Fire Fighters Praise Confirmation of Ridge

International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) President Harold Schaitberger applauded Senate confirmation of Tom Ridge as the first secretary of the newly-created Homeland Security Department but said Ridge has a big job ahead of him.

Schaitberger warned that the nation's fire departments and other first responders are not prepared to handle a terrorist attack.

"Tom Ridge is the right man for the job and the IAFF looks forward to continuing to work with him on the vital issues of Homeland Security," said Schaitberger. "The IAFF will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that our nation's first responders are ready for any crisis and we hope that Secretary Ridge will help the IAFF secure adequate funding for our nation's domestic defenders."

Schaitberger noted two-thirds of U.S. fire departments under-staffed and many lack the appropriate training and equipment to deal with an incident involving weapons of mass destruction. "We need to act now to provide them the resources they need – before the next attack," he added.

One of Ridge's first hurdles will be to translate President George W. Bush's ambitious proposals into reality, Schaitberger said. "After September 11, the president pledged $3.5 billion for first responders. Fire fighters, city and county governments, and the American public is still waiting," he commented.

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