“It sometimes surprises people when I tell them that the most dangerous threat to the health and safety of fire fighters is not from fires and it is not from vehicle accidents. It is from cancer,” said Schaitberger. “Cancer is a looming personal catastrophe for all our members, and we are just beginning to understand the magnitude of the problem.”
Schaitberger was joined by the sponsors of the legislation, Representatives Richard Hanna (R-NY), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Representative Peter King (R-NY) and Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA) also spoke in support of the bill.
Speaking on behalf of the IAFF, President of the Professional Fire Fighters of Maryland Michael Rund – himself a cancer survivor – said, “Everyone who becomes a fire fighter is aware of the potential for danger. Despite the danger of our occupation, we take the risk every day knowing that we have been properly trained and having the faith that our training will help keep us safe. However, there is one thing no training can prepare you for: the words ‘you have cancer.’”
Multiple scientific studies have found higher rates of cancer in fire fighters, cancers ranging from multiple myeloma, brain cancer, leukemia, prostate cancer, kidney and lung cancers and many others. A 2013 study by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) found that fire fighters have a 14 percent increased risk of dying from cancer than the general population.
Unfortunately, the problem may be worse than these studies indicate. The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act would collect more and better data, on a scale never before implemented, on the incidence of fire fighter cancer. This information will help scientists better understand the link between the disease and the occupation, an understanding which will hopefully translate into better treatment and prevention strategies.
The Registry Act is currently pending before two congressional committees. Support for the legislation grows every day, and the IAFF will continue working with its friends in Congress to build support for the bill to make a national fire fighter cancer registry a reality.
The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department is mourning the death of one of our own and praying for the best of a second member. Firefighter/Medic John E. Ulmschneider was shot and killed while on a call Friday evening. A Morningside Volunteer Firefighter, Kevin Swain, was shot multiple times and at last check was undergoing surgery.
At around 7:30 pm, Friday, April 15, fire/EMS units from Morningside Fire/EMS Station 827 and Paramedic Ambulance from Forestville Fire/EMS Station 823 with Ulmschneider on-board were alerted for a “check on the welfare” call whereas a family member could not contact another family member that resides in a home in the 5000 block of Sharon Road in Temple Hills.
After arriving on the scene and receiving no answer to knocks on the door and fearing for the occupants welfare a decision was made to force entry into the house to check on the occupant. As personnel initiated forcible entry several shots were fired from within the house striking Ulmschneider, Swain and a family member that called 911 initially. The home occupant/shooter quickly surrendered upon orders from the police.
Fire Fighter/Medic Ulmschneider, 37 years of age, was transported in extremely critical condition to Med Star Southern Maryland Hospital Center in Clinton suffering from a gunshot wound to the upper body. Despite the very best efforts of medics and hospital staff Ulmschneider succumbed to his injuries a short time after arriving at the hospital. John “Skillet” Ulmschneider lived in St. Mary’s County and was a 13-year member of the Fire/EMS Department. His normal duty assignment is at Landover Hills Fire/EMS Station 830. He leaves behind a wife and 2-year-old daughter.
Morningside Volunteer Fire Fighter Kevin Swain, 19 years of age, was flown from the scene by way of Maryland State Trooper 2 to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. He was in surgery at last check and listed in Serious Condition. Swain is expected to survive his injuries.
A third person, an adult male civilian, sustained a gunshot wound to his shoulder and transported to a local hospital for treatment. He was in Fair condition,
The County Police Department continues to investigate the incident.
Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor informed the Department of the Line of Duty Death and asked, “Please keep all of our folks and their families in your thoughts and prayers as we work through this difficult time.”
Andrew Pantelis, President of the Prince George’s County Firefighters and Paramedics Association Local 1619, said in a written statement to his members, “This is a day that we have all dreaded in our minds. We are keenly aware of the dangers of our profession but we all have hoped that God would continue to look over and protect us. Now that tragedy has stricken us, we must not fall apart but stand strong and band together to support Skillet's family and those who are closest to him.”
As additional details, including funeral arrangements, become available they will be posted.
Each year, youth firesetting leads to an alarming number of injuries, deaths and property damage. To address this growing and overlooked problem, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) initiated the Youth Firesetting Information Repository and Evaluation System (YFIRES) to serve as a national database, as well as a resource at the local level, for developing intervention programs and other efforts to reduce youth firesetting.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, fires set by youth between 2007 and 2011 caused annual averages of 80 civilian deaths, 860 civilian injuries and $235 million in property damage. Tragically, victims are often children who suffer physically and mentally as a result.
But even with these numbers, youth firesettting incidents are under-reported.
Working with other youth firesetting intervention groups, the IAFF – with funding provided through DHS/FEMA's Grant Program Directorate for Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program- Fire Prevention and Safety Grants – began the project to create a centralized data collection tool to assist youth firesetting intervention services in a number of disciplines (fire, mental health, law enforcement, family services).
Pilot testing of the YFIRES database began in January 2015 with organizations/agencies from throughout the United States that track youth firesetting incidences in their communities. The information collected from fire service, law enforcement, juvenile justice, mental health and burn prevention community programs will help generate greater awareness and understanding of youth firesetting behavior and support evidence-based intervention strategies.
"For decades, youth firesetting has been a significant concern within the fire service," says General President Harold Schaitberger. "But without valid and reliable data on this issue, effective fire service and community based intervention has been difficult. This national database will serve as a much needed resource.”
The YFIRES database is now being launched nationwide, with the goal of having every youth firesetting intervention program throughout the U.S. collect and share anonymous data by 2018.
For more information about the Youth Firesetting Information Repository and Evaluation System (YFIRES) or to register a youth firesetting intervention program, visit www.yfires.com.