Published 22 May 2024

First ever World Fire Congress, co-chaired by UK, held in Washington DC

  • 54 countries send delegates to first ever World Fire Congress in Washington DC – NFCC Chair, Mark Hardingham, and Director of Fire and Major Events (Home Office), Sarah Gawley, attended as UK delegates.
  • Congress hosted by United States government, and co-chaired by US Fire Administrator, Dr Lori Moore-Merrell and UK National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) Chair, Mark Hardingham.
  • UK to host next World Fire Congress in 2026

Over 50 countries came together for the first ever World Fire Congress in Washington DC last week. Hosted by the United States (US), the Congress (7th – 8th May) was aimed at increasing international collaboration on the growing challenges faced by fire and rescue services across the globe. The two-day event also saw nations signing the World Fire Congress Charter, indicating their continued commitment to work together to tackle pressing fire related issues. At the close of the event, the US handed over the reins to the United Kingdom, with NFCC taking responsibility for organising the next World Fire Congress in 2026.

Government representatives and fire professionals from 54 countries – including UK delegates, Mark Hardingham (Chair, NFCC), Sarah Gawley (Director of Fire and Major Events, Home Office) and Roger Thomas (Chief Fire Officer, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service) – attended the Congress, which focused on four key themes. Day 1 saw delegates discussing structural fires – with a particular focus on tall buildings – and the impacts of climate change, including wildfires and flooding. On day 2, the focus shifted to emerging energy technologies and, in particular, the risk posed by lithium-ion batteries and battery energy storage systems; followed by a session aimed at addressing firefighter health and wellbeing.

With most countries in attendance signing the World Fire Congress Charter, it was also agreed that the US would host on-line communities of practice for each of the four themes. This will see representatives meet each month to establish a global footprint of work, share experiences and learning, and connect research, training and development.

It is expected that the Congress will rotate around different continents, with the UK hosting in 2026, followed by the United Arab Emirates in 2028.

NFCC Chair, Mark Hardingham, said:

“It was a huge honour to be in Washington to co-chair this historic event, which is the first of its kind. I want to express my gratitude to our US hosts for their hospitality and for putting on such a fantastic Congress.

“The Congress stood as an important reminder that the UK FRS is not alone in the challenges it faces, whether that be fires in tall buildings or dealing with the worst impacts of adverse weather. I firmly believe that there’s a huge amount to be gained by sharing ideas and expertise with global partners and working collaboratively to find the necessary solutions.”


Notes to editor

  • 54 countries attended the first World Fire Congress in Washington DC, United States.
  • Each participating country was invited by the US Government to send two delegates. Delegates from the UK were Sarah Gawley (Director of Fire and Major Events, Home Office), Mark Hardingham (Chair, NFCC) and Roger Thomas (Chief Fire Officer, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service).
  • US hosts were Alejandro Mayorkas (United States Secretary of Homeland Security), Deanne Criswell (Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency), and Dr Lori Moore-Merrell (US Fire Administrator).
  • A copy of the full agenda for the Congress can be found here.
  • Photo shows Sarah Gawley (Director of Fire and Major Events, Home Office), and Mark Hardingham (Chair, NFCC)
  • The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) is a charity and an independent membership association and the professional voice of the UK Fire and Rescue Service. NFCC supports fire and rescue services to help them to save lives and keep their local communities safe.