Biden announces 3 decommissioned Philadelphia fire companies are reopening with federal funds

President Joe Biden announced Monday that three decommissioned fire companies were being reopened with federal funding, including a ladder truck that would have been the closest responder to a deadly rowhouse blaze started when a Christmas tree caught fire last year.

The companies — Engine 6, Ladder 1 and Ladder 11 — were decommissioned during the Great Recession. Union leaders have said the cutbacks hampered the city's response to a deadly rowhouse fire in the Fairmount neighborhood last year. Three adults and nine children were killed in the blaze. Mayor Jim Kenney said firefighters sat on the stoop in tears, unable to save all the victims. Biden said that had the company been operational, it might have turned out differently.

"This neighborhood once again has a ladder company on-call 24 hours a day," Biden said. "On the day of the Fairmont fire, if the company hadn't been decommissioned Ladder 1 would have been the closest truck to the fire. God only knows whether it would have been able to get there earlier ... and maybe save some lives."

The president's brief remarks — roughly eight minutes before he headed to a fundraiser for his reelection campaign — come as he's trying to show the nation as 2024 looms how his policies are benefitting regular Americans with "kitchen table" problems. The Democratic president is also ramping up his fundraising as he prepares for a potential rematch with Republican former President Donald Trump next year.

During the fundraiser, Biden warned donors there would be a global outcry if Trump were to win.

"Folks, we are the essential nation, after all," Biden said. "We truly are. There’s not an international event that I’ve attended — not one — where the rest of the world doesn’t come up to me, leaders no matter what country they’re from, and say, ‘You can’t let him win. You can’t let him win.’"

There were roughly 100 people at the event.


Philadelphia fire: State and local leaders react to fatal fire that claimed 12 lives

Philadelphia city leaders have reacted to a fatal fire that claimed the lives of thirteen Wednesday morning.

The city of Philadelphia is receiving $22.4 million to pay for 72 firefighters’ salaries and benefits for three years. The money comes from the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program, which is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and was made available through last year’s budget.

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and U.S. Fire Administrator Lori Moore-Merrell also attended the event. 

Philadelphia has roughly 2,700 firefighters at 63 stations for a population of 1.5 million. Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said Biden's presence in the firehouse Monday showed the Democrat "gave a damn."

"Not just about the city of Philadelphia, not just about those who run toward danger or the firefighters here at Ladder 1, the great women and men of the Philadelphia Fire Department, but he gives a damn about this community," Thiel said.

Ed Kelly, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, and Mike Bresnan, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 22 also attended.

"When the worst happens, when those alarms go off, when everything and everyone you live is in danger, there's no better sight in the world than a firefighter ready to go work," Biden said.

 Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel spoke of the 26 fire deaths this year and urged residents to check their smoke detectors as the weather grows colder.