In 1970, President Richard Nixon convened the National Commission on Fire Prevention and Control. Twenty distinguished individuals were selected to serve on this commission. Their primary mission was to conduct a thorough investigation of our nation’s fire problem and publish a report proffering recommendations for reducing the number of deaths, injuries and property loss caused by fire. AMERICA BURNING is the seminal report that captures and reflects a two-year investigation by the commission members.
On September 28th, 2017, the one commission member who carried the message of AMERICA BURNING for the last 44 years passed away. Louis J. Amabili served for over 70 years in the fire service. He began his fire service journey in 1947 when he joined the Hockessin Volunteer Fire Department, in Hockessin, Delaware. In 1964, he was appointed the first Director of the Delaware State Fire School. Paying tribute to Lou’s 32 years of leadership as Director, Governor Tom Carper signed legislation in 1996 that renamed the school the Louis J. Amabili Fire Training Center.
We, who have served as United States Fire Administrator, owe Lou Amabili and his fellow commissioners a huge debt of gratitude for providing the vision to establish the United States Fire Administration and National Fire Academy. They recognized the need for a greater federal role in addressing our nation’s fire problem, a more centralized role that would address what has become the four tenets of the USFA’s mission: public education, data collection, training and research.
AMERICA BURNING is a living and breathing document. The issues that were addressed in the report over 40 years ago remain relevant to many of the challenges that confront the fire service in 2017. We, as a fire service, have made many strides in making the fire service a safer profession. We made similar progress in reducing the number of deaths and injuries in communities across our nation. But our work is unfinished. We should never be satisfied and become complacent in our work. We owe it to our firefighters to remain steadfast in our efforts. We owe it to the citizens we serve. And we owe it to the 20 members of the National Commission on Fire Prevention and Control who provided the compelling reasons why the federal government needed to do more to address our nation’s fire problem.
We offer our thoughts and prayers to the Amabili family on the death of such an extraordinary man in Louis J. Amabili. When you perform a duty for over 70 years, it’s out of passion and dedication to a meaningful cause. For Lou, the cause was the health and safety of our firefighters. While Lou will be missed, his contributions and legacy will remain forever embedded in the pages of our most impactful document – AMERICA BURNING – and in the counsel he offered to so many of us throughout the years.
United States Fire Administrators
Keith Bryant • Ernie Mitchell • Kelvin Cochran • Greg Cade • Dave Paulison • Ken Burris • Carrye Brown