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There's been a lot going on in and around Washington, D.C., lately. I'm not talking about President Clinton and any of the related investigations but items of interest to the fire service.
We've said it time and again - when the experts panic, they call the fire department. When the fire service looks to excel and learn, many fortunate fire service personnel from across the country get a chance to study at the National Fire Academy. Lately, there has been much discussion about the function and effectiveness of the NFA and the U.S. Fire Administration. See page 16 for Hal Bruno's look at the events surrounding their past, present and future. Hal has been covering them since the inception of Firehouse®. He's seen many debates, victories and defeats that ultimately concern the citizens we protect.
Another hot topic that has come to the forefront is terrorism and the fire service. It's been around for a long time in other countries. It's importance has evolved since the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center in New York. The fire service also responds to several hundred small-scale bombings all across the U.S. each year, working with other agencies. The majority of these incidents make only local headlines.
There is growing concern about nuclear, biological and chemical weapons being used against American citizens and cities. The fire service has been known as "minutemen" for over 200 years. We are the first to respond to any major incident of significant magnitude.
What's significant is that we will respond first but are playing second fiddle when it comes to being trained and equipped, and standing second behind military and government agencies when it comes to being funded. This problem was first reported in the "Fire Politics" column last month; see page 10 for the full version of a letter from St. Louis Fire Chief Neil Svetanics. From what I'm hearing, many firefighters, officers, chiefs and fire departments feel the same way he does. We'll have more to report in future issues. A special pre-conference seminar will be held on Wednesday, July 15, at the Firehouse Emergency Services Expo '98 in Baltimore.
Terrible storms ripped through the Southeast last week. I saw the remains of at least one fire station that was destroyed by a tornado, leaving firefighters unable to utilize their apparatus to help their neighbors. Now these firefighters need help themselves.
Each day in the United States on average, 13 people are killed and 70 are injured by fire. It's very hard to accept when 39 people are killed in a sudden large magnitude storm. That number of people die from fire in a three-day period week in and week out, month in and month out. That never-ending death toll - despite the best efforts of America's Bravest - seems to continue to go unnoticed by some.