1999 Year In Review

Jan. 1, 2000
Charles Werner takes a look at the website's successful first year of operation and previews what's ahead.

Since's debut on Dec. 25, 1998, the official website of Firehouse® Magazine has come a long way.

Dec. 14, 1999, marked a milestone as was recognized by the GII Achievement Awards as the best website in the category of "News & Media." This award has not been presented to any other emergency service website. Past winners of GII Awards include Yahoo!, The Schwab WebSite/Charles Schwab & Co., ThinkQuest and The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition.

Present at the awards ceremony were Senior Editor Dave J. Iannone; Christopher D. Orr, Internet services Director for Cygnus Business Media (parent company of the and Firehouse® Magazine); and Chris Hebert, Assistant Webmaster for the site. The ceremony was emceed by comedian Paula Poundstone. Among the 10 winners were such prominent sites as E*Trade, Comedy Central's South Park, the Environmental Protection Agency, ProPA, the Library of Congress and Garden.Com.

"It's great to be recognized with such other major sites online, especially being such a young site," Iannone said. "We've been growing rapidly and trying to be the one place the world's firefighters and emergency workers can turn to online for everything from news to discussions to links. The response to the Worcester coverage was amazing with so many condolences and the response we received afterwards thanking us for being there and keeping everyone informed ... it was very moving.

"I don't think people realize that the WebTeam, like the magazine staff, are all firefighters, so we try to keep an eye out for what we'd like to see online and hopefully that translates well into the content of the site."

This honor is considered to be the "Oscars of the Internet." Judging is based on the website's ability to demonstrate the capability of the information infrastructure, produces practical results and benefits, and is innovative.

Vice President Al Gore is quoted as saying, "The GII Awards confirm our own brightest hopes: that the positive uses of high technology will truly open up new opportunities for all Americans and improve our quality of life."

The recognition of the website is not surprising. In the last year, has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to excellence. The reasons for its success might be because the interactive forums have exceeded 4,000 active participants, a web directory of over 4,200 links to emergency service agencies, its online one-stop shopping Firehouse Superstore, or putting it into perspective - receives an average of 10,000 visitors per day. provides a unique and up-to-date news service that is considered the best emergency news source on the web. This past year, a few of's national headlines included: "Line of Duty Deaths (LODDs)"; "Earthquakes in Turkey and Taiwan"; "Fairfax, VA Rescue Teams Put to Work Again"; "A Web of Over 70,000 Fires Burning in 6 States"; "11 Dead in Tragic A&M Bonfire Collapse"; "Heightened Brushfire Conditions from Pennsylvania to California"; "NY Youth Saves Man from Fiery Death"; "5 Dead in Nursing Home Fire"; "6-Alarm Fire Ravages Historic MD Town"; "New Communication Center for Las Vegas"; "Paramedics May Be Exempted from FLSA"; "Fatal Fire Hits Massachusetts Shrine Dorm"; "Florida Church Collapses, Injuring 23"; "Fire Decimates a Montana Main Street"; "Aquarium Blaze Creates Unique Rescues"; "Millennium Fire Service Tips"; "Littleton Medics Honored for Heroics"; "Universal 911 Passes"; "Amusement Park Injuries on Rise"; "Technology Aims to Locate Wireless 911 Callers"; "Grand Central Fire Closes Subway Line"; "6 Saved from Alaskan Glacier"; "New Child Car Seat Regulations"; and "6-Alarm Fire Levels Massachusetts Church."

On the international scene, headlines included: "Boy Starts Fatal Fire in Korea"; "French Firefighters Protest"; "70 Feared Dead in London Collision"; "Fire in Store Kills 5 in Brazil"; "56 Die, 348 Injured in Mexico Blast"; "75 Die in Indonesian Cinema Fire"; and "Fire Destroys 500 Mexico City Homes."

Special reports are an added feature of Top special stories for 1999 reported on the 1998 Firefighter Fatality Study that outlined and analyzed the 91 LODDs for 1998. promptly reported on the Columbine shootings and first-hand stories from local emergency workers including an interview from the fire chief the day of the shooting. A report on floods from Hurricane Floyd revealed the tremendous impact on emergency service families in North Carolina and New Jersey.

