A Mutual Aid Call for Congresses' Fire Chief

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.

He has pursued issues impacting the fire service with a dogged determination rarely seen these days. The fact that we have done so well over the past 18 years can be attributed to his stewardship of fire service issues. He has battled members of both political parties for the betterment of our nation's fire service.

Since he himself started as a junior member of his local fire department, he keenly felt the loss when young Christopher Kangas of the Brookhaven, PA, Fire Department was struck and killed while responding to an alarm on his bicycle. He went to work battling the federal bureaucracy. The fight is still underway however Curt is pressing home the battle. His Christopher Kangas Apprentice Firefighter Act will insure proper protection for our youngest members.

Congressman Weldon guided the passage of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, which provides support to local fire departments for the equipment they need to keep the public safe. Since 2001, the program has provided more than $5 million dollars for fire departments within Pennsylvania's seventh district.

In conjunction with the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, Rep. Weldon used his position on the House Armed Services Committee to spearhead the passage of the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Act (SAFER), which will provide a total of $7.6 billion over seven years to fire departments around the country.

This program offers incentives for volunteer firefighters and grants to hire career firefighters to help departments hire and maintain dedicated first responders. Weldon also supports the Volunteer Fire Assistance and Rural Fire Assistance programs and FIRE Corps, and has introduced other legislation which provides incentives to volunteer firefighters, all with the goal of easing the problems of retention faced by volunteer fire departments.

We need to keep Curt in Congress. He has often been called Congresses' Fire Chief. He needs our help now. I would ask you to go to a special website that has been created to help Curt in his battle to stay in Congress. You can find it at: www.firefightersforweldon.com.

I would ask you to make a donation of whatever size you think is right. Lots of $5 and $10 donations would send a great message. I did just that very thing before typing these words. I do not want you to think I am one of those do as I say and not as I do sort of guys. I would also ask you to join us at a major rally on October 28 in Springfield, PA.

It will be held at the Weldon Victory Committee Office located at 1001 Baltimore Pike in Springfield, PA We will meet at 1000 hours and then deploy at 1100 hours. The rally is scheduled to last until 1400 hours. All firefighters will then be welcome at a thank you party in Curt's district. Be sure to wear your fire department logo gear.

While I realize that this is not a normal Harry Carter commentary, I want you to know that I am once again writing about a cause that I believe in. A friend has asked for help and as is my way, I will be there for him. The fire service can work wonders if they choose to. I have seen fire departments sway elections in the past. Let us all work to make it happen once again.

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