June 21, 2005
Firefighters risk their lives every day to save others, but sometimes firefighters end up being the victims. Starting today, local firefighters and national fire departments are "standing down" for safety, hoping to learn from their tragedy.
The bell rang and there was a moment of silence in remembrance of 50 lives lost in the line-of-duty since May 1. That's 10 more U.S. firefighters than at the same time last year.
"We want to bring to everybody's attention that [that number] is just way too many people," said Battalion Chief Jeff Garrison, of the Charlottesville Fire Department.
"We decided it was time to take a step forward and do something to try to halt this alarming statistic," said Chief Robert DiPoli, the President of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
Starting today, FEMA and other firefighters organizations around the country conducted a "stand down" for safety program that aimed at firefighters health and well-being. The number one cause of death for a firefighter is a heart attack.
"We don't want anybody not being healthy because of stress," said a firefighter.
Ironically, structural fires themselves cause the least amount of deaths, but some still said it happens too often. "Sometimes we get focused on what we are doing to try to mitigate the emergency and handle it, and we put our safety second," said Garrison.
Fire officials hope as they spent time investigating these instances, others will learn from their mistakes and history won't repeat itself.
"As far as going into fires and having a game plan, and seeing what in the past has been done wrong, and today and in the future what we can do to change that," said Lance Blakey, of the Charlottesville Fire Department.
"We understand it's a dangerous job, but at the end of the shift we want everybody to be able to go home," said Garrison.
Through lessons learned some firefighters feel they can do their job better and safer.
The Charlottesville Fire Department will be conducting the stand down for the next 3 days, so that every firefighter, no matter what shift they work, will be able to participate.