Federal Shutdown Could Disrupt Ceremony for Fallen Firefighters

A national memorial service for fallen firefighters would lose access to a venue, and other needed facilities, if the federal government shutdown persists.
by | October 1, 2013
FlickrCC/tigerschmittendorf

As states and localities assess the impact of the federal government shutdown, at least one group of local government workers will be directly affected: mourning firefighters.

READ: Full coverage of the federal shutdown's impact on states and localities.

The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, a nonprofit that helps surviving relatives and co-workers of deceased firefighters, hosts an annual national memorial service to remember fallen firefighters. This year 81 names are to be added to bronze plaques at a monument on the grounds of the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Md. In the past, the main Sunday morning ceremony has attracted members of Congress, federal administration officials and even former President George W. Bush.

A prolonged shutdown would cause several problems, says Ron Siarnicki, executive director for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. For one, the services take place on land owned by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). That means the venue for both the Saturday evening candlelight service and the Sunday morning memorial ceremony would be closed if the government shuts down.

READ: What the Shutdown Means for State and Local Governments

Firefighters and their families from across the country come to Emmitsburg for the weekend, and some 350 people expect to use on-campus dorms during the weekend. The Foundation also contracts with a dining hall on campus to feed guests on Saturday night and Sunday. Neither the dorms nor the dining hall would be available if the shutdown lasts through the weekend.

“It’s going to be a bit of a nightmare in terms of logistics,” Siarnicki says. “But it is what it is.”

The Foundation does have back-up venues that aren't dependent on the federal government keeping its doors open. The group will post updates about the event at www.firehero.org.

Governing's Ryan Holeywell and Liz Farmer have additional reporting on the larger consequences of a federal shutdown here.

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