Vice President Kamala Harris praises IAFF members at the Alfred K. Whitehead Legislative Conference

March 12, 2024

Vice President Harris makes a surprise appearance at IAFF Conference

Vice President Kamala Harris praised the spirit and character of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) members during a surprise appearance at the 2024 Alfred K. Whitehead Legislative Conference.

Highlighting their commitment to public service and community welfare, Harris commended the fire fighters for their dedication to saving lives and serving others.

Her address underscored the administration’s ongoing support for fire fighters and its efforts to enhance their safety and resources.

General Secretary-Treasurer Frank Líma introduces Vice President

General Secretary-Treasurer Frank Líma, a fellow Californian, introduced Vice President Harris, noting her consistent support for IAFF members.

He recounted her advocacy for labour rights and fire fighter safety, dating back to her tenure as California’s Attorney General and U.S. Senator. Líma emphasized Harris’s commitment to dignity, healthcare, job safety, proper staffing, collective bargaining rights, and retirement dignity for IAFF members.

Administration’s commitment to fire fighters and SAFER and AFG grants

The Vice President stated that the Biden-Harris administration has been a steadfast ally of the fire fighters from the beginning.

She highlighted the administration’s priority of reauthorizing the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) and Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) grants.

Harris revealed the administration has secured $720 million in AFG and SAFER grants, plus an additional $50 million to provide essential resources to the fire service community.

Vice President Harris emphasizes fire fighter safety and staffing

Acknowledging the inherent risks of fire fighting, Harris emphasized the administration’s focus on ensuring fire fighter safety and adequate staffing.

She recognized that more fire fighters on duty enhances safety for all and affirmed her knowledge of the fire service’s challenges, particularly in handling wildfires.

Harris pointed to her efforts to adapt FEMA’s disaster relief protocols to better address wildfires, thereby aligning resources with fire fighters’ response strategies.

IAFF’s prominence in administration’s agenda

In her closing remarks, Vice President Harris highlighted the integral role of IAFF members in the nation’s community leadership.

She recognized them as role models, participating actively in their communities beyond their professional duties.

The Vice President’s visit to the conference marks a continued engagement by the Executive Branch, following President Joe Biden’s address at the 2023 conference, and her own attendance being a first for a vice president since then-VP Biden in 2015.

FSJA Comment

The Vice President’s appearance at the IAFF conference underscores the Biden-Harris administration’s acknowledgement of the critical role fire fighters play in American society.

The emphasis on fire fighter safety, proper staffing, and adequate resources reflects a broader understanding of the challenges faced by first responders.

The administration’s commitment to reauthorizing and funding the SAFER and AFG grants highlights a pragmatic approach to supporting these essential workers.

The ongoing dialogue between the IAFF and the administration demonstrates the importance of collaborative efforts in ensuring public safety and welfare.

This partnership, illustrated by Harris’s speech, represents a significant element in addressing the needs of fire fighters and enhancing their capacity to serve communities effectively.

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