After GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney made it out of fire-ravaged Colorado yesterday, without having to answer questions about prior campaign-trail statements disparaging calls for “more firefighters,” a press release this morning from Aurora firefighters via the Colorado AFL-CIO brings the issue to the fore–hitting both Romney, and Colorado congressional Republicans who have voted to cut firefighting and other public safety funds since 2010.
Following reports Mitt Romney met with fire officials in Colorado Springs yesterday, Colorado firefighters are questioning his support for them. Romney has said “we don’t need more firefighters”, opposes federal legislation that helps firefighters, and also supports the radical Ryan budget, which would gut firefighting support by 19%. Colorado Representatives Coffman, Gardner, and Tipton all voted for the Ryan budget.
“Firefighters don’t need another photo-op in front of the cameras with someone who doesn’t care about us,” said Randy Rester, President of Aurora Fire Fighters Local 1290, an affiliate of the Colorado AFL-CIO. “What we need is someone who has our back with personnel, equipment, pensions, and health care. Mitt Romney doesn’t back Colorado firefighters where it counts. And neither do any of the Colorado members who support firefighting budget cuts.”
On June 8th in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Romney made comments disparaging Barack Obama for wanting more fireman, policeman and teachers. Romney also opposes both the SAFER Act and the FIRE Act, which provide personnel and equipment for local fire departments across the country. Since 2010, Republicans have cut the federal firefighting budget by more than $200 million, and the Ryan budget would accelerate that process at the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), the United States Forest Service, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
With nearly all of the Western United States under a high fire alert and fires burning in Colorado, Mitt Romney’s comments are not only irresponsible, but also pose a serious risk to public safety. And the votes by Coffman, Gardner, and Tipton for cuts to firefighting support could have a devastating impact on their communities for years to come.
“Given the severe fire danger right now is there anyone who really believes we need less firefighters?” said Aurora firefighter Steve Clapham. “The American people need leaders who will invest in firefighters and in public safety. We need the support of politicians who understand the importance of the job that we do.”