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Thread: Denis Leary urges support for "first line of defense'

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    Denis Leary urges support for "first line of defense'

    May 07. 2003 12:00AM

    Leary urges support for "first line of defense'

    Leary urges firefighter support Smoke pours from new burn tower

    Chris Echegaray
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    WORCESTER- If Denis Leary had his druthers, he would light a fire in the garbage basket of the New York City mayor. Mr. Leary would then let Mayor Michael Bloomberg wait a minute to see what happens with the fire.

    "He wants to shut down eight firehouses," Mr. Leary said yesterday at a press conference at Worcester Fire Headquarters, 141 Grove St. "The mayor is going to reduce the response time by a minute. A minute may not seem like much - unless you're in the boxing ring or in a fire."

    Mr. Leary, president of the Leary Firefighters Foundation, presented a check for $300,000 to the local Fire Department yesterday. His foundation has raised more than $1 million since the fire tragedy of Dec. 3, 1999, when six city firefighters perished in a warehouse blaze.

    Firefighters and family and friends of the six firefighters were there for the presentation. Mr. Leary, a Worcester-born comedian, actor and director, started the foundation shortly after the fire, which claimed the life of a cousin, Firefighter Jeremiah Lucey, and Lt. Thomas E. Spencer, a childhood friend.

    He's been an ardent supporter of firefighters, raising money for the families of the New York City firefighters who perished Sept. 11, 2001, the day terrorist attacks brought down the World Trade Center towers.

    "I'm very proud on what we've done here," Mr. Leary said. "We were the second fastest charity to get the money to the families. All the money. Not one cent went to administrative costs."

    Mr. Leary spoke about some facts that should grab the nation's attention: Only one out of 10 fire departments are properly equipped and trained to combat hazardous materials, biological and chemical disasters.

    Mr. Leary, who jokingly admitted that he has a problem focusing, said that the country is also suffering from attention deficit disorder when it comes to realizing the importance of firefighters.

    "I know I have ADD," he said. "But the country seems to have ADD. After 9-11, there is no better example of what firefighters do. It's absolutely insane."

    Since 2000, Mr. Leary's foundation, with EMC Corp. as a major sponsor, has held Celebrity Hat Trick, a fund-raising event that benefits the city's Fire Department. The department uses the money for training and equipment.

    Behind the Grove Street fire station is a new training facility, a red burn tower - a product of the fund-raising. The Fire Department put on an exhibition after the press conference. Smoke billowed from the tower as a fire burned inside. Firefighters went to work, showing the audience how firefighting is done. They used ropes to rappel down the side of the building.

    The building was officially named The Leary Firefighters Foundation and EMC Corp. Burn Tower and Training Facility. It will serve 60 fire departments in Worcester County.

    Frank P. Raffa, president of the firefighters union, said that in light of the city's tough economic times, the foundation's fund-raising is even more important to the Fire Department.

    "The value of this is so important," he said. "Without the Leary Foundation and EMC, without their help this training facility would be just a dream."

    Mr. Leary has taken his efforts to an international level. He said that during a trip to Ireland in connection with supporting firefighters he had a conversation with a New York businessman who was there. Mr. Leary said that the businessman spoke about how firefighters earn a lot of money, around $100,000.

    "I couldn't believe what he said," Mr. Leary said. "There has to be a way to get the information out. These guys make around $32,000. They should be categorized like the military. They are the first line of defense."

    Throughout the morning yesterday, Mr. Leary talked to many of the attendees, gave time to reporters and talked about hockey, baseball and the opportunity to skate with hockey greats.

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    Thank You

    I would like to thank Chris Echegaray for the article, "first line of defense" I would also like to thank Mr. Leary of his hard work for the fundraising that he has done for firefighters in times of need. Please keep up the good and hard work and please alert those politicians on what excatly we do and how little we are paid.
    Brotherhood

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