This week's visit with you is a bit different. Normally I am discussing a theory, praising a friend (newly-found friend) or lambasting a ne'er-do-well. I let off a great deal of steam doing this. I guess that I am letting off a little steam this week by asking you to step up to the plate and help a man who has done a great deal for our American Fire Service.
A friend is in trouble and he needs our help. Curt Weldon is in a very close race for his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He has served the citizens of his district for twenty years now and is being attacked by a wide range of special interests that care more for politics than service.
Being in the Philadelphia television market I have had to listen to the scurrilous attacks on my friend Curt Weldon. I want to let you know that all of us around the nation stand to lose the voice of a man who chose to speak for the fire service long before anyone else in Congress. But I am not asking you to simply support a politician. I am asking you to step up to the plate and help a fellow firefighter.
I am putting in for the call for a mutual aid response to aid a fellow firefighter who is in a tight spot and needs our help. Curt Weldon is a man who has risen from humble origins to the position of trust he now holds in our nation's capitol. He is the son of a firefighter who has served as a member of the Viscose Fire Company from an early age.
Like many of you, he began his service as a Junior Member and upon reaching age 18 he became a full member of the Marcus Hook Fire Company, where he eventually rose to the rank of Assistant Fire Chief. He also devoted himself to the education of his fellow firefighters. Over the years he became a certified instructor for the State of Pennsylvania. More than that, he assumed a leadership role at the Delaware County Fire Academy. He remained active in advancing the sharing of knowledge within the fire service.
A highlight of his fire service career came in 1975 when he assumed command of a major shipping incident that occurred in Marcus Hook. He served as the incident commander for one of the great shipping disasters in our nation's history. This occurred when a chemical tanker collided with a Greek-flagged vessel carrying 11-million gallons of oil.
The resulting fire continued to burn for three days. Weldon was commended for his efforts which involved a great deal of interagency coordination. The efforts of the forces who served under Curt kept the fire from reaching the vast array of storage and refinery facilities in nearby Marcus Hook.
When Congressman Weldon arrived in Washington as a newly-elected member of Congress in 1986 it did not take him long to size up the landscape in the House of Representatives. His initial analysis showed that very little attention was being paid to fire service issues. During his first term he spear-headed efforts to form the Congressional Fire Service Caucus. To say that he was met with an underwhelming level of support is an understatement on my part.
I believe that the first time I ever met Curt Weldon was at a reception held in conjunction with the Fire Department Instructors Conference in Cincinnati. He impressed me from the very first moment I met him. He was one of us and yet he had ascended the steep and slippery slopes of the political world to reach Congress.
He has traveled widely to speak to grassroots members of the fire service all across our nation. I say it is time to step up to the plate and offer our assistance to Curt. He needs us and we surely need him.
Through the years he and I have met time and again in various venues. I have only missed two of the annual Fire Service Caucus Dinners of the past two decades. At every turn in the road, Curt could be counted to deliver an outstanding narrative in support of our efforts to advance the cause of the American Fire Service within the beltway of Washington, DC.