Philly's fire commissioner travels abroad to share best practice policies

Steve Tawa
December 14, 2018 - 8:47 pm
Adam Thiel in Hamburg, Germany

Courtesy Adam Thiel/Twitter


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Philadelphia's top firefighter has quite a bit to take away from two foreign trips, courtesy the Philadelphia-based Eisenhower Fellowship. The commissioner says the program advanced his professional and personal growth.

"It's a way of building bridges from the U.S. to the rest of the world, based right here in Philadelphia," said Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel.

Thiel was among 11 thought leaders chosen for the midcareer fellowship program. In his case, he studied fire safety issues in Germany and South Africa during separate trips.

"Germany has a fire death rate that's about half the U.S. average," Thiel said. "South Africa's is two to four times the U.S. average. Here in Philadelphia, we're about twice the U.S. average too, unfortunately and tragically."

Most of it is due to Philadelphia's older, legacy housing stock. He says they shared best practice policies, and insights on issues that included building safety regulations.

"So, really just going out and looking at other perspectives, sharing those different perspectives and talking to different stakeholders, fire departments, fire departments, local and state government folks," Thiel explained. "I'm still processing the experience."

Thiel says the impact of fires on those affected - here or there - cannot be overstated. But he adds this about his fellow firefighters.

"I think there's a lot that we can learn from each other," he said. "That was true in Germany and South Africa."

Since 1999, Eisenhower Fellowships has sent nearly 300 people abroad. Past recipients include Sister Mary Scullion of Project H.O.M.E., Pedro Ramos of the Philadelphia Foundation, Philadelphia Councilwoman Cherelle Parker, Jane Golden of the Mural Arts Program, David Thornburgh of the Committee of 70, and Gail Harrity of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.