Milan Dubravac opening the IEDO drone conference in December
01 Jan 2023

CTIF´s year of 2022 in Review - 4th Quarter October - December


Screenshot of a rescue mission during Hurricane IanThe fourth quarter of 2022 began with as much drama on the world stage as the previous months, with devastating typhoons and other extreme weather affecting large areas of the globe. 

Hurricane Ian killed at least 50 in Florida, South Carolina, Cuba and Puerto Rico. Widespread power outages, flight cancellations and flooding have affected Cuba, Florida and South Carolina after Hurricane Ian struck. Only days before, Hurricane Fiona struck the east coast of North America reaching all the way up to Canada´s eastern provinces, which is extremely unusual for a tropical storm. Normally, storms will weaken much much more as the travel north.  Hurricane Ian has (by October 3rd) claimed at least 54 lives, and 47 of these lives lost were in Florida, according to Associated Press.

By Fall of 2022, most of CTIF´s commissions and working groups were meeting physically again, and we saw lot of activity in our organisation. 

The Commission for Extrication & New Technology met in Paderborn, Germany October 6-8. The meeting took place during the Rescue Days Fair, and Mr. Rudiger Knoll had arranged this opportunity for us to gather there. 

The 8th physical meeting of the CTIF Volunteer Firefighters Commission  was held in Slovenia October 12 - 14 to discuss the structure of volunteer firefighters in member states, facts and figures, geographical distributions, training and rewards. Also, the evaluation of how the Covid-19 pandemic affected the volunteer firefighters continued. Their Annual Report had already been completed by the previous meeting, and was by now published on CTIF.org. 


Read the CTIF 2022 - First Quarter Review

Read the CTIF 2022 - Second Quarter Review

Read the CTIF 2022 - third quarter review


On October 12, steampowered firefighting equipment from a century ago drew 80 people from 15 nations to Pribyslav, Czech Republic. The public event was held during the 25th meeting of the CTIF History Commission, which was a hybrid meeting with both physical and virtual attendance.  For the first time, delegates from Belgium and Italy took part in the commission meeting. Under the chairmanship of Gerald Schimpf from Austria, current topics of fire service history were dealt with. On the agenda were, among other things, the adoption of the new version of the regulations for the certification of fire service museums and fire service collections as well as preliminary planning for the CTIF anniversary year 2025. Both CTIF President Milan Dubravac and CTIF Secretary General Roman Sykora took part in the meeting.


In the world news during October:

Ten people died in large gas station explosion in Ireland. Irish police say it was likely a "tragic accident" which led to the explosion of a gas station in Creeslough, Ireland, Friday October 7. 

From the British Isles, CTIF.org reported on potentially dangerous new legislation affecting UK firefighters.  According to an article by the BBC, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has acted on a policy to send crews into high-rise building fires without having their breathing apparatus equipment turned on. The FBU claims the policy is both unsafe and unlawful. It has reported Hampshire and Isle of Wight, and Dorset and Wiltshire fire services for implementing the new policy. 

In October, the full extent of the damage after Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Fiona was discovered. One of the more surprising discoveries was electric vehicles catching fire after being submerged in salt water during Hurricane Ian. In some cases EVs were catching fire after salt water exposure have allegedly burned down homes which otherwise more or less survived the hurricane.  Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis raised concerns about the issue, warning that corroding batteries are resulting in several spontaneous fires, according to WEAR TV.


In the UK, legal action was taken against a holding company regarding the need  to remove dangerous cladding from a high rise apartment building.  Since the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire in the UK, where 72 people lost their lives, hundreds more tall buildings have been identified with dangerous surface cladding. For the first time, legal action has now been taken by the UK government against a holding company to replace dangerous cladding. 


