Sen. John Kerry dropped by Berkeley Fire Department Station No. 2 on Friday to talk to firefighters. The senator stopped by the Berkeley Way station after visiting Google headquarters in Mountain View on his way to San Francisco.
“John Kerry is a big fan of firefighters and he often pays them a visit,” said Gil Dong, Berkeley’s assistant fire chief. “When he ran for president, the firefighters were one of the first to endorse him.”
The Berkeley Fire Department has recently received four federal grants totaling $1.3 million, including one from FEMA, an accomplishment which Berkeley Deputy Fire Chief David Orth pointed out to Kerry.
Kerry has been an advocate for firefighers and has pushed for better funding to upgrade equipment in departments around the country. He said that half the firefighters don’t have the radios they need to communicate in a crisis.
The senator asked whether the department had a communication system integrated with the Berkeley Police Department and other government offices. Dong replied that such a system was expensive and would require additional funds.
“We have been working with the UC engineering department to work on government shortfalls and build better equipment,” Dong said.
Kerry spent about 30 minutes chatting with the firefighters, asking about their duties and operations. He observed demonstrations of a breathing apparatus and an auto ejector.
“Berkeley has a fine Fire Department and it’s very well equipped,” Kerry said. “The spirit is just great. However, there is immediate need to speed up certain technology such as the integrated comm system which would help firefighters in more ways than one during disaster.”
Asked about his current work, the senator said he has been keeping busy and has been working with more than 150 Democratic Senate candidates. “I am hopeful about Pennsylvania, Montana and Missouri,” he said.
Asked whether he was planning to run for president again, Kerry said, “I am thinking about it. Let’s see how 2006 goes.”
Photograph by Riya Bhattacharjee