Cooperation among various agencies key, fire chiefs say

Grand Junction firefighter Patrick Dibsie was one of six firefighters who helped release white doves in front of the Old Mesa County Courthouse this morning as part of the eighth annual September 11 Remembrance Day Ceremony, presented by the Mesa State College AmeriCorps Projects.

In the eight years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., firefighters have become more closely connected — literally and electronically.

The price, however, of the closer connection, was high, said the fire chiefs on both ends of the Grand Valley after a commemoration Friday at the old Mesa County Courthouse in downtown Grand Junction.

The lawn in front of the courthouse was lined with 343 flags placed by AmeriCorps staffers, each one standing for one of the New York Fire Department’s dead in the response to the fire and destruction of the World Trade Center towers.

The inability of emergency agencies to communicate about the danger of rushing into the towers even as they were about to collapse contributed significantly to the death toll of nearly 3,000 people.

Firefighters have learned from the experience, Lower Valley Fire Protection District Chief Frank Cavaliere said.

“We’ve put a lot of barriers aside,” in order to coordinate more closely with other firefighting and law enforcement agencies, not least by sharing radio frequencies and working to find ways to act more in concert, Cavaliere said.

The point of cooperation is driven home frequently, said Cavaliere, who travels at least once and often twice a year to his native New Jersey. There, his brother, David, is a firefighter who worked to clean up the destroyed buildings.

As painful as the recollection of 9/11 is, “We need to have these memories,” Cavaliere said, gesturing toward the flags.

Since the attacks, not only have firefighters worked to coordinate among themselves, but they also have worked to better understand the buildings they protect, Palisade Fire Chief Richard Rupp said.

Fire agencies now collect more information about the building materials,  construction methods, exits and so on about any building in which they might have to battle a blaze,  Rupp said.

Better preparation of firefighters is one of the small things to grow from the destruction of 9/11, Rupp said, but the shame is: “Things don’t get changed until somebody dies.”


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