In the field of Fire Behavior, we could read about new and possibly groundbreaking research as a scientific team at NIST are working on a model based on machine learning to help firefighters predict and avoid dangerous fire behavior related events in enclosure fires, including backdrafts. The prestigious magazine FireEngineering.com reported on this in an article on October 17, where they claim researchers at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have a new plan for how to informing firefighters of what dangers lie behind the closed doors or a potentially under ventilated fire.  According to the article, "currently firefighters look for visual indicators of a potential backdraft... "  However, the "Art of Reading the Fire" is not always an exact science. It is also not a guarantee it is always taught at fire schools. In order to create a more science based model, NIST wanted to record data from simulated situations which could later be used to anticipate in more reliable way when dangerous conditions can occur. 

By the end of October, the New York i Fire Department announced they  will be led by a female Commissioner for the first time.  As commissioner, Ms. Laura Kavanagh, who was 40 years old at the time of appointment, will be overseeing 17,000 employees, including firefighters and emergency medical workers, and units such as 911 dispatch operations. As of August, there were 141 female firefighters in NYFD, the most in the history of the department. Ms. Kavanagh was named interim commissioner in February 2022 after the previous commissioner, Daniel A. Nigro, retired. She had served as his first deputy and had earlier held several other positions in the department after joining in 2014. 


More CTIF meetings in November 2022

The International CTIF Competitions Commission met in Brixen, Germany November 14 -15 to evaluate last summer´s CTIF Firefighting Olympics, and The International CTIF Youth Leader Commission also  met in Versailles, France October 14 to 16. 27 members from 13 countries were present at Chateau de Versailles. 

The Forest Fire Commission met in France November 7-10, to discuss and evaluate the difficult wildfire season 2022.  

"The fire season 2022 was a really hard one, for all of us. According to the EFFIS statistics up until the end of August, we had an increase in burned areas since the beginning of the year reaching an extremely high score of over 700,000 hectares.This is to compare to  the average number from the period of  2006-2021, which was a little over 200.000 hectares per year. The behaviour of the fires this year were extreme and we encountered large forest fires even in northern countries such as, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Denmark, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Also those northern areas have greatly increased their burnt areas compared to previous years", wrote the commission secretary Zisoula Ntasiou in the beginning of September when the call for the meeting was published on CTIF.org. 

The CTIF Forest Fire Commission performed large scale fire exercise in France on November 8,  at the French national academy for forest firefighting. There were 20 participants form 12 countries present at the meeting:  Greece, Germany, Austria, Croatia, Bulgaria, Italy,, France, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Finland & the Czech Republic. 


CTIF urged the EU for a 10 year extension to transition periods for fluorine-free firefighting foams

In November, the CTIF Commission for Hazardous Materials published an open letter to to  ECHA, the European Chemical Agency, where the CTIF urges the EU for a 10 year extension to transition periods for fluorine-free firefighting foams. 

"The CTIF Hazmat Commission appreciates the work of European Chemicals Agency and absolutely support the full transition to fluorine-free firefighting foams in the interests of the health protection of people and the environment... On the other hand, we would like to comment on the difficulties associated with the transition to fluorine-free foams from the firefighters’, and other firefighting foam users’,  point of view", wrote the HazMat Commission in the letter published on CTIForg on November 7. 


In the middle of December, CTIF´s  partner organization IEDO conducted the world´s first professional drone conference in Paris. 54 fire services and 25 police agencies from 31 countries came to the conference, and the CTIF president Milan Dubravac held the opening speech. More than 200 participants from 31 countries were present at the two day conference. There were 17 international speakers, attendees from 54 fire departments, 25 police agencies, 19 Search and Rescue associations, one coast guard service and one medical service.  Most of the participants were from Europe, but also some from Japan and the USA. We were also happy to welcome one participant from Ukraine.  


November traditionally the "tail end of Hurricane season" ... but was it really over?

By November, bad weather once again were dominating the news, as Hurricane Nicole became the first November hurricane to strike Eastern US in over 40 years - 5 people were reported dead and 300 000 without power. 12 million people  were under wind alert in Georgia and North / South Carolina.  Waves were peaking at 6 feet (180cm) ony and many streets were flooded with seawater.  Homes nearly eroded off the cliffs and some Daytona Beach hotels partly fell apart into the ocean, drone video showed. "The devastation is almost impossible to comprehend. Imagine watching your home collapse into the ocean," Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood tweeted.


