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One of our biggest goals is to reduce firefighter line-of-duty deaths and injuries. We do that by publishing articles in Firehouse® Magazine, posting information on Firehouse.com and addressing the issue at our two conferences, Firehouse Expo and Firehouse World. No matter what we do, those once-in-a-lifetime incidents will still challenge firefighters and families.
In 2013, there has been an overabundance of fatal incidents in the United States. Two firefighters died in Bryan, TX, on Feb. 16. A chemical plant explosion in West, TX, killed 12 firefighters on April 17. A May 31 restaurant fire in Houston, TX, killed four firefighters and critically injured several others. A wildland fire near Yarnell, AZ, killed 19 Hotshots firefighters from Prescott on June 30.
This year, I took part in several fire service events for the first time. I attended the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) Annual Memorial Service at Emmitsburg, MD, in October. Because of the federal government shutdown, it cost the NFFF a large amount of money to hold the ceremony for the fallen firefighters. The ceremony carried on despite the government shutdown. They rose to the occasion. I recommend that every member of the fire service see what goes on for the families with dignity and dedication so they will never forget. Recently, the NFFF began using the slogan, “Always Remember,” so it can present these and other programs. I have listed the link to donate to the NFFF. It’s the right thing to do. http://donate.firehero.org
Recently, I attended the Volunteer Chief Officers (VCOS) “Symposium in the Sun” in Florida. The VCOS, part of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), put on an interesting, educational seminar. On July 1, I attended the 25th annual memorial service for the five firefighters who were killed in a truss-roof collapse in Hackensack, NJ, on July 1, 1988. Over the years, I have written three articles about that incident, which opened the eyes of the fire service to the hazards of truss roofs. It was an impressive turnout.
Right after Hackensack, I went to the San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMMC) in Texas. One of the center’s specialties is treating our Wounded Warriors who have been critically injured in combat. I personally purchased a specially outfitted hand-cranked bicycle through the FDNY Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post, the only VFW post in the nation that is comprised of all firefighters. I presented this special bicycle to a Marine who lost part of his leg in the explosion of an improvised explosive device while he was deployed in Afghanistan. The troops were grateful for the visit, as the government does not provide these bicycles individually, but only during therapy. It was something I wanted to do.
As I write this on Veterans Day, I salute the Wounded Warriors of the military and also those in the fire service. They are truly “soldiers in a war that never ends.” n