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Remarks of Frederick F. Postel, Chief of Department,
at the Meritorious Awards Ceremony
September 18, 1990

I wish to thank all of you for being here to participate in this tribute to San Francisco firefighters.

They are all being honored for taking personal risks to help others, and for extending themselves beyond what is required of them.

Tonight, we take time to honor and to pay tribute, not only to these award recipients, but to all San Francisco firefighters for a job well done.

Firefighting requires teamwork, and the San Francisco Fire Department is a superb team. The efforts of every member of the Fire Department team supported these honorees, and enabled them to accomplish what they did.

The first anniversary of the worst disaster to hit San Francisco since 1906 is about one month away. That disaster showed the people of San Francisco – and the entire world – this Department at its best, and our best is pretty good.

Most people consider San Francisco firefighters heroes because of this disaster, and they are. But our firefighters are heroes day in and day out. San Francisco firefighters continually extend themselves beyond what is required, showing courage and excellence. They are there, whenever and wherever they are needed.

There is no Civil Service test for heroism. There are no manuals at the Drill Tower that teach someone how to be a hero. Bravery can't be found "in the books" when studying for an exam.

Heroism comes from within the individual, and the San Francisco Fire Department has many heroes.

On October 17, and throughout the years, heroism has been exhibited in many ways.

Firefighters left their families and returned to duty to protect San Francisco.

San Francisco firefighters went into quake-damaged buildings to put out fires and rescue victims.

San Francisco firefighters returned to the City over damaged freeways and bridges.

Some San Francisco firefighters responded back to duty from out of state.

Some San Francisco firefighters on disability returned to duty because of the threat to the City.

In every case, the personal worth of the man or woman performing these selfless acts for their fellow human beings defines the word "heroism," and this can be applied to each member of this Department who did their part to save lives and protect property - not only during the earthquake emergency, but all of the time.

Today, we are here to honor those firefighters who performed some of these heroic acts.

These are awards for individual bravery - bravery that clearly goes beyond the call of duty - bravery that shows what members of this Department are capable of when called upon to protect the citizens of San Francisco from fire or other disaster.

The 1989 earthquake wasn't the first time this Department has been tested. San Francisco has been swept by conflagration six time since its founding.

In 1906, 478 square blocks of the City were destroyed in the greatest conflagration the world has seen to that time. But it didn't happen this time, because the men and women of this Department were prepared, and were willing to put their lives on the line when the disaster hit.

The major fire in the Marina District was kept to the block of origin because of the dedicated work of San Francisco firefighters.

The Marina District wasn't saved because of luck. It was saved by hard work and professionalism; because San Francisco firefighters knew what to do and how to do it, and had the inner strength of character to perform their duties – in an heroic manner – many times in disregard for their personal safety.

All firefighters dedicate themselves to help others and take daily risks, and perform heroic acts that most people recognize as courageous. However, these firefighters we honor tonight have gone beyond what is recognized by most people as heroic and courageous - they have done what their fellow firefighters acknowledge as heroism.

Frederick F. Postel
Chief of Department

Sullivan Medal Award
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