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America Burning
Current Issues and Events

America Burning: 50 Years of Fire Safety and Prevention

Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell

Posted: May 4, 2023,
by U.S. Fire Administrator
Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell, DrPH, MPH

Today is International Firefighters' Day. We set aside May 4 to recognize and honor the contributions and sacrifices of firefighters around the world, paying tribute to the bravery and selflessness of firefighters who risk their lives every day to protect their communities from fires and other emergencies.

Today also marks the 50th anniversary of the release of America Burning, the National Commission on Fire Prevention and Control's comprehensive study of fire safety and prevention that revealed the tremendous scourge of fire on the nation. The America Burning report was a watershed moment in the history of the fire service and fire safety and prevention in the United States. It highlighted the need for a comprehensive and coordinated approach involving government agencies, industry and the public to address fire safety and it galvanized support for reforms.

Since the report's release in 1973, many of its recommendations have been implemented, leading to significant improvements in fire safety and prevention across the country. For example, the commission recommended the creation of a federal agency to encourage solutions to fire safety problems. This resulted in the establishment of the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and its National Fire Academy under the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974.

The USFA and national fire service organizations have been working together to develop comprehensive and actionable solutions to fire-related challenges. Today, these challenges include wildfires due to climate change, improvements in codes and standards to protect vulnerable citizens, mental health support for first responders, reduction in cancer-causing chemicals affecting firefighters, recruitment programs for a diverse and well-trained American fire service, and access to accurate and reliable data. Timely, quality data and powerful analytic tools are essential to equipping fire and emergency services leaders with actionable intelligence to inform decision-making for both planning and preparedness and lifesaving response operations.

Although substantial strides forward have been made, there is still much work to be done and the report's recommendations remain relevant and important. The America Burning report showed that while some fire-related matters are the responsibility of local communities, fire safety is a national issue that demands unwavering and concerted action. It requires national resources, coordination, collaboration and standardization involving a range of stakeholders from government, industry, non-profit institutions, academia and engaged citizens.

Fire Is Everyone's Fight.® The USFA cannot do it alone. We need every national, state, local, tribal and territorial fire service agency to engage. We also need every individual to act to make themselves savable. Whether it is a smoke alarm, a sprinkler or closing the doors, help firefighters help you. Together we can save lives. Together, we can prevent America from burning. #FireServiceOneVoice

America Burning PDF