Fire service leaders identify 5 issues to help mitigate America’s fire problem

Fire Forum focused on efforts to quell the increasing number of fire deaths and improve firefighter safety


“We must use all our experience, knowledge and organizational facilities to solve our fire problems.”

This quote from President Harry S. Truman’s address to Congress on May 5, 1947, is part of the indelible mark President Truman left on the United States fire service. His unsung passion for fire prevention and fire safety is truly unmatched in the annals of presidential impact on the fire service.

I had the honor to attend the recent 17th Annual Harry S. Truman Legacy Symposium, which took place 72 years and one day after the release of “The Truman Report” from the 1947 Presidential Conference on Fire Prevention. Taking place on the historic grounds of the Harry S. Truman Little White House in Key West, Florida, the annual event covers various topics from the Truman presidency.

NFFF Executive Director Ron Siarnicki, NFFF Chairman Dennis Compton, Key West Truman Foundation Executive Director Jeanna Garrison, Historical Key West Tours of America Director of Operations Clinton Curry, First Responder Center for Excellence Chairman and former U.S. Fire Administrator Ernie Mitchell. (Photo/Marc Bashoor)
NFFF Executive Director Ron Siarnicki, NFFF Chairman Dennis Compton, Key West Truman Foundation Executive Director Jeanna Garrison, Historical Key West Tours of America Director of Operations Clinton Curry, First Responder Center for Excellence Chairman and former U.S. Fire Administrator Ernie Mitchell. (Photo/Marc Bashoor)

The symposium included a riveting presentation by President Truman’s grandson, Clifton Truman Daniel, who temporarily “transformed” into his grandfather to read the opening address from the original Presidential Conference in 1947 – and interestingly, the topics covered in that address still apply today.

This year’s event teamed up with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation to highlight President Truman’s fire service accomplishments. The NFFF extended the event with the Truman Fire Forum, sponsored in part by the National Fire Sprinkler Association.

While the symposium highlighted the Truman legacy and various important administration contributions to the fire service, the real “meat and potatoes” of the Fire Forum involved a revisit of the Truman Report. The NFFF brought together many of the members of the National Advisory Council for the Congressional Fire Service Institute, along with other fire service leaders and organizations from all over the United States, to address the country’s current fire problem in the context of the original Truman Report and find ways to improve civilian and firefighter safety.

Vina Drennan, widow of FDNY Captain John Drennan, spoke on the 25th anniversary of her husband’s death. She underscored that while fire loss is often drilled down to basic statistics, fire loss is personal and has long-term impacts on families and communities.

I was honored to stand with many of my peers and mentors, participating in this big-picture look at improving the fire problem in the United States. The number of citizens perishing in fires in the United States has been rising slowly yet steadily for the past few years. In comparison to other countries in the developed world and from a mission analysis perspective, there is a clear and real problem that needs fixing.

The NFFF will be facilitating follow-up meetings; however, after several hours of presentation and intense discussion among the group, five key takeaways resulted:

Kingsburg (California) Fire Chief Tim Sendelbach challenges the team to “move the ball forward” and work with external partners. (Photo/Marc Bashoor)
Kingsburg (California) Fire Chief Tim Sendelbach challenges the team to “move the ball forward” and work with external partners. (Photo/Marc Bashoor)
  1. Fire prevention – the overwhelming desire to incorporate prevention, as a whole, into basic and recruit training;
  2. Technology – the need to fully adapt to the advanced and evolving global digital culture of training and education;
  3. Data – the need to use data, research and science as a basis for the fire service’s efforts in bringing about change.
  4. Marketing – the desire to remake or repackage public marketing of prevention and safety messaging; and
  5. Fire sprinklers – the idea to make residential fire sprinklers a requirement for federal mortgages through the VA and HUD.

The 2019 report will be intended to supplement and complement the 1947 Truman Report.

FireRescue1 will be participating and following the process throughout.

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