The Lead

Biden presents $22.4 million in federal funding to Philadelphia Fire Department

By: - December 11, 2023 5:35 pm

President Joe Biden, (l) greets Executive Chief of Philadelphia Fire Department Derek Bowmer during a visit to Ladder 1 in Philadelphia on Dec. 11, 2023 (screen capture)

During a visit to Philadelphia on Monday, President Joe Biden recalled two incidents where firefighters came to his rescue. He suffered an aneurysm at his Delaware home in 1988, and had to get to Walter Reed Hospital in a heavy snowstorm. “They saved my life,” he said. And firefighters responded to a fire at his Delaware home in 2004, and safely evacuated his wife Jill. 

“I think the most frightening thing anybody could do is run into a fire,” Biden said.

The president was in the city to present a $22.4 million SAFER grant that will be used to reopen several fire companies in the city. Biden spoke at a fire company in the city’s Fairmount neighborhood, where Ladder 1 was one of seven fire companies across the city that closed in 2009.

“For the first time in over 15 years, this neighborhood once again has a ladder company on call 24 hours a day, 365 days, and you’re ready to keep them safe,” Biden told the small gathering of local elected leaders and firefighters. 

If it had not been decommissioned, Biden noted, Ladder 1 would have been the closest company to the January 2022 house fire in Fairmount that killed 12 people, nine of them children, after a Christmas tree caught fire. 

“God only knows whether they would have been able to get there earlier to save lives,” Biden said. “When I spoke to the city officials here I told them I would do everything I could to bring Ladder 1 back in service, as well as others.”

Mayor Jim Kenney, whose tenure concludes at the end of the year, recalled the day of the Fairmount fire as one of his saddest as mayor. “Many people worked very hard to get Ladder 1 back into the firehouse because we know that its presence will make our neighborhoods safer,” Kenney said. “I’m incredibly thankful to our federal partners for recognizing and supporting the city’s need to reopen this fire company as well as several others across Philadelphia.”

After the firehouse stop, Biden headed to a fundraiser reception at the Hilton Hotel at Penn’s Landing where he was introduced by Gov. Josh Shapiro, who described the differences between the president and his likely GOP opponent former President Donald Trump. 

We have a choice between that goodness, that moral clarity, and someone who will bring chaos back to this nation,” Shapiro said, according to the White House pool report.

Biden told the audience at the reception that “you guys in Philadelphia have been the backbone of my campaign since I started.” 

It marked the president’s ninth visit to Philadelphia of 2023. 

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Kim Lyons
Kim Lyons

Kim Lyons is a veteran western Pennsylvania journalist who has covered people and trends in politics and business for local and national publications. Follow her on Threads @social_kimly

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