Recognizing Our Nation’s All-Hazards Firefighters

Today (April 30th) is the day the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) was supposed to host the 32nd Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner — an event to have been attended by 1,500 fire and emergency services leaders across the country to pay tribute to the dedication and commitment of our nation’s firefighters and emergency services personnel.

Back in the latter part of 2019, we considered different themes for our 2020 program and selected “Recognizing Our Nation’s All-Hazards Firefighters.”  We were looking for a theme that would convey to our federal legislators and agency officials the many roles of our firefighters and emergency services personnel — roles that encompass structural firefighting, emergency medical services, hazardous materials, technical rescue, wildland suppression among the many other roles.

Today, firefighters are on the front lines of the battle against a hazard we have never witnessed on American soil — and hopefully one we will not witness again: COVID-19.  They are demonstrating what it means to be a firefighter.  It’s an inner drive and dedication to protecting others…a selfless willingness and commitment to respond. Sadly, some firefighters have made the ultimate sacrifice to care for victims of the virus, while thousands of other firefighters have been exposed and quarantined.   We keep them and their families in our thoughts and prayers.

Hopefully there will come a day — sooner rather than later — when we can discard our masks, shrink the distancing, and return to our daily routines.  But it is highly unlikely that things will be the same.  Lessons have already been learned from this pandemic, some of which have been learned the hard way.  But many more lessons are still to come and we must all learn from them as well.

Working with the other national fire service organizations in Washington, DC, CFSI will continue to educate our federal representatives about the needs of our nation’s fire and emergency services — not only the needs during the pandemic, but the needs when firefighters and emergency services personnel respond to over 35 million other calls, annually.  This is the promise we make to the men and women of our nation’s fire and emergency services who are serving in harm’s way to keep our communities safe.

The biggest disappointment for us in cancelling this year’s dinner program is not being able to honor the recipients of our four awards.  These individuals and organizations received these honors for their leadership and contributions to the advancement of our nation’s fire service.  They include:

  • Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell, recipient of the CFSI/Motorola Solutions Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award
  • Mr. Ed Comeau, recipient of the CFSI/IFSTA Dr. Anne W. Phillips Award for Leadership in Fire Safety Education
  • Clayton (DE) Fire Company, Prince George’s County Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, and Sioux Falls (SD) Fire Rescue, recipients of the CFSI/NFFF Senator Paul S. Sarbanes Fire Service Safety Leadership Award
  • San Antonio Fire Department and Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and Emergency Medical Services, recipients of the CFSI/Masimo Excellence in Fire Service-Based EMS Award.

While we can only honor them in spirit this evening, we intend to do so publicly and formally at an event later in the year.

The CFSI Board of Directors and staff take great pride in performing our mission — which is to advocate on Capitol Hill for the needs of our firefighters and emergency services personnel across the nation. While we were forced to cancel our 2020 program, the work you seek and expect from us throughout the year continues on.  Until we can reassemble together for our next Symposium and Dinner program, stay safe!