In the second week of November, two firefighters died when airliner hit firefighting vehicle on Lima airport runway.  The accident occurred at Jorge Chávez International Airport in the capital of Peru. Flight LA2213 was allegedly taking off from Lima’s main airport and was headed to the Peruvian city of Juliaca, when a fire truck for unknown reasons entered the runway. According to Fire Engineering.com, both the airplane and the fire truck were in motion when the collision occurred. There were reportedly 102 passengers and six crew members on board the Airbus A320neo. Passengers in the airport caught parts of the incident on video. 


Micro mobility lithium batteries a growing concern

Towards the end of November, the debate was running hot in the firefighting community regarding the fire risks when charging small electric vehicles at home. New York has had almost 200 fires started by lithium batteries during 2022. Most recently a high rise fire which had injured 38 people was suspected to have been started by a lithium battery. Dense areas like NYC, but also many other communities around the globe, had been seeing a steep increase in deadly home fires due to dangerous and improper charging indoors of e-bikes, e-scooters and wheelchairs. The term "micro mobility batteries" had been coined since a while back, and many fire agencies and departments issued warnings and safe charging guides. After a series of deadly residential fires in New York, some apartment buildings were warning residents they would ban small electric vehicles within their compounds.   


More environmental disasters - and painful discoveries within London Fire Brigade

Italy declared a State of Emergency in late November after a landslide destroyed buildings and killed 8 people on the holiday island of Ischia. Search and rescue operations were carried out in the small town of Casamicciola Terme. Reinforcements were sent from Naples, said the Italian Fire Brigade in a statement.  Torrential rain was hitting the small holiday island of Ischia in Gulf of Naples between Friday November 25, and Saturday November 26. The area had been heavily affected by rain for several days before the landslide occurred. Unsafe construction was considered the underlying issue behind the Ischia landslide tragedy. 1,3 million more Italians are currently living under the threat of landslides and floods: The Italian Civil Protection Office claims that  more than 90% of Italian municipalities are at risk from landslides and other natural disasters. This number is based on a 2001 report from ISPRA, the Italian government environmental agency. 


In order to stamp out bullying, sexism and racism, an Equality & Equal Opportunity Review was carried out in the UK during 2022. In late November, the London Fire Brigade published a report where they found  "painful faults in their own organization". The Independent Culture Review has been an internal examination of the culture at London Fire Brigade, chaired by Nazir Afzal OBE. Over a period of twelve months, he and his team heard from more than 2,000 current and former members of staff and community groups who shared their experiences of the Brigade. Following the publication of the Independent Culture Review report, London Fire Brigade committed to taking immediate steps to end discrimination, harassment and bullying in their organization. 


A large fire and explosion occurred in a Russian shopping center the second week of December.  One person died in a massive fire the size of a football field which occurred overnight in the  shopping mall  and entertainment centre Mega Khimki in a northern Moscow suburb. 

"In the Moscow region, firefighters are putting out a fire the size of 7,000 square metres (75,300 square feet)," Russia's Ministry of Emergency Situations said on Telegram.


In France, 10 people, including five children, were killed in a fire in an apartment building near Lyon mid December.  Officials released a statement saying a "sizeable fire" broke out in a seven-storey block of flats in the suburb of Vaulx-en-Velin. Four people injured were  in a critical condition and 15 others reported minor injuries, including two firefighters. According to BBC WorldInterior Minister Gerard Darmanin said the children who died were all aged between three and 15.


