: the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC).

IAFC's headquarters journeyed from Baltimore to New York City, Washington, D.C., and finally settled in McLean, Virginia. Throughout this time, IAFC remained steadfast in its commitment to serve as a hub for fire chiefs, supporting them in their leadership roles.

The IAFC has organized annual conferences since its inception, only interrupted by the world wars. These gatherings have been held across the United States and Canada, even as far as Havana in 1931. In 1994, the conference and exhibit was renamed Fire-Rescue International (FRI), expanding its reach to a wider audience within the fire and rescue profession. Today, FRI is one of the largest fire and emergency services conferences, attracting thousands of attendees and exhibitors.

During World War II, IAFC's role expanded beyond conferences as it became a vital source of fire and emergency service-related research and text. In recent years, IAFC has continued to champion the fire service by advocating for increased funding, promoting best practices, and developing educational initiatives and training programs.

Today, IAFC is the trusted voice of its members, the broader fire service community, legislators, and more. It continues to evolve and adapt, addressing crucial issues such as the health and wellness of firefighters and federal funding for fire and rescue departments. Collaboration remains at its core as it partners with other organizations to advance the fire service.

As IAFC commemorates its 150th anniversary, it stands as a testament to the enduring commitment of the fire and emergency services community. IAFC remains dedicated to providing leadership, expertise, and integrity in the years ahead, ensuring that the fire service continues to excel and adapt to the evolving challenges of our world.

We invite all our members to participate in the celebration. Your contributions to this historic milestone are invaluable, and there are several ways you can make your mark in IAFC's illustrious history.

  • Share Your Story: Your journey in the fire and emergency services field is a part of IAFC's rich tapestry. Consider sharing your experiences, insights, and memorable moments with us through a short video. Tell us what being a part of IAFC means to you and how it has shaped your career. Your video could inspire and connect with fellow members and the wider community. Record your video now!
  • Submit Your Bio: We are compiling a special 150th Commemorative Book to honor the incredible individuals who have been a part of IAFC's journey. We invite you to submit your bio, highlighting your achievements, contributions, and your unique story. Your bio will become a lasting part of IAFC's history and serve as an inspiration to future generations of fire service leaders. Learn more about submitting your bio.
  • Get Your 150th Anniversary Commemorative Items: Celebrate in style with our exclusive 150th Anniversary merchandise! The commemorative pins, t-shirts, and decals will help you showcase your IAFC pride. Get commemorative items.

Thank you for being a vital part of IAFC's history and its promising future! Here's to IAFC's legacy and the bright future that lies ahead!

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