Editorial: Are You Doing Your Share?

At our recent Firehouse World Show in San Diego, I was awarded a first-time Firefighter Life Safety “Seal of Excellence Award†from the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Frankly, I was stunned when they called me up to the stage, and I am grateful to the NFFF. I talk about reducing firefighter line-of-duty deaths each month. I hope that the readers find this information useful. There is nothing more important than the safety of our firefighters. As I am writing this column, news across my desk tells me that four off-duty volunteer firefighters from North Carolina died in a boating accident. Over my beeper, I receive a report about a firefighter from Philadelphia being rushed to a hospital from a one-alarm fire in cardiac arrest. It seems as though no matter what we do, it is never enough, but we have to make the effort.

I was in charge of a multi-unit drill a few weeks ago. Before we started to drill, I discussed communicating with your partner, officer and incident commander. We discussed the “Mayday†procedure, evacuation tones, search procedures and air management. We had a rehab area and we discussed several minor problems we encountered. Afterward, we showed new firefighters wall-breaching and overhaul techniques on a structure that was going to be demolished the next day. Do you discuss these basic ideas with your firefighters? Do you utilize structures slated for demolition for training? Do you read firefighter fatality reports or review close calls on various websites? Something has to change to reduce these near misses, close calls and line-of-duty deaths.

In this issue, we present the honorees in the Firehouse® Magazine Heroism & Community Service Awards program. First, we thank our corporate sponsors: Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co., The Charles Evans Foundation, E-ONE and V.H. Blackinton & Co. Without their generous support, the program would not be possible.

This year, we must give a special thanks to Fireman’s Fund, whose unprecedented generosity allows us to honor our heroes in a very special way. Fireman’s Fund is also helping fire departments around the country with its grant program. You can find out more at www.firemansfund.com. We also thank our judges for taking on the tough task of deciding on the honorees for this year.

As the heroism nominations state repeatedly, firefighters from across the country faced many extreme, complicated and stressful situations dealing with fires and weather-related emergencies. A tip of the helmet to all involved and the unsung heroes who do the job each and every day and may never get recognized. In one entry from Houston, three companies were trapped. The person making the nomination wrote, “Despite heroic efforts and many feats that will never be told.†A fitting tribute to America’s Bravest.

As you will see in this issue, a redesign of Firehouse® was undertaken. We hope you approve. The redesign will give our readers a fresh look at the way they read each issue. From the cover to the table of contents to our columns and features, you will find something a little different in our presentation. If there is something you like or don’t, and certain topics you want us to cover, please let us know.

We hear mixed comments about what is going on in and out of Washington regarding funding federal programs. The FIRE Act grant program is now taking applications for this year. Funding has been reduced since 2004. In next year’s proposed budget, it is reduced further. The SAFER act has a zero budget. Funds for the Pre-Positioned Equipment (PEP) program, something that makes sense and works, may last only a few more months. Something that works, but won’t be funded anymore – now does that make sense?

Who knows what will happen at FEMA in terms of using and ignoring Dave Paulison, whom the fire service supports as one of our own, and I wonder what will happen this hurricane season. Experts predict the 2006 season will be above average. While the FEMA USAR Task Forces were deployed and operating in New Orleans and Mississippi last year, their budget was reduced by $10 million for the coming year. For more on Fire Politics, see Hal Bruno’s column on page 24.