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This week of September 11 proved to be a very challenging one for the fire service. We all remembered 9/11 in our own ways--the heroes, our friends, the tragedy, the horror of losing so much human treasure in one day. We all relived the pain again when so many Americans fell in one murderous act, and for the seventh time found time to pray for our fallen.

But the mission and work of the American firefighter goes on. How we do that work, and how well we do that work, will continue to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice on that day. We must never disgrace their memories; we can never forget that we represent them in our work. We can never forget that what we do every day and the dedication we bring to this beautiful profession reflects on the lessons that their bravery, sacrifice, and honor has taught us.

The mission of the American fire service this week was to face yet another hurricane. The country again needed firefighters to put themselves in harm's way. Without hesitation the USAR teams went Texas. They joined Texas Task Force One and began the job of cleaning up after Ike. More importantly, they went to accomplish the dangerous task of rescuing those who were unable or chose not to evacuate.

We are waiting to hear reports back from several of our friends who were deployed initially for Fay and were reassigned to Ike. We know they're working hard. We know they're doing what they need to do and we hope they all return safely. Being deployed into regions which have been flooded can be extremely dangerous. We were very pleased to see the authorities in Galveston and Houston take aggressive efforts in getting those cities evacuated, but again there were those who refused to evacuate.

While USAR teams around the country were being deployed by FEMA for Ike; firefighters from L.A. city, aided by their fire their brothers and sisters from L.A. County, we dealing with another tragedy. Two rail cars collided and at last report the death toll was 25. Hundreds were successfully rescued. The work of the L.A. city and L.A. County firefighters in rescuing those people was captured on live television. The pictures were very dramatic and the professionalism of those departments was very apparent. We'll be getting a detailed report from several firefighters from L.A. city who were on scene.

Every department that has a rail line nearby needs to be ready to respond to these challenging responses. Fire Engineering will continue to report on the lessons learned and on the challenges met in rail incidents. We will also continue to bring rail emergency education to our conference at FDIC every year. This is an area that requires constant attention--we must not let our guard down.

It was clear from the videos and from reports from the scene that the L.A. firefighters were prepared, that they were ready, and that the challenge was met.

posted by Bobby Halton
9/15/2008 12:03:00 AM

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