In 1995, Marc Opstal (career Firefighter in Zaventem) as well as some of his colleague firefighters, went to Bakersfield in Kern County, California. For the duration of one week, they ran calls with the Kern County Fire Department and an EMS agency in Bakersfield, California. Once back in Belgium, Opstal started thinking organizing another trip for firefighters. He choose the city of San Diego, California. In May 1996 he led a group on a twelve day program to this Socal city. The program became a succes and the non-provit organization Fire Observers was originated on October 10th, 1996. In 1997 the organization established two programs, one to Phoenix, AZ and one to Dallas, TX.
Up until 2004, two programs a year were avalaible for Belgian firefighters. New people were hired to expand the board which gave the opportunity to offer three programs a year. Starting 2011, four programs are now offered each year!
More and more highly motivated colleagues became a part and in 2001 we were happy to welcome our first colleague out of The Netherlands. A mixture of training and tourism seem to be the key to success and the ideal formula to make and keep our members engaged. With multiple successful programs in the past Fire Observers vzw gained the respect of numerous Belgian firefighters and we strive to continue to deliver this service and opportunities.