Thanking General President Ed Kelly and calling the IAFF one of the country’s great organizations, President Joe Biden met with fire fighters Thursday near the Surfside condominium collapse.
“God made man and then he made a few fire fighters,” said President Biden after gathering earlier in the day to meet with Metro-Dade Local 1403 members and USAR Task Force members who have spent the past week working around the clock in the continuing search for survivors.
Accompanied by General Secretary-Treasurer Frank Líma, 12th District Vice President Walt Dix and Local 1403 President Billy McAllister, Kelly addressed the president’s comments and well wishes.
“God chose you to do his work on this Earth for those families,” Kelly said to his assembled IAFF brothers and sisters. “It’s your job to do your best, which is exactly what you are doing. We are all very, very proud.”
General President Kelly, General Secretary-Treasurer Líma, joined by Dix and McAllister, then visited with members of the first due companies, Metro Dade Engine 76 and Station 21. The outstanding work crew, including Captain Talf Parker and Engineer Carol Gabarneau, was recognized and the group shared some heartfelt moments, reflecting on the lives lost and people still not found. The heroic acts performed by Engine 76 resulted in dozens of lives saved, made possible by critical decisions in first few minutes by Lieutenant Jen Kerlin.
“The IAFF is so proud of your tireless work on behalf of the Surfside community, and rest assured we will be with you in the days and weeks ahead,” said General Secretary Treasure Frank Líma. Kelly told Local 1403 members. “The entire resources of the IAFF are here for you; just let us know what you need.”
McAllister thanked his local membership and spoke of his gratitude for the quick and overwhelming dedication of resources by the IAFF. “I called Edzo, and the wheels were put in motion to immediately get us whatever we needed,” he says. “Walt Dix has also been instrumental in ensuring that the resources needed were readily available to us.”
Dix praised the work of Local 1403 members. “We are so proud of each and every one of you, and your IAFF will be here for as long as needed with whatever is needed.”
The leadership visit with Engine 76 and Station 21 members was part of the IAFF’s continuing response to the Surfside tragedy. Peer support professionals from across the IAFF have been on scene providing behavioral health expertise.
In addition to peer support, the IAFF health and science experts have been dispatched to the scene, working to study the current and potential long-term effects to the toxic exposures encountered by our brothers and sisters.
“Our hearts are where they should be, with all those families affected by this terrible tragedy,” said Kelly. “At the same time, the considerable weight of our resources has been dedicated to the fire fighters on scene. We will do everything in our power to protect them and keep them safe and healthy, both now and into the future. I am so proud to work on behalf of the men and women of Local 1403. They are a shining example of the IAFF at its best.”