The Vicious Cycle

Across the county, one department's problem is gradually becoming every department's problem.

A Sunday edition of Bill Schumm’s Firegeezer blog had a story about the problems with the Los Angeles City Fire Department. At one time the LAFD was considered to be one of the best fire departments in the country, with a class 1 ISO rating, well trained personnel and great equipment. While they still have their class 1 rating, the LAFD has fallen on hard times with budget cuts, station brownouts that cause longer response times, and apparatus maintenance issues.

The politicians have tried to “spin” their side of the story, saying that public safety and the safety of the firefighters of the LAFD hasn’t been affected. There are those members of the LA media that are speaking out and telling the truth.

It isn’t only happening in the City of Angels, it is happening in other parts of the country from big metropolitan fire departments to the small town volunteer fire departments. For example, look at the debacle in Washington D.C. Fire Department ( I will always call it the "DCFD" ) where the Chief of Department is more concerned with changing the Department’s name to "DC FEMS" and changing the patches and lettering on uniforms than he is with the safety of his personnel. Two DCFD firefighters suffered burn injuries while fire rated uniform shirts sat in a warehouse gathering dust because they have the DCFD logo on them. Madness!

In Philadelphia rotating brownouts have caused longer response times giving fires a much larger head start and consequently more firefighters are getting injured. The PFD Brass’ solution: punish the firefighters for getting hurt and reporting on duty injuries. Insanity!

In a small city in Ohio a friend of mine has been beating his head against the wall dealing with politicians who just don’t get it. His department has closed a station and is down nine personnel, yet they are expected to “do more with less”. Ludicrous! In the LAFD story, there was a quote that stuck in my mind… ""When I first came on, retirement was a sad day for the retiree. Now it seems like the retiree can't leave soon enough."

There are many experienced personnel in the fire service all over the country who feel the same way and are making plans to retire before their pensions get raided and downgraded. They are taking with them the knowledge and experience of what was considered the “war years”.

The politicians don't give a fat rat’s ass because they see a retirement as one less position they have to fund, and dump the workload on whoever remains. Who suffers? The firefighters who now have to do more with less and have less time to train to protect themselves, the public and the taxpayers who come to expect a prompt and adequate response only to get shortchanged… burnt property does not generate tax revenue, drags down the values of the surrounding properties and because there is less money coming into the community's coffers, more cuts are made, and the downward spiral continues.

When the crap hits the fan the politicians like to blame the very people they gutted like a fish on the dock for the problem if things go bad. In major disasters they show up to "be with the troops", giving them a pat on the back for a photo op or a 30 second blurb on the evening news then go back to business as usual.

We have to get our act together to break this vicious cycle, or there will not be an American Fire Service to pass on to the next generation of firefighters.

 

Ron Ayotte is a Deputy Chief of the Marlborough (MA) Fire Department and employee to the Support Services division of the Massachusetts Department of Fire Service/Massachusetts Firefighting Academy.

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1 Comment

  • Harvey says:

    We need to do what Thomas Jefferson said back in the begining of this country, "every 20 years, replace all politcians good or bad." This would certainly help.
    At least when people pay their property taxes they see it going back to their community and local fire departemtn that helps save and protect them. Start taking that away and the community starts to crumble and you see, "taxtion without representation"

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Comments
Ron Ayotte
“FEAR” by Ric Jorge
Ric, excellent article. Your FD is not the only one that suffers from TAS (Training Anxiety Syndrome). Same circus, different community. As far as seeking help from an EAP, I did take advantage of my community's EAP 8 years into my career. I was heading down the road to a separation/divorce after I got promoted…
2014-12-04 16:04:47
Mike McAdams
Who Looks After The Victims?
Captain LeBlanc, Great point in the blog debating the new and old techniques and how to blend them into that first minutes on the fire ground. One of the first points stated was “Unless they know your manpower, resources and abilities, and are standing in that front lawn at 2:00 a.m., all they can do…
2014-12-02 14:45:23
Ruel Douvillier
Who Looks After The Victims?
I suspect these new tactics are all related to the NFPA standard that came out a few years ago recommending higher manpower on apparatus than the authorities having jurisdiction were prepared to implement. For the 30+ years that I've been fighting fires, UL and NIST have been using the data that they gained by setting…
2014-12-02 11:48:44
Joseph carroll
Who Looks After The Victims?
I work in a dept with 2 man Engine cos, man powers is an issue with our first due assignment. (3 engs,2 Trks , Batt Chief). Usually 13 Firefighters on the assignment. At times the exterior attack has no option, heavy fire too include exposures etc. some new leaders feel that this exterior attack is…
2014-12-01 19:05:51
Brian
Who Looks After The Victims?
Am I missing the old SSLEEVES-OCD pneumonic??? seems that one. It addressed alot of the things we have to think of, and the new Slicers is something that I think in right circumstances and construction would make sense, but at other times might be completely useless. I have watched and read alot of the NIST…
2014-12-01 02:10:06
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