On Wednesday, April 30, CFSI hosted the 15th Annual Fire and Emergency Services Dinner. The dinner, held at the Washington Hilton and Towers, was attended by nearly two thousand firefighters, fire and emergency services leaders, members of Congress, and administration officials.
Throughout the day, CFSI held educational seminars on Capitol Hill and attendees were encouraged to meet with their members of Congress. The seminars covered a range of topics, from fire prevention issues and interoperable communications, to EMS. Several roundtable discussions were held and included members of Congress, administration officials from the new Department of Homeland Security, and the United States Fire Administration. The seminars largely focused on the theme of this year’s dinner, “Securing Our Homeland.”
Senator John McCain (AZ), Chairman of the Congressional Fire Caucus, gave the opening remarks at the dinner. Other speakers included Congressman Curt Weldon (PA), founder of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, Senator Joseph Biden (DE), Congressman Steny Hoyer (MD), Congressman Sherwood Boehlert (NY), and Congressman Rob Andrews (NJ), all of whom are co-chairs of the Congressional Fire Caucus. Congressman James Walsh (NY) received the CFSI Legislator of the Year Award for his tireless work to preserve the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program.
The CFSI/Motorola Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award was given to Chief Dennis Compton of Mesa, Arizona. Active both nationally and at the state level, Chief Compton serves on the executive board of the International Fire Service Training Association, as a board member of the National Fire Protection Association and immediate past chair of the CFSI National Advisory Committee. Chief Compton retired last year as Chief of the Mesa Fire Department. He has served for over 32 years in the fire service — 27 years with the Phoenix Fire Department and five years as the Mesa chief. In recognition for his contributions in the state of Arizona, he was selected a charter member of the Arizona Fire Service Hall of Fame.
Other awards presented at the dinner went to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, which received the CFSI Fire Service Organization of the Year Award for their work in assisting the families of our nation’s fallen heroes, and to Lt. Bruce Young of the Palm Beach County Fire and Rescue Department. Lt. Young received the Safety Education Hero Award, presented by the Home Safety Council.
The keynote speaker was Secretary Tom Ridge. Secretary Ridge, the head of the newly created Department of Homeland Security, addressed many of the concerns that face our nations firefighters, including recent questions regarding the fate of the Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE) Grant Program, cancellation of classes at the National Fire Academy, and the elimination of the position of United States Fire Administrator.
Secretary Ridge spoke of the Department’s strong support for the FIRE Grant and said, “the President of the United States is committed to the continuation of the program.” Secretary Ridge went on to talk about the importance of training and the National Fire Academy. The Secretary said he was committed to reinstating classes that were recently cut at the Academy. The Secretary stated his belief that the position of U.S. Fire Administrator should be reinstated and that it should be a Presidential appointment. The Fire Administrator position was inadvertently eliminated with the passage of the Homeland Security Act (PL 107-296; sec. 1513).
Secretary Ridge ended his speech by saying, “When we take good care of our firefighters, we take good care of our homeland. And when you secure the hometown through your firefighters and others, then the homeland is secure. It’s a mission worthy of all of us. And I am confident that together that’s the mission we will accomplish.” Following his remarks, Congressman Weldon and Congressman Hoyer presented the Secretary with an axe and a helmet that read “Chief Tom Ridge.” The Secretary’s speech is available at www.cfsi.org.