ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Shoes are important in everyday life and firefighters used them to send a message of fire safety on Thursday.
When you think about shoes, you probably think about style, comfort or color. But shoes actually have a lot more meaning to others.
“I like very, very excellent designs,” Willie Simmons, a shoe wearer, said.
There’s really only a few things people say come to their minds when the topic of shoes is brought up.
“Support and being comfortable, as well,” Dr. Apostle Mercida Demps, another shoe wearer, said.
A display of 120 shoes that sparked Thursday’s footwear conversation.
“Three years ago, we had the largest number of fire-related deaths in Georgia then we had in a number of years,” David Bullard, Georgia State Firefighters Association president, said.
The slippers of an 80-year-old man, the sandals of a 12-year-old boy, the slip-ons of a 1-year-old girl — all of which would have been worn by people who died in a fire last year.
“When you read the tags on the shoes, it becomes personal because now you see it was an 8-year-old girl, and that’s, yeah, it’s heartbreaking,” Bullard said.
A jarring sight.
Enough to stop Albany Fire Department Deputy Chief Sebon Burns.
“His name is James Davis," Burns said. "He did over 20 years in the Orlando Fire Department and about 15 years in the Cairo Fire Department.”
But he died in a fire, off duty, one year ago.
Burns said Davis was a great firefighter and he was even greater father-in-law.
“It affects me," Burns said. "And that’s why I had a little tear in my eye. You know, it’s a tough day.”
The rows of scuffed up shoes and worn soles are there so people like Davis, who lost their lives in fires, are never forgotten.
Your child’s princess, velcro shoes or your dad’s running shoes, are also there to try and prevent as many deaths as possible.
“Just a few minutes to make sure you have smoke detectors, make sure you have exit plans in your house, that your children are educated on closing the door before they go to sleep and what to do if there’s a fire,” Bullard said.
The display does travel to different cities and areas and it makes special trips to the State Capitol. It serves as the extra reminder to the number of lives lost to fires.
Along with the traveling display, firefighters from all over the state will spend the rest of the week training here in Albany.
They're gathering for the Georgia State Firefighters Association's annual conference.
They'll discuss issues like retaining firefighters and attracting people to the field in the first place.
The goal is for the different units to problem solve together and bounce ideas off of each other.
“The challenges in Atlanta and Albany, are similar to even cities of different size, like Cuthbert and Thomas County," Bullard said. "So the ability to network and bank ideas off of other members of the Fire Service is valuable.”
The firefighters will be here for the conference through Saturday.