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Mr. Speaker, we have some important legislation before us today. House Resolution 729 expresses support for designation of a National Firefighters Memorial Day, and I am honored to be the sponsor of this legislation. Also, I want to thank Chairman Towns for bringing this legislation to the floor, and the other 59 cosponsors of this legislation.
The legislation is to honor the dedication and sacrifices of firefighters and the dedication they make every day to keep families and our communities safe. In 2007, there were over 1.1 million firefighters in the United States. Of these, about a third are professional firefighters in the sense that they are career firefighters. But the other 825,000 are all volunteer firefighters. What that means, Mr. Speaker, is they volunteer their services to protect the communities they live in and the people who live around those communities, but they have other jobs to support their families.
One of the volunteer fire departments in Harris County, Texas, is the Atascocita fire department. They still drive around with those reds trucks with the big American flag on the back, something that started after 9/11.
There are 30,000 fire departments that operate in the United States. It is time for the Nation to recognize and honor the bravery and create a National Firefighters Memorial Day to honor Federal, State, and local firefighters who have been killed or disabled in the line of duty. These brave men and women deserve our respect and our gratitude. The time has come for us to create a National Firefighters Memorial Day.
Congress, several years ago, created a National Law Enforcement Memorial Day that we honor and recognize even here on this Capitol grounds every May 15, and it is time that we also recognize and elevate the sacrifices that firefighters have made to a national memorial day as well.
This past Easter Sunday in Houston, Texas, we had two Houston firefighters killed in a house fire saving two people. They were Captain James Harlow who had been a veteran of the fire department for many years, and a rookie, Damian Hobbs. This happened to be his very first fire, and he was killed in that tragic incident. The people in that house were rescued, but after the fire was over with and before the two firefighters were brought from that house, other firefighters from the Houston area came to the home and assembled in two lines as their bodies were brought from the ashes of that fire.
Firefighters are a unique and rare breed. They not only protect and serve our communities, but they are very loyal to each other. The last firefighters killed in the Houston area were also important firefighters, and their names are:
Grady Burke was killed in a fire started by a man that was trying to light a crack pipe.
Kevin Kulow was killed in the El Festival ballroom in a fire set by a man who was trying to get back at his estranged wife. The building burned down, and Officer Kulow was killed.
Captain Jay Jahnke was killed in a high-rise fire in the Galleria area of Houston, Texas.
Also, two firefighters were killed while they were putting out a fire at a McDonald's restaurant in southwest Houston. Their names were Lewis Mayo and Kim Smith.
All communities are affected by fires, and all communities are affected by the fact that firefighters, men and women that wear that uniform, sometimes are disabled, injured, or killed protecting the rest of us.
Mr. Speaker, there is a fire in the United States every 20 seconds. There are 1.6 million fires in the United States every year. Some of those are caused by accident, but many of those are caused by arson. Every year there is an average of 100 firefighters somewhere in the 50 States and our territories that are killed in the line of duty, and some of those are volunteers and some of those are career firefighters. In 2008, there were 118 firefighters killed in the line of duty.
Of course we all remember September 11, 2001, which raised the awareness of the first responders in our country and what they do for the rest of us. When on September 11, 2001, as many people remember when the World Trade Center was attacked, when the Pentagon was attacked, and when there was a plane that crashed trying to protect the rest of us from an attack in Pennsylvania, someone had to respond to those tragedies, and they were our first responders.
Many of the firefighters that responded at the World Trade Center went into those buildings and never came out. Later on September 11, 2001, while many people like myself were watching the video of what was taking place specifically in New York City, observed that when those planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the north and south tower, a lot of folks, thousands of people, good people, but when those planes hit the World Trade Center, Mr. Speaker, those people were running as hard as they could to get away from that terror in the sky. There were other people that when those planes hit the World Trade Center, when they hit the Pentagon over here, they were running as hard as they could to get to that terror that occurred at the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon.
Who were those people? Well, they were the Port Authority in New York, they were New York City police officers, and they were firefighters and emergency medical technicians.
While it is important for us to always remember the 3,000 people that were killed on September 11, 2001, it's equally important for us to remember the hundreds that got to live because those first responders ran into those burning buildings and saved other people. Of those responders, there were 37 Port Authority officers killed, there were 23 New York City police officers, and there were 343 firefighters, including 41 of those who were emergency medical technicians. They gave their lives so that others could live.
That is what they do; that is what firefighters do. When they hear the alarm, they know they are going to danger, but because they are a special breed, a rare breed, they do that. They do that because their community and the people are important. And they rush into that fire, whether it's a home that's burning in Houston, Texas, or whether it's an attack on America in New York City. So we honor them by passing this resolution to give them a special memorial day.
Every year in October, we recognize the sacrifice and the commitment that these firefighters do for this country and for the people of this Nation.
And that's just the way it is.