Fire Politics: Looking Forward in 2012: USFA & CFSI Need Your Help

With 2012 upon us, there are important issues for the fire service to focus on at the national level. I couldn’t possibly cover all of them in this column, but I will be writing about them specifically as the year goes on. This month, I describe two very important organizations we should pay attention to and support. Doing so would strengthen our collective ability to successfully move national fire service issues through the federal system, which would benefit the fire service at every level.

• New U.S. fire administrator. Chief Ernest Mitchell Jr. has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as U.S. fire administrator. He is sure to be a tremendous asset to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Chief Mitchell has been a strong leader in the American fire service for many years. He was a battalion chief in the Compton, CA, Fire Department, fire chief and deputy city manager in Monrovia, CA, and fire chief in Pasadena, CA. Chief Mitchell is a past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and a past member of the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) Executive Board.

The fire service is fortunate to have Chief Mitchell in this position. No doubt he will be a tireless advocate for our issues and do all he can to further the mission of the USFA, including the National Fire Academy (NFA). Chief Mitchell, Chief Glenn Gaines, the deputy U.S. fire administrator, and Dr. Denis Onieal, the NFA superintendent, will combine to form a strong leadership team and continue to do great work at the national level. They will be even more successful if other fire service leaders join with them in their efforts and give them the support they need. Continuing to strengthen the influence and effectiveness of the USFA is something the fire service should focus on in 2012 and beyond.

• Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI). There has never been a more important time than 2012 for the fire service to continue (and even strengthen) its support for the work of the CFSI. The CFSI staff and volunteers work throughout the year for the benefit of the fire service as a whole. As a non-profit and non-partisan policy institute, CFSI educates Congress about issues facing the fire service from a national perspective. It also coordinates the collective efforts of more than 45 national organizations that make up the CFSI National Advisory Committee (NAC). CFSI works with NAC members to build coalitions and develop consensus positions (wherever possible) to enhance the level of federal support for the fire and emergency services, and thus, the effectiveness of our nation’s fire departments at the local level. These efforts are critical to the success of programs such as the SAFER and FIRE grants, funding for the USFA, Public Safety Officers Benefit (PSOB), Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act and D Block emergency communications legislation. Without the CFSI, these programs (and others) would be in jeopardy of elimination and congressional support for fire service issues in general would surely subside. The work of the Congressional Fire Service Caucus would not be effective without the CFSI.

The CFSI relies almost entirely on sponsors and members of the fire and emergency services for funding. The CFSI Annual Seminars and Dinner is its primary fundraising event. The 2012 Seminars and Dinner will be held in Washington, DC, on April 25-26. Registration information is available at the CFSI website ( While you’re on the site, learn about the CFSI Associates Club. Bottom line, the more the fire service provides support to the CFSI, the more effective it can be in performing its mission.

I often get asked by members of the fire service how they can help with issues at the national level. This column provides two significant opportunities to play an important role. The USFA and CFSI work throughout the year to improve the effectiveness of the fire and emergency services. Without these two organizations, the influence of the fire service at the federal level would surely suffer.

I don’t remember a time in my 41-plus-year career when the fire service has been more challenged at all levels of government. Whether you have participated in the past or not, 2012 is an important time to step forward and do your part on behalf of these two critical organizations.