Washington D.C. – Today, the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation held a hearing to examine the fire service community’s priorities for the future of the United States Fire Administration (USFA).  The objective of the USFA is to significantly reduce the loss of life and property due to fire by preparing first responders and health care leaders to react to all hazard and terrorism emergencies. Witnesses discussed the effectiveness of current training initiatives at USFA, and provided recommendations for future research, development, and training activities.

“Major wildfire blazes have affected my home state of Arizona,” noted Subcommittee Chairman Ben Quayle (R-AZ).  “Currently, there are hundreds of firefighters working to contain at least four blazes in central and eastern Arizona. This represents just a fraction of the thousands of first responders and firefighters who risk their lives each and every day battling fires across the country.  The USFA supports these individuals.  They don’t take their responsibilities lightly, and neither do I.”

The USFA has met its original reduction goal by bringing the number of fire-related fatalities well below six thousand per year.  However, more Americans die from fire-related incidents in residential structures than in all other natural and manmade disasters, and America’s fire death rate continues to be higher than most of the industrialized countries in the world.

The USFA Administrator, Mr. Ernest Mitchell, Jr., said today that “The public, media, and local governments are generally unaware of the magnitude and severity of the fire problem to individuals and their families, to communities, and to the Nation.”  Administrator Mitchell encouraged expanding initiatives to address fire service deployment strategies for events such as floods, hurricanes and terrorism. “USFA has and must continue to work with fire service stakeholders and partners to expand local fire service participation in emergency preparedness,” he said.

Representing the National Fire Protection Agency, Dr. John Hall, Jr. discussed how USFA continues to evolve.  “In the years since the USFA was founded, the fire service has transformed itself into an all-hazard emergency response force.” Dr. Hall continued, “As our technology takes on ever more varied forms and our lives and economies become ever more globally interconnected, we have asked our fire service to perform ever more varied tasks...”

Dr. Hall said that our first responders “have responded to every challenge and everything we have asked of them.  And for nearly 40 years, the USFA has been there to raise their capabilities and help address their needs.”

President of the Western Fire Chiefs Association, Chief Jim Critchley of the Tucson Fire Department said, “Despite its relatively small size, the USFA has a reputation for getting results.” Chief Critchley said the USFA serves a critical function in that it “provides the voice of America’s fire service within the federal government.”

The following witnesses testified today before the Subcommittee:
Mr. Ernest Mitchell, Jr., Administrator, United States Fire Administration
Dr. John R. Hall, Jr., Division Director, Fire Analysis and Research, National Fire Protection Association
Chief Jim Critchley, Tucson Fire Department; President, Western Fire Chiefs Association
Mr. Kevin O'Connor, Assistant to the General President for Governmental Affairs, International Association of Fire Fighters