THE National Commission on Fire Prevention and Control has recently completed a comprehensive, 2-year study to determine how best to reduce the destructive effects of fire in this country. The Commission's final report, called "America Burning," was presented to me today, and I want to commend the Commission members and 'their capable Chairman, Richard E. Bland, for this valuable analysis of the fire safety and fire loss problem.
Indicative of the need for all Americans to work together to do a better job in combating the fire menace is the Commission's finding that annual loss of life and property due to fires is higher per capita in the United States than in any other major industrialized country. Each year in America, an estimated 12,000 persons--many of them children and elderly people--perish in fires; some 300,000 more are burned badly enough to require medical treatment. Fire is also one of the greatest wasters of our natural resources. The total cost of destructive fire in this country, in financial terms, is estimated at more 'than $I I billion a year; its cost in human terms is beyond calculation.
One of the Commission's principal conclusions is that we need to place more emphasis on fire prevention, rather than simply on reacting to fires after 'they start. Its report recommends that fire departments and other public agencies and civic groups should step up their efforts in establishing and enforcing fire prevention codes and in educating all our citizens to prevent fires.
I concur with the Commission's strong feeling that fire prevention and control should continue to be primarily the responsibility of local communities. Revenue sharing, I am happy to note, provides local governments with increased resources to meet this basic imperative of community protection more effectively.
The report also calls for an increased Federal response to the fire problem, and the Commission's proposals in this regard will receive careful consideration by my Administration. Much is already being done at the Federal level to lend assistance to State and local governments to deal with this problem, but the excellent study this Commission has conducted will certainly be helpful in improving the effectiveness of our efforts still further.
I urge all appropriate Federal, State, and city officials across the country, as well as leaders in other fields who are concerned with these problems, to study the analysis of the fire problem as outlined in the Commission's report. A concerted national effort to improve our methods of fire prevention and control could result not only in vast savings of human lives, property, and environmental quality but also in greater peace of mind for every American home and community.