Towards the end of December, FireEngineering.com delivered the tragic news that Chief Bobby Halton, one of the most well known firefighting icons in the world, had passed away. "It is with great sadness that the Fire Engineering/FDIC International and Clarion Events family announces the unexpected passing of Chief (Ret.) Bobby Halton, editor in chief of Fire Engineering and Educational Director for FDIC. Chief Halton passed away at his home in Oklahoma Monday night, December 19th, 2022. Halton served as our editor for the past 18 years. Halton led the editorial team and helped build the FDIC into the largest fire service educational conference in the world", wrote FireEngineering.com on December 20.  


Once-in-a-generation snowstorm hit North America - people dying in their cars on Christmas

Storm Elliot killed more than 60 people along the east coast of North America, and left hundreds of thousands without power during the Christmas holiday weekend.  It has been called a  "bomb cyclone", which is when atmospheric pressure is quickly lowered. This time, it brought large amounts of snow, strong winds and freezing temperatures. According to BBC World, nearly 250 million people were  affected, and  the storm extended more than 2,000 miles (3,200km) from Quebec in Canada to the state of Texas in the US. 

More than 55 million people were under wind chill alerts on Christmas Day morning, and freeze warnings were  in effect across the South. 


15 dead in bus crash in Mexico

In Mexico, 15 people died and ten more were injured when a bus coach headed to the city of Leon in the province of Guanajuato turned over and crashed close to New Years eve 2022.  40 passengers were on the bus. The cause of the accident is under investigation. 


In Asia, two dramatic events ended the fire news year of 2022: 

Five people died and 37 were injured in a highway tunnel fire south of Seoul just before New Years Eve. The fire spread quickly through the tunnel and trapped drivers inside. A collision between two vehicles occurred in a noise barrier tunnel along an expressway in Gwacheon, South Korea, according to local fire authorities. 

In Cambodia, 25 people died in a casino fire in the last week of December. Hundreds of people were in the Grand Diamond City building in the border town of Poipet when the fire started sometime just after 23:30 local time. The hotel-casino employs 400 workers and had many people from Thailand as guests. Video circulating on social media show people jumping or falling from the upper floors of the building. 



Up to 15000 dead during the 2022 heat waves in Europe

Climate change has of course been an underlying theme dominating the news, and also CTIF´s activities, during 2022. 

According to WHO, as many as 15000 Europeans lost their lives in 2022 due to heatwaves. France, Spain and Italy, among otherswere hit with difficult and long drought periods. Also the UK had an unusual wildfire season during the summer months of 2022, due to prolonged heat and drought.

Greece had very difficult fire seasons in 2020 and 2021, but were in 2022 largely saved from a worst case scenario by prolonged rain towards the end of the summer.  Since August, Switzerland, Italy and Albania have been struck by flooding: In Italy, 6 people died from high water levels in September. 

On December 5th, CTIF.org reported that Copernicus had released a report showing  CO2 emissions from European wildfires was the highest it had been in decades during 2022. In the US, espite a number of large wildfires in the western U.S. states (California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana) in August,the  daily total seasonal total emissions were low, compared to the devastating fires of 2021.

According to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, the fires that happen around the world today are unlike the fires of the 50s and the decades through the 90s and until the current millenium:

"Fires are burning faster and hotter than ever before, and complex socio-economic factors result in more people being affected by smoke, debris flows and other wildfire effects. It is becoming more common for areas to suffer a subsequent catastrophic wildfire before recovering from an earlier wildfire.

Throughout 2022, tens of thousands of people were forced to evacuate and dozens of people – including two firefighters –  died, mostly in northern Algeria where at least 40 people died in August fires. Hundreds more died from the extreme heat. At least seven countries’ capitals reached 40-year highs in temperature this year.

The European Environmental Agency EEA Europe released a report showing close to 500 billion Euros in losses due to extreme weather in recent decades.  Switzerland, Slovenia and France experienced the greatest economic losses per capita.. The greatest losses on the country level occurred in Switzerland, Germany, and Italy according to the EEA.


Read the CTIF 2022 - First Quarter Review

Read the CTIF 2022 - Second Quarter Review

Read the CTIF 2022 - third quarter review