This year, the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) was thrilled to welcome attendees to AFSA40: Convention, Exhibition and Apprentice Competition in San Antonio, Texas, Sept. 18-21. Over 1,050 fire sprinkler contractors, manufacturers, suppliers, architects, Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) and other industry professionals flocked to the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa to celebrate AFSA’s four decades of dedication to merit shop contractors and the fire sprinkler industry.
“AFSA40 drew a crowd that rivaled 2019, our last convention before COVID hit,” said AFSA President Bob Caputo. “We were ecstatic to welcome everyone back in person to America’s largest fire sprinkler industry event!”
In addition to attending over 60 technical, managerial and NextGen Initiative (NGI) seminars, attendees explored AFSA's exhibit hall, filling the resort’s convention center with booths featuring the products and services of 87 exhibiting companies. AFSA also offered local AHJs a free plan review seminar and a chance to explore the industry's largest exhibition.
The convention began with a golf tournament on Saturday, Sept.18, held at the Canyons Course of TPC San Antonio. There were 128 participants in the tournament, and prizes were awarded to the teams that took first place, second place, third plac, and last place, as well as to the man and woman with the longest drive, straightest drive and closest to the pin. The day rounded out with an AFSA40 Opening Party at the River Bend Pavilion featuring a BBQ dinner; live music by London Calling, a nine-piece Austin band; dancing, and outdoor games.
Sunday was a day full of learning and earning education credits at AFSA40 seminars. Many attendees also took the time that afternoon to explore Texas Hill Country wineries during AFSA’s Fredericksburg Wine Tour. The evening featured an NGI social hour for all members of the fire sprinkler industry to mix and mingle with professionals under 40 interested in networking with peers and mentors.
Monday offered more seminars followed by the general session, where attendees celebrated four decades of dedication to merit shop fire protection contractors and the commitment to saving lives and protecting properties. AFSA 2020-2021 Chair of the Board Ted Wills presented the 2021 Henry S. Parmelee Award to George DiMatteo, president of Ferguson Fire & Fabrication, who has been dedicated to the fire protection industry and its members for over 40 years. In addition, 2021 Fire Sprinkler Advocate of the Year Butch Browning, Louisiana State Fire Marshal, was honored for his commitment to the fire sprinkler industry. Finally, Scott Cox, co-owner and president of Cox Fire Protection, Tampa, Florida, received AFSA's 2021 Young Professional of the Year award for his service to the next generation of industry leaders on local and national levels. Attendees were then invited to the Exhibition Grand Opening Reception for a first look at this year’s exhibiting companies along with heavy hors d’oeuvres and cocktails.
On Tuesday, the seminars continued, and exhibits opened in the afternoon to great success. More than 400 exhibitors from 87 exhibiting companies took over the hall, and attendees enjoyed learning about new products and services for the fire sprinkler industry and networking with fellow industry professionals. During the afternoon exhibition, the nation's top seven fire sprinkler fitter apprentices, from the 150 apprentices who entered this year's contest, installed mini-sprinkler systems before a packed crowd. That evening, the annual Awards Party took place at Knibbe Ranch, a real Texas working ranch. Guests enjoyed a steak dinner with all the trimmings, live country music, dancing, cigars, photo opportunities with Texas longhorns, armadillo racing and fireworks to celebrate AFSA’s 40th anniversary.
The highlight of the evening was the announcement of apprentice competition winners: Matthew Tyre, Titan Fire Protection, Vista, California, won first place at this year's competition as well as a cash prize of $5,000. Connor Jones, Rapid Fire Protection, Salt Lake City, Utah, won second place and a $3,000 cash prize. James Ainey, Cox Fire Protection, Tampa, Florida, took home third place along with a cash prize of $2,000. Honorable mentions and $1,000 cash prizes were awarded to: Jonas Cassity, Kobobel Fire Protection, Windsor, Colorado; Jason Collins, All Fire Solutions, Greenwood, Indiana; Corten Dobesh, Rapid Fire Protection, Rapid City, South Dakota; and James Rico, Western Fire Protection, Poway, California. All competition winners also received a commemorative award and tools.
Plans for AFSA41 are already in the works. AFSA41: Convention, Exhibition, and Apprentice Competition will be held October 15-19 at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. For more information on this or next year's conventions, visit firesprinkler.org.