IAFC Joins America in Mourning the Loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia Crew; Fire Service Plays Critical Role in Recovery of Space Shuttle Columbia Debris

Fairfax, VA – The International Association of Fire Chiefs expresses its deep sorrow and condolences to the families and friends of the crew of the space shuttle Columbia. The brave heroes of this mission will be remembered for their dedication to science and space exploration.

Fire departments across Texas, Louisiana and other southern states have joined hundreds of volunteers and local, state and federal authorities to search for debris from the space shuttle Columbia in one of the most massive recovery efforts ever.

Coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security, the immense endeavor involves representatives from all levels of government, including numerous local fire and police departments, NASA, the FBI, the Texas Rangers and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

“Fire departments are working with federal authorities to document debris in the debris field, determining which debris may be hazardous and which might be a major component that needs to be a top priority for the federal investigators,” said Rusty Sanders, fire chief of the Nacogdoches (Texas) fire department.

Local fire departments also are staffing command posts and providing resources for state and federal authorities setting up command posts in the area. As reports of falling debris began pouring in to 9-1-1 centers, fire departments responded immediately.

“No matter the emergency, America’s fire service is always on the scene right away. Whether it is a local tragedy or national in scope, we will be there,” said Chief Randy Bruegman, president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. “The entire fire service joins with all of America in mourning the loss of these heroes.”

The IAFC expresses its gratitude and support of those fire departments that are tasked with this difficult assignment.

As first responders, firefighters are the first on scene in nearly every natural or man-made emergency. The fire service is the only entity that is locally situated, staffed, trained and equipped to respond to all types of emergencies. Fire departments respond to natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, tornadoes and hurricanes as well as to man-made catastrophes such as hazardous materials spills, arson and terrorism. As such, America’s fire service is an all-hazard, all-risk response entity.

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