For the next year, the leader of the Iowa Firefighter’s Association will be long-time Garrison fireman Marv Trimble.
At last week’s IFA convention in Forest City, Marv received the President’s gavel from another long-time Garrison fireman, Paul Schellhase, who had served as IFA President in 1990-91.
As President, Trimble expects a busy year, working with other IFA leaders, as well as the State Legislature, members of Congress and other leaders on a variety of issues affecting firefighting – and firefighters.
“We are looking into setting up retirement accounts for firefighters. This will be a multi-year project. This will take a long time, but it will offer our firefighters something at retirement,” said Trimble.
Another big issue facing Iowa firefighters, as well as those in other states, is the ongoing concern about cancer.
“There are six types of cancer tied to firefighting,” says Trimble. “We need to look at what it takes to prevent that. To protect ourselves, we need to start with a registry.”
While some states have begun registries to track cancer among firefighters, Iowa is not one of them. Trimble and the IFA leaders are working with firefighters’ organizations across the country to encourage Congress to create a national database. There is one proposed firefighter cancer registry bill in Congress now.
In Iowa, there are also a couple of projects Trimble will lead the IFA in addressing over the coming year.
“We are still having an ongoing issue with our training center (the Fire Training Safety Bureau.) By the end of my term we hope to straighten it out, and have it back to full strength.
The Safety Bureau made news earlier this year, with the arrest of one of its employees and the news that hundreds of firefighters had been issued certifications even though they had not passed all of the testing.
“They cut corners, and told people they had passed, when they hadn’t,” explains Trimble. “Some have lost confidence in the training center, and we are trying to restore it.”
Another issue Trimble and IFA leaders are working is trying to mainstream the process for firefighter license plates.
Under the current law, a firefighter who wants the white and red license plates for a vehicle must receive a letter from his chief, for every vehicle, every year.
“We are trying to streamline the process, so there are fewer steps,” Trimble says, adding that this requires working with the Iowa Legislature to change part of the law that governs these plates.
“The main thing the IFA does is a lot lobbying,” said Trimble. “I want to make sure that our firefighters, as well as the general public, contact their legislators and let them know how they feel about issues important to firefighters.”
Trimble’s full-time job for the past 30 years has been as a fireman with the Cedar Rapids Fire Department. He has served in various training roles as well as on several specialized teams including Haz Mat, the CRFD Special Operations team, ( which focuses on ice rescue, high angle rescue and trench rescue), Iowa Task Force 1, and the state of Iowa Weapons of Mass Destruction team.
Trimble, who marked his 35th anniversary with wife Michelle on Sept. 11, said he was inspired to run for IFA office because of Schellhase.
“I became interested while campaigning for Paul,” Trimble recalls. In the IFA, a President and five Vice-Presidents lead the organization. The organization elects a new 5th Vice-President each year. After a year, the President retires, and the First Vice-President takes the gavel, while the others move up one rank.
Now that one of their own is the IFA President, other Garrison firefighters are considering leadership roles among the firefighting community, including the possibility of becoming candidates for IFA 5th Vice President in the future.
“Having people like Paul (who joined the GFD in 1963) and Marv on our department as mentors is pretty amazing,” says Mandy Fisher, wife of Garrison fireman Shawn Fisher. “It’s pretty amazing for such a small department. We are blessed to have so many volunteers with the many years of service these guys have for the Garrison Fire Department as well as those who have served on boards like the IFA. The guys on the GFD are all about community and giving back.”
The First Vice-President this year is another Benton County firefighter, Jim Shutts of Belle Plaine, who will take over as President at the 2018 Convention.