IAFF Hosts 16th Annual Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial Service

September 21 Observance in Colorado to Be Largest Ever

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Sept. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) will hold the largest memorial service in its 84-year history Saturday, September 21 when thousands gather in Colorado Springs, Colo. for 16th Annual IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial Ceremony.

The ceremony begins at 1:30 p.m. and a live broadcast will be provided to news organizations from the TV pool in Colorado Springs.

Family members of fire fighters killed in the line of duty across the United States and Canada, including families of the 343 New York fire fighters killed at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, will attend the ceremony at the IAFF memorial, situated in the shadow of Pikes Peak.

This year's ceremony will honor a total of 499 professional fire fighters and paramedics killed in the line of duty, including 425 reported deaths from June 2001 to June 2002, and 74 deaths reported between June 2000 and June 2001. Last year's ceremony was held only four days after 9-11 and many families were unable to attend due to travel restrictions. More than 1,000 family members of fallen fire fighters, half of them from New York City, are scheduled to attend the IAFF's annual observance.

This year's ceremony will include flyovers by a C-130 fire fighting aircraft from the 302nd Airlift Wing based at Peterson AFB and F-16s from the 140th Fighter Wing from Buckley AFB. More than 400 honor guards from fire departments across North America will be joined by thousands of fire fighters for the observance. Pipers and drummers from FDNY will be among the many fire fighter pipers and drummers who will participate. Music will also be provided by the Air Force Band of the Rockies and adult and children's choirs.

Harold Schaitberger, President of the 255,000-member International
Association of Fire Fighters, said this year's ceremony holds special
significance in the aftermath of 9-11. Schaitberger said the observance at the IAFF's national memorial in Colorado Springs will be an uplifting one for the families and a fitting tribute to their loved ones. "The families of our fallen heroes in New York and across North America have already been through so much. Our efforts at this ceremony are aimed at comforting and embracing them," he said.

Schaitberger will deliver the keynote address to the families. Other speakers include U.S. Rep. Joel Hefley, Chicago Fire Dept. Chaplain Rev. Thomas Mulcrone, and Colorado Springs officials. Earlier in the day, a procession of fire vehicles and hundreds of fire fighters motorcyclists who traveled cross-country from New York on a "Ride to Remember" will travel through the streets of Colorado Springs to the IAFF ceremony in Memorial Park.

The IAFF, headquartered in Washington, D.C., provided a variety of
services to its fire fighters in New York and the Washington, D.C. area following the September 11 attacks. The IAFF's NY Fire Fighters 9-11 Fund raised more than $155 million for 347 families of FDNY personnel killed on 9-11 and 100 percent of the contributions are being distributed to the families.

The mission of the IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial is to honor the sacrifice made by career fire fighters who have given their lives in the line of duty. Since its creation in 1976, the names of fallen professional fire fighters have been etched into the wall of honor located behind the memorial.

The organization also provides assistance to surviving families and serves as a public reminder of the risks fire fighters take every day.

The IAFF has more than 2,700 local affiliates representing fire fighters in more than 5,000 cities, counties, and fire districts.

The 255,000 members of the IAFF are the nation's full-time professional fire fighters and paramedics, who protect 80 percent of the nation's population.