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Powerful words about painful events

New documentary from NFFF shows the fire chief perspective on line-of-duty deaths

“Never in my life would I have thought I would pick up a NIOSH report and read my department’s name,” says Chief Scott Burnette of the Asheville (NC) Fire Department as he recalls the details of the 2011 line-of-duty death of Captain Jeffery Bowen.

So begins the new documentary from the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, “Giving Courage: LODD Chiefs Speak.” Twelve chiefs representing every type of department –metropolitan and rural, career, volunteer and wildland – share the grim realities of coping with a line-of-duty death.

These men and women see themselves and others who’ve dealt with this tragedy as members of the fire service club that no one wants to join; but too many do. The goal with this film is to help other fire chiefs and fire leaders avoid the losses they’ve endured.

“At Emmitsburg you see the flags go down every time a firefighter is killed in the line of duty,” says Charlie Dickinson, Retired Chief of the Pittsburgh (PA) Fire Bureau. “It’s a stark reminder that as fire chiefs or commanders of departments, it’s our nightmare come true.”

Dickinson and the others do not mince words as they share the painful details from their experiences and offer insights for preventing future tragedies. The overarching message from everyone in the video is the inherent value in preparation, training and education.

“Remember training and discipline is really what matters. It’s going to keep you safe. Train every single day like your life depends on it, because it truly does,” says Commissioner Michael Lombardo (Ret.), Buffalo (NY) Fire Department.

Funding for the 30-minute documentary was made possible through DHS/FEMA’s Grant Program Directorate for Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program and was produced by Coolwater Multimedia.