International Firefighters Day recognized in Westchester

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WHITE PLAINS – County Executive George Latimer saluted Westchester’s firefighters today (Tuesday) in honor of International Firefighters Day,  Latimer praised the first responders for the courageous and skillful service they continually provide across the County, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Every day firefighters go out and risk their lives to protect property and life. Any of us who have ever been proximate to a fire realize the bravery that it takes to run to the fire when the rest of us as civilians run from the fire as fast as we can,” Latimer said. “We really respect them and on this day we want to honor them.”

International Firefighters Day, which is observed annually on May 4 was launched after five firefighters lost their lives while battling a large brush fire on that date in 1988 in Australia.

The County Executive was joined at his Covid briefing by members of the Westchester County Department of Emergency Services. Deputy Commissioner Susan Spear, Fire Division Chief William Dingee, and Chief of Training Luci Labriola-Cuffe accepted a proclamation from the County Executive on behalf of all members of the fire service in Westchester. The proclamation marking International Firefighters Day will be mounted at the County’s fire training center in Valhalla, where Westchester’s 58 fire department train.

Members of the career and volunteer fire service sent congratulatory messages to recognize the service of Westchester’s firefighters.

“The Westchester County Career Fire Chiefs Association is proud to honor firefighters from right here in Westchester County and all around the world on International Firefighters Day,” said Chief Howard Reiss of the Fairview Fire Department. “The level of personal sacrifice, commitment to training in numerous emergency and rescue disciplines, and the dedication to public service in each and every firefighter is why firefighters are so well respected.  We would be remiss if we failed to recognize Westchester County Executive George Latimer and the entire staff at the Westchester County Department of Emergency Services for providing the highest level of training, equipment, and support to our firefighters.”

Chief Jeff Peck of the Vista Volunteer Fire Department said: “Over the past year members of the Vista Volunteer Fire Department have been tested at a level they have never seen before due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Vista Volunteer Fire Department members have had to not only deal with the outside stresses of making sure their child is getting the education they need during their remote learning, working from home rather than the office they were accustomed to, or simply trying to live their everyday lives during a global pandemic, but also to take the little spare time they have and continue responding to protect life and property to the Vista Fire District community. This past year has been a challenge and our members join the thousands of both Volunteer and Career Firefighters in Westchester County who stepped up in a huge way to continue serving their community and being there when it mattered the most. The dedication and sacrifice of all Westchester County firefighters during the Covid-19 pandemic has been extraordinary.”

Latimer also expressed his appreciation to the staff at the Department of Emergency Services and noted that its Cause & Origin Teams are marking 40 years of service this year.

Jim Cuffe, Deputy Fire Coordinator, Westchester County Cause and Origin Teams, said, “In honor of International Firefighters Day, and in conjunction with the U. S. Fire Administration’s Arson Awareness Week, we would like to recognize the fire investigators on the Westchester County Cause and Origin Team.  Deputy Fire Coordinator Eugene Malone III and I commend the women and men that serve our County and applaud their dedication and professionalism.  Our exceptional fire investigators are the vital component in this mission and we thank them for their continued hard work.”