Remembering Congressman Sherwood L. Boehlert, An Original Co-Chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus

On September 20, 2021, former Co-Chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, Congressman Sherwood L. “Sherry” Boehlert, passed away in New Hartford, NY. (Photo of Congressman Boehlert on left with Congressman Steny Hoyer at the National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner)

Congressman Boehlert was first elected to Congress in 1982. In 1987, his colleague, Congressman Curt Weldon, reached out to him with a request to serve as a co-chair of the newly-established Congressional Fire Services Caucus. Boehlert accepted the opportunity and remained an active co-chair through 2006, when he left Congress.

A stalwart supporter of fire service issues throughout his career, Congressman Boehlert was widely recognized for introducing the Hotel and Motel Fire Safety Act. Signed into law in 1990, the legislation mandated that federal travelers had to stay in buildings protected by hard-wired smoke detectors or sprinklers if the structures were more than three floors in height. This requirement incentivized the hotel and motel industry to install smoke detectors and fire sprinkler systems.

In an article announcing the Congressman’s death, the Washington Post recounted a congressional hearing he conducted following the September 11th terrorist attacks to study the structural collapse of the World Trade Center Towers. The hearing led to the Congressman sponsoring legislation to develop a science and technology directorate within the newly established U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“The Hotel and Motel Safety Act was certainly Congressman Boehlert’s signature legislation within the fire service community,” said Congressional Fire Services Institute Executive Director Bill Webb. “But his contributions were immense, especially in the areas of science and technology. He was passionate about the development of new technologies to advance public safety. His legacy will long be remembered by those of us who were privileged to work with him.”