F.I.E.R.O., originally named Fire Industry Equipment Research Organization and now named Fire Industry Education Resource Organization, was formed in September 1990. Prior to 1990, Robert Tutterow and Bill Summers, at the time, both of the Charlotte Fire Department (NC), had discussed the idea. Robert was the Logistics and Health and Safety Officer and Bill was Chief of Training. Both had a keen interest in equipment and fire fighter health and safety and, in 1990, while on a manufacturers’ facilities tour in the Northeast with Danny Bennett (a representative for several manufacturers), Robert and Bill met Dart Kendall with the Cobb County Fire Department (GA) and Warren Mendel of the Gwinnett County Fire Department (GA) and they approached them with the idea. The rest, they say--is history.
The original concept of F.I.E.R.O. was based on three organizations on the west coast: SAFER (Southern Area Fire Equipment Research), NAFER (Northern Area Fire Equipment Research) and CAFER (Central Area Fire Equipment Research). Though based in California, these organizations reached into Phoenix, AZ and Las Vegas, NV. Of those three original organizations, SAFER is the only one still in operation. The general concept was to create a network for the fire service to connect with each other and with equipment manufacturers to improve the products used in the fire service--amazingly, the fire service discovered that their problems were not unique. Through these organizations, products such as disintegrating PPV fan blades are no longer in the market and locking Storz couplings are now the standard. The fire service and the manufacturers all benefited from improved products and better service because of these organizations.
The first F.I.E.R.O. meeting was held at the Cobb County Fire Department in Georgia with close to 100 people in attendance and Captain Doug Miller of the Atlanta Fire Department (who later became Chief of the Atlanta Fire Department) spoke about PPE selection. F.I.E.R.O. continued to meet throughout the Southeast with Captain Dart Kendall serving as the first President and Battalion Chief Brenda Nishiyama Willis (“Nish”) of the Atlanta Fire Department serving as the first treasurer.
F.I.E.R.O. continued to meet bi-monthly for the next several years until the all-volunteer board changed the frequency to quarterly.
With the emergence of the Internet and email, communications about product problems spread through the industry very quickly. The members of F.I.E.R.O. realized there were other areas that needed attention and, in 2000, F.I.E.R.O. hosted its first, annual Fire Station Design Symposium in Charlotte. Through the symposium, F.I.E.R.O. provided fire station design education and exposure to experts in fire station design to the fire service. Through 2015, F.I.E.R.O. has hosted 13 Fire Station Design Symposiums in both Charlotte and Raleigh. In 2009, recognizing a need for education related to PPE, F.I.E.R.O. hosted the first-ever Fire PPE Symposium, also in Charlotte. This symposium focuses on the research, science and related performance requirements and limitations of fire PPE. In 2014, in an effort to offer even more educational resources in the fire service, F.I.E.R.O. conducted its first Regional Fire PPE Workshop at the DFW Fire Research & Training Facility in Texas. The focus of these smaller workshops is the selection, care and maintenance of PPE.
Through the years, several people (board members) have been key to the organization: Dart Kendall (the first president), Nish Willis (the first treasurer), and Warren Mendel, with the help of other founders, were key in getting the organization up and running during the early years.
Robert Tutterow (retired Charlotte Fire Department), the only founder who is still active, is the current president.
Don Collins joined F.I.E.R.O. soon after it was founded and has been a board member for over 20 years. Don has been an integral part of the Fire Station Design Symposium: he has been a speaker at every Fire Station Design Symposium and has headed up the Awards competition from its inception.
Bill Summers, a founder, remained very active until 2014. In addition to helping start and maintain the organization, he was the exhibit coordinator for all symposiums through 2014.
Sally Young, retired Fire Planner for the Charlotte Fire Department, became involved in 1993. She has been the treasurer/registrar since 1996.
Blake Redden, a captain with the Charlotte Fire Department, became involved with F.I.E.R.O. based on his experience with the Fire Station Design Symposium. Captain Redden has been involved since 2006.
David Duffy, retired Deputy Chief with the Charlotte Fire Department, was the Chief Officer who represented the Charlotte Fire Department during all the symposiums held in Charlotte. He has maintained his interest and is currently the exhibits coordinator for all symposiums.
Jeff Harkey, with FireNews.net, has been a juror in the design awards competition for several years. The ultimate fire buff, Jeff became a board member in 2015.
Marni Schmid, with Fortunes Collide Marketing based in Michigan, has been involved in planning and marketing for F.I.E.R.O. since 2008. When the idea of a PPE Symposium was presented to the NFPA 1971 Technical Committee as an educational outreach of NFPA standards, Marni stepped forward and offered to help. Though not a board member, she is a valuable member of the F.I.E.R.O. team.