An especially rewarding story, "Child's Parents Ask for Surprise," told about a Tennessee boy with cerebral palsy who loved anything to do with fire or EMS memorabilia. After that story ran, this young boy was showered with over 500 gifts from fire departments and EMS agencies around the world, even a REAL fire hydrant.

"Real Danger or 'Freak Incident' " explored the Florida AED incident. "Forest Service Remembers 1949 Blaze - 13 Firefighters Left Dead" reminded the fire service about the serious dangers of forest fires. "Caring for Refugees in America" gave a Maryland paramedic's inside story of caring for Kosovo refugees at Fort Dix, NJ. "Philly Fire's Reported Hepatitis-C Cases Rise" reported that 70-plus firefighters and paramedics now report infection of potentially deadly disease. The site also provides regular updates from the National Volunteer Fire Council.

In addition to its premier news service, is entertaining. brought back references to the popular 1970s TV drama "Emergency." Firehouse.-com also reviewed and provided comments from the fire service about the new TV series "Third Watch" and the new movie "Bringing Out the Dead." In addition, you can quickly see what's in store in the next issue of Firehouse® Magazine. is determined to regularly provide additional resources to the emergency service community. The Firehouse Message Forums provide a learning environment. And the site's search engine makes it easy to find information when conducting research. Other new features like free screensavers, free "" e-mail and the latest "Firehouse News Ticker" keep Firehouse.-com on the minds of firefighters.

Website Visitors Pay Respects To Massachusetts Firefighters

Nearly 1,000 messages of condolence poured into leading fire service Internet community and resource Firehouse.Com in memory of the six firefighters who died in a Worcester, MA, fire on Dec. 3, 1999. More than 100,000 visitors traveled to from Dec. 3 through Dec. 6 to keep up with the story as it unfolded. An average weekday typically brings about 10,000 visitors from around the world.

Only a 1994 Colorado wildfire took the lives of more firefighters this decade - 14 - when winds shifted and overtook crews working to extinguish the blaze. In terms of structure fires, it was 27 years ago when more than six American firefighters died in a building. Ironically, that fire occurred just 45 miles from the tragic scene in Worcester. On June 19, 1972, nine Boston firefighters died when a wall collapsed during overhaul operations after a fire at the Hotel Vendome was extinguished.

Among the condolences that have come in to Firehouse.Com following the Worcester tragedy are several from the families of that historic Boston blaze. Hundreds of the messages have been submitted by residents of the Worcester and New England communities, while many others have come from around the world from as far as Australia, New Zealand, China as well as throughout the U.S. and Canada. The messages include poems and heartwarming personal stories from those who have lost firefighters in the past.

Condolences also overwhelmed other websites, including the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, the local newspaper which also set up a fund for the victims' families within hours of the fire. That fund has already raised thousands of dollars.

The response to's special coverage of this tragedy has received worldwide attention, including feature articles in the Boston Herald, Boston Globe and Worcester Telegram & Gazette, as well as on New England Cable News about the outpouring of support in condolences. Firehouse.Com was used as a primary resource by major news organizations for firefighter fatality information since the tragedy began., the web's leader in fire-rescue service news and information, had comprehensive coverage of the Worcester incident, including stories, video links, photos, web resources, memorial service information, statistical data and more, in addition to the condolence area. It can be found online at continued to cover the story as it unfolded, which included a first-hand report from the Dec. 9 memorial service in Worcester.

Charles L. Werner

Charles L. Werner, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a 24-year veteran of the fire service. He is currently a battalion chief with the Charlottesville, VA, Fire Department's Division of Training, Technology and Community Affairs. Werner serves as a technical advisor in the areas of computers/Internet and has been instrumental in the launching of Firehouse Online.

About the Author

Charles Werner

CHARLES WERNER, who is a Firehouse contributing editor, is a 45-year veteran of public safety. He served with the Charlottesville, VA, Fire Department for 37 years, serving the past 10 years as chief. Following retirement, Werner served for two years as senior adviser and acting deputy state coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. He has chaired: DHS SAFECOM Executive Committee; IAFC Technology Council; National Information Sharing Consortium; and DHS/White House Incident Management Information Sharing SubCommittee. Werner currently serves as the director of DroneResponders Public Safety Alliance, chair of the National Council on Public Safety UAS and chair of the Virginia Secure Commonwealth UAS Sub Panel.

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