Fire Service Leaders Lauded for Contributions at CFSI Event

April 30, 2024
Fire and emergency services personnel are on Capitol Hill today lobbying legislators to pass measures to save federal grant programs.

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas praised the nation’s first responders for their dedication despite the myriad challenges and dangers they face.

“We need you now more than ever. The call volume has tripled…And, today there are 200,000 fewer volunteers than there were in 1980. Fire departments are seeing far fewer applicants than they did before COVID-19,” Mayorkas told those attending the 34th annual Congressional Fire Services Institute’s National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner Monday night.

Over the past few years, DHS has awarded departments $700 million to hire and maintain personnel as well as purchase valuable equipment required to do the job, he pointed out.

He urged the fire and rescue personnel to share their stories far and wide – not only in the halls of Congress but with neighbors and others.

“Share your story about the time you jumped into icy river to smash the windows to rescue a family from a submerged car. Share your story how you dug a trench and saved a national park…That shows what the best of America looks like,” Mayorkas said.

He vowed that as long as he is in his role, he will champion their needs as he understands the job takes a physical and mental toll.

It also was a night to recognize and laud people for their contributions.

CFSI/Motorola Solutions Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award – Pat Morrison, chief of field services at the International Association of Fire Fighters. He was recognized for playing a crucial role in the IAFF/IAFC Fire Service Joint Labor-Management Wellness/Fitness Initiative. He has led the IAFF’s effort in developing a broad range of other programs that address behavioral health challenges afflicting all firefighters.

CFSI/NFFF Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes Fire Safety Leadership Award Skidmore College First Responder Health and Safety Laboratory. Under the direction of Dr. Denise Smith, the FRHSL is a nationally renowned research facility that conducts scientific research to study the dangers faced by the fire service and develop and test interventions to mitigate these dangers. 

CFSI/Masimo Excellence in Fire Service-Based EMS Award – Philadelphia Fire Department. They have established Alternative EMS Response Units (AR) that provide ALS capabilities in non-ambulance vehicles for four types of emergency medical care. Three units are SUVS staffed with paramedics and specialized care providers. One unit serving the University of Pennsylvania delivers emergency medical care and courtesy rides to students while another is stationed at the airport. A utility cart staffed with a medic is stationed at Philadelphia International Airport.

CFSI/IFSTA/Dr. Anne W. Phillips Award for Leadership in Fire Safety Education – Karla Klas, University of Michigan Trauma Burn Center, was recognized for developing many programs in burn and fire prevention, which have reached all 50 states and over 150 countries. And much of her work has involved collaborations with state and national organizations, including the International Association of Fire Fighters Burn Foundation, the National Fire Protection Association, the American Burn Association and Vision 20/20.

Retired Mesa Fire Chief Dennis Compton told the audience: “Quite some time ago, I created a three-legged stool highlighting the interrelatedness of the main service delivery and support components of our fire and life safety system. As displayed by the four banners here on stage, the CFSI modified the stool for this week to add a fourth leg addressing Advocacy…We must up our game in the area.

He pointed out the theme of the annual dinner – Enhancing Our Mission Using Research and Data.

Both have found their way into the mainstream of codes and standards, firefighter safety, training, resource deployment, and our overall effectiveness. We’re nowhere near where we need to be, but the progress that’s being made is significant,”

He stressed the importance of educating the public, not just legislators, about their contributions and challenges.

Today, hundreds of personnel are on Capitol Hill to promote the measures to save valuable federal grant programs.

Although their departments are as different as the patches on their uniforms, they are sharing the same message – to urge the passage of measures that will reauthorize the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG) and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant Program (SAFER) as well as adequately fund the U.S. Fire Administration.

If they don’t get the nod, the bills will sunset on Sept. 30.

“This is an important time for the fire and emergency service,” CFSI Executive Director Bill Webb said.

About the Author

Susan Nicol | News Editor

Susan Nicol is the news editor for She is a life member and active with the Brunswick Volunteer Ambulance & Rescue Company, Oxford Fire Company and Brunswick Vol. Fire Co. Susie has been an EMT in Maryland since 1976. Susie is vice-president of the Frederick County Fire/Rescue Museum. She is on the executive committee of Frederick County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association. She also is part of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS) Region II EMS Council. Susie is a board member of the American Trauma Society, Maryland Division. Prior to joining the Firehouse team, she was a staff writer for The Frederick News-Post, covering fire, law enforcement, court and legislative issues. 

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