WASHINGTON, D.C. – Not only was it a time to celebrate an important milestone here Thursday night, but also to remember 10 volunteer firefighters from West, Texas who perished last month while attempting to quell flames at a fertilizer plant.
Vice President Joe Biden – a longtime advocate for emergency services personnel – lauded personnel for putting their lives on the line despite the danger.
Biden received a thunderous ovation as he took the podium to address the crowd at the 25th annual Congressional Fire Service Institute’s dinner.
He praised not only those who respond, but auxiliaries who do so much behind the scene. And, he noted regardless of the time or conditions, firefighters put themselves on the line.
“We saw it in West, Texas when the volunteers went out…They jumped into the fray, and about 20 minutes later there was a god awful explosion…Ten (firefighters) were killed, and it blew the shirt off another…”
The Delaware native struggled to keep his emotions in check as he continued that despite the chaos: “They never quit, they never quit, they never quit.”
In addition to Biden, a number of speakers mentioned the heroes in West.
Also, State Farm Insurance presented a $25,000 check to the West recovery fund established by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
A number of people, including former presidents, saluted CFSI and its members for promoting legislative issues on Capitol Hill.
Arthur J. Glatfelter, who founded CFSI, was remembered for his commitment and dedication. He was the one who said there needed to be an organization to educate elected officials about the fire service.
“We were all proud to have known such a special leader of utmost character, integrity and generosity,” CFSI officials noted.
Several people were saluted for extraordinary efforts and accomplishments.
Ron Siarnicki – The Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award, sponsored by Motorola Solutions/CFSI.
Jim Crawford – Dr. Anne W. Phillips Award for Leadership in Fire Safety Education, sponsored by IFSTA and CFSI.
Tualatin Valley, Or Fire & Rescue, Oregon State Fire Marshal – Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes Fire Service Safety Leadership Award, sponsored by NFFF/CFSI.
The Excellence in Fire Service-Based EMS Award went to three departments – Miami-Dade, Montgomery County, MD Fire/Rescue and Snohomish County, WA. Fire Protection District No. 1.