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A Tribute to Our Firefighters

In honor of National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend, we asked Arlington Fire Chief James Schwartz to write a guest column.

This weekend, the nation’s fire service will honor those firefighters
 who died in the line of duty during 2009.  The names of 80 fire fighters
 who lost their lives in service to their communities will be added to
 the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in an annual ceremony at 
Emmitsburg, Maryland. The names of 25 firefighters who died in previous
 years will also be added. The plaques surrounding the Memorial, which
 was established in 1981, contain the names of more than 3,400 
fire fighters. Firefighters and fire department honor guards from across 
the country will gather to pay tribute to the lives of their fallen

Unfortunately, firefighting remains a dangerous profession.  Despite a 
reduction in the number of fires nationally, effective fire and rescue
 operations require firefighters to be in harm’s way.  Firefighters are frequently exposed to high temperatures and toxic products of combustion and they work around heavy, fast moving objects, all while wearing protective gear and equipment that weighs in excess of 60 pounds.  Rates of cancer and heart disease are higher among firefighters.

accept a measure of risk when they take the job, understanding that the 
ultimate sacrifice may be required to save the life of another under
 extreme circumstances. They do not accept this risk cavalierly. As a 
whole, the fire service continues to work tirelessly toward improvements 
that will reduce the number of firefighter injuries and fatalities.

Arlington County Fire Department has been fortunate; we have not
 suffered a line of duty death since 1982 when Firefighter Mike Miller
 lost his life.  Before the loss of Firefighter Miller, the department
 lost two captains in separate incidents.  On October 19, 1964 Captain
 Archie Hughes was lost after becoming trapped in the flashover of an 
attic fire. Captain Charles Theodore died of smoke inhalation while 
fighting a fire on June 24, 1961.  In a ceremony earlier this year, the 
department retired their badges.

Jim Schwartz, Chief
Arlington County Fire Department

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