By Victor Stagnaro, CEO

As CEO of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF), my priority – and that of the organization – is already determined through our mission statement. While you may be familiar with the NFFF, I’d like to share a few specific examples of how we will fulfill our mission this year.

The first part of our mission is to honor and remember America’s fallen firefighters. And really, everything we do reflects this. Whether it’s a virtual support Zoom call with family members of fallen firefighters; maintenance of the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Park; or a new training program on the Fire Hero Learning Network – all of our programs and resources honor our nation’s fallen firefighters.

The annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend is May 4-5 this year in Emmitsburg, Maryland. This weekend serves as an opportunity for us to unite as a nation and pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Our goal is to bring support and comfort to the families of our fallen heroes and ensure them that the time-honored fire service tradition of honoring the fallen will serve as a way to remember them-and express gratitude for their service.

I am always in awe watching family members -those of newly honored firefighters as well as those returning from past years-supporting each other during Memorial Weekend. If you have never attended, I highly encourage you to mark your calendars and come to Emmitsburg this spring and join us to to pay tribute to our nation’s fallen.

The second part of our mission is to support fallen firefighters’ families, colleagues, and fire departments. The family members of our fallen firefighters will always be our top priority. Recognizing their diverse needs, we offer programs tailored for parents, spouses/partners, adult children, men, and children/stepchildren. These events provide emotional support and peer support, which strengthens the bonds between families whose loved one died serving their community.

One  example of how we support the colleagues and fire departments of fallen firefighters is our Uniformed Peer Support Groups, which connect firefighters who have been involved in a line-of-duty death. These groups are open to active duty and retirees. If you or someone you know was the chief, company officer, or incident commander of a line-of-duty death, please reach out to Chief Ian Bennett (ibennett@firehero.org) for more information on the Uniformed Support Groups.

The final part of our mission is to work to reduce preventable firefighter death and injury. You may be familiar with the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives created 20 years ago. To commemorate this anniversary, we will be holding a conference later this year to reflect on the progress made during the past 20 years-and determine the most effective way to continue improving firefighters’ health and safety.

We cannot do this work alone, and we are very fortunate to have collaborative partnerships with many fire departments and fire service organizations from around the country. We are honored to be part of the #FireServiceOneVoice initiative of the U.S. Fire Administration. By uniting all stakeholders within the fire service community, our collective voice serves the needs and interests of firefighters nationwide.

In addition, the Foundation is working with the U.S. Fire Administration on two consequential events in 2024. The first is the World Fire Congress in May, which is bringing together international fire service leaders for knowledge sharing, collaboration, and fostering a global network of fire service professionals. Then, in October, we will again partner with the U.S. Fire Administration on the 3rd U.S. Fire Administrator’s Summit on Fire Prevention and Control. These events and partnerships ensure that crucial issues are addressed to better serve the brave men and women who risk their lives daily to keep our communities safe.

Everyone can play a role in supporting the mission of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Together, we can make a difference and ensure that our fallen firefighters are honored and remembered meaningfully. This year, please consider getting engaged by becoming an NFFF Fire Service Advocate, following us on social media, attending our fire service events, or participating in our stair climb or golf fundraising events. The best place to start is our website, firehero.org.

Throughout the year, we will highlight different divisions of the NFFF in articles in Fire News. We thank Fire News for allowing us this opportunity to showcase the important work being done at the NFFF as we strive to fulfill our mission.

As we march through 2024, let us carry a sense of hope and determination. Together, we can continue to honor our fallen firefighters, support their families, and work toward a safer future for those who serve our communities. The NFFF welcomes all who wish to join us in our mission.