A former fire chief rallies a fire service caucus during his first year as a member of Congress
The watering of the grass roots of American politics is done with fire hoses, as Congressman Curt Weldon sees it. And thus has begun the Fire Service Caucus on Capitol Hill.
Weldon, a former volunteer fire chief, has sent two “Dear Colleague” letters encouraging other legislators to recognize that a significant number of their constituents are firefighters. His caucus intends to be proactive, says legislative assistant John McNichol, and will begin by holding field hearings at which firefighters can identify what they see as the major issues. So far, the caucus rolls count 25 representatives and two senators—Albert Gore,a Republican presidential candidate from Tennessee, and John Heinz.
Like Heinz, Weldon is a Pennsylvania Republican. The freshman congressman has an associate degree in fire science. He served as chief and president of the fire company in Marcus Hook, Pa., where he was electedmayor in 1971, and as Delaware County’s training director. Weldon also works with national insurance companies on fire protection programs.
According to McNichol, one of Weldon’s first priorities is to introduce a federal fire programs bill along the lines of what the Joint Council of National Fire Service Organizations has requested. [See “The Joint Council seeks independence for the NFA and USFA,” at left.]
As a member of the Sea Power Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, Weldon successfully sponsored a $64 million allocation for new fire protection equipment for the U.S. Navy. Sparse and outdated equipment was blamed for the difficulty in fighting the fire aboard the U.S.S. Stark after it was hit by a missile in the Persian Gulf May 17. [See “Antiquated equipment hampered firefighting on the U.S.S. Stark, a newspaper reports” in Dispatches, Fire Engineering, October 1987.]