Editorial: National Fire Weather Forecast: Hot & Smoky

During the days and weeks before this editorial was written, hundreds of wildland fires were burning in Florida and Georgia, in Los Angeles and on Catalina Island, and in Minnesota and elsewhere. Because of a continuing lack of rain, many experts predict that this may be the worst wildland fire season to hit the United States in many years. Each year, these fires seem to burn more property and press the available manpower, apparatus and aircraft to extremes. An early tropical storm formed and churned off the Florida and Georgia coast. The storm didn't bring any precipitation to the affected areas, just more lightning to an already drought-stricken and scorched portion of the country.

As some parts of the country face severe water shortages, at least three storms have dumped more than a foot of rain on parts of northern New Jersey - it's hard to believe that in one of these storms we may get more rain in a few hours than Los Angeles gets in a year. Parts of the Midwest, after suffering through numerous tornados, were flooded with intense, non-stop rain (and one of the twisters killed a firefighter). My uncle once said it's too bad there isn't a way to pipe flood waters from one part of the country to drought-stricken and burning areas.

In this issue, Contributing Editor Hal Bruno discusses the status of a federal death benefit that was passed by Congress. Apparently, due to "bureaucratic red tape," many families of fallen firefighters are still waiting to receive their funds. Every firefighter will want to read Hal's Fire Politics column on page 18 for the latest details about the help that families so richly deserve in case of a line-of-duty death.

Two members of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation were recently honored by the Metro Chiefs section of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. Chief Dennis Compton, a Firehouse contributing editor, received the Lifetime Achievement Award for improving the fire service through operational applications, education and leadership. Chief Ron Siarnicki, executive director of the Foundation, received the President's Award of Distinction for his efforts in his fire service career and his leadership of the NFFF. Congratulations to both!

It is with deep regret we announce the death of William A. Keith, 64, of Lake Tapawingo, MO, in March. Bill was a fire department dispatch supervisor and photographer for the Kansas City, MO, Fire Department for well over 30 years. He also was a longtime contributor, photographer and friend of Firehouse Magazine. For one summertime issue, Bill compiled a great historic look at the fires, major incidents and fire stations of the KCFD. During several visits to the Kansas City area, Bill took me past all the historic sites, to the scenes of major fires - and to some great BBQ restaurants. We miss you, Bill.

The cover story this month takes us to Houston, TX, where a suspicious fire ripped through a small office building. Houston firefighters had a major battle on their hands dealing with heavy smoke, fire and occupants trapped. One fire officer operating on an upper floor needed help and other firefighters came to his rescue. For further details, read the article written by Tom McDonald on page 46.

A tip of the helmet to Firehouse Contributing Editor Dennis L. Rubin, who is the new chief of the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. Dennis previously was chief of Atlanta Fire Rescue.