President Joe Biden praised firefighters for their heroic actions during a virtual address to attendees of the U.S. Fire Administrator's Summit on fire Prevention and Control.
"...And each one — each one of you is a hero to the community. You’ve touched people’s lives. So I’d — I’d like to take a moment at the top here to honor the lives we’ve lost of those in the past two years, including from COVID — 135 on-duty firefighters in 2021, another 77 to date in 20- — 2022. And it’s a — it’s an acute reminder of the risk firefighters bear and, quite frankly, of their bravery. You’re the only ones who run toward flames and not away from them when that fire bell rings," he said.
Biden is the first president since Harry Truman in 1947 to speak at a conference addressing the nation's fire problem.
"And you — look, you know, many of you — many of you heard me say before: First, God made man. Then he made a few firefighters. God made man, and then he made a few firefighters."
Biden added: "You know, it’s truly amazing that an estimated 1,041,200 local and municipal firefighters — 65 percent of you are volunteers. And I’m proud to say in Delaware, in my home state, it’s 98.3 percent of all firefighters are volunteer firefighters. And by the way, I know you’re all having trouble keeping — because of COVID and because of the — the schedules people have these days — getting — attracting enough volunteers to man — man all the stations. You’re the heart of the community. You know, people don’t appreciate you until they need you. But then they do, and you’re always there."
The president said he's concerned about firefighter health. "I’m determined — I’m absolutely determined to make sure you have the gear that protects you without making you or your family sick."
He promised: " And I’m urging Congress to send to my desk the Federal Firefighters Fairness Act — let me say it again: the Federal Firefighters Fairness Act — which are going to help federal firefighters and their families assess critical worker compensation resources, including making sure that several forms of cancer are presumed to be caused — presumed to be caused by the firefighter’s job."