I have the privilege today of representing the firefighters of today; the firefighters whose predecessors had the foresight and vision to form an association known throughout the world as the International Association of Fire Fighters. Today the firefighters from private to chief are members of our association, in over 800 cities in the United States and Canada.
We are here with you today because of the carelessness, the ignorance, the crime, and the neglect of others to take the ordinary safety precautions in the use of fire. The problem before us today is “What to do to prevent fires?” We have all participated in safety campaigns and we all know of the success of the campaigns against the epidemics of the past. Our greatest task is to fight that unsocial thing, that carelessness of man who lives unconscious of the rights and the interests of his neighbor; that man who toys with the great power of fire, irrespective of its effect. Our fight should be against that greed in society that will put shoddy work into its buildings and their materials, and that wretched spirit that would jeopardize the safety of the occupants in order to hear the jingling coins drop into their coffers. Our fight should be directed against the man who “fires to profit” or “burns for cash.” We have many of those types of fires and find great difficulty in convicting those guilty even when they are apprehended.
The problem before this Conference is not a new one. The fact that it is a serious problem is the reason you are here. President Truman is the first President who has had the foresight to do something about the problem of preventing fires with their resultant loss of life and property. He has called this Conference together and has told you of his sincere interest in finding a solution that will reduce this unnecessary loss of life and property.
When the President announced that a conference would be held, the International Association of Fire Fighters immediately advised him that its officers and members were wholeheartedly behind him and that the facilities of our organization, together with the services of its officers, were available to assist him in making the conference a success. Since that time representatives of our Association have collaborated with every committee in preparing the technical and scientific reports that have been presented to the Conference.
President Truman, while a Senator from Missouri, became very familiar with the work and objects of our association. He was one of many Senators who voted unanimously in favor of a bill, which Congress passed, permitting the firefighters of our Nation’s Capital to join our association. He was aware then, as he is now, that when any member of a fire department becomes a member of our association he becomes a member of a labor organization which has in its constitution the provision that “We shall not strike or take active part in any sympathetic strike, since the work of firefighters is different from that performed by any other workers, as we are employed to perform the duties of protecting the lives and property of communities in case of fire or other serious hazards.” [Applause.] Because of that knowledge he was familiar with the real courage and fidelity of the members of our organization. He knew that he and all his fellow Americans could depend on the members of the fire service to render every service in an endeavor to find a solution to the problem of preventing fires.
On September 5, 1946, President Truman wrote to the delegates and members of our association: