Biden Tells IAFF: 'You’ve had my back, and I’ll have yours.'

March 7, 2023
Biden is the first president in 25 years to address the annual IAFF legislative conference.

President Joe Biden praised firefighters for their dedication and commitment Monday as addressed the IAFF's  2023 Alfred K. Whitehead Legislative Conference.

"People don’t really appreciate what you do until they need you.  They don’t really understand it. And you’re there every single day for families all across the country," Biden told firefighters.

He was the first sitting president in 25 years to speak with firefighters at their annual legislative conference, IAFF officials noted.

"You’ve had my back, and I’ll have yours," Biden said as the group applauded.   

The president said he understands the challenges they are facing due to climate change. 

"...We’re calling on you more and more and more.  Extreme heat and drought have turned wildfire season into wildfire years. Cities and towns that never had to confront this before and are now facing it head on. As President, I saw firsthand the devastating wildfires that burned homes and businesses, from New Mexico, Colorado, California, Idaho.I met with firefighters, many of whom are — never trained to fight wildfires, saving lives and risking their own."

He offered condolences to the family and colleagues of Buffalo Firefighter Jason Arno, killed in a four-alarm fire last week.

"To Jason’s family and to firefighters and families here today and around the country who have lost someone — loved ones and colleagues: We can never thank you enough.  We can never repay you..."

He promised that one of his highest priorities is doing what he can to keep them safe.

"Today, emergency response and preparedness standards, including rules on fire brigades, are outdated and incomplete.  They don’t address the full range of hazards we face, and they lag behind the latest innovations in protective equipment, industrial standards, and so much more. 

That’s why — that’s why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration convened a multiple-agency panel to draft better standards to protect folks like you, to protect all the rest of it — who protect the rest of us.  They’re on track to propose an updated rules this fall."

He also was adamant that he doesn't accept the the use of cancer-causing items.

"We’re going after toxic exposure to PFAS — so-called “forever chemicals” — that for years have been in your gear, your equipment, your fire supervision [suppression] agents...I signed legislation to fund research aimed at understanding the risk you face from PFAS and how to mitigate it.  We banned the Department of Defense from buying gear that contains PFAS as soon as it is — alternative is available. I’m determined — determined — to make sure you have the gear that protects you without making you or your families sick.  You deserve it."

The president updated the firefighters on what's been happening in Washington.

"And since I spoke at the Summit on Fire Prevention and Control last October, FEMA has funded 400 more firefighting positions, bringing the total to 1,600.  Because I know — I know you know that the things that protects firefighters, again — I’ll say it again and again — is more firefighters."

The first president since Harry Truman to address the fall conference, Biden lauded fire officials for their work to prevent fires which save the lives of citizens and firefighters. 

IAFF General President Ed Kelly thanked Biden for his unwavering support.

“You are only person I ever hear saying, ‘The only thing that saves fire fighters is more fire fighters.’ You get us. You have clearly established yourself as the greatest president fire fighters have ever had. You’re making our very dangerous profession as safe as it possibly can be, one decision at a time."

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.