Public Enemy Number One


The verbal assault on firefighters nationwide from everybody from politicians to civilians continues. When "America's Heroes" were atop the highest pedestal after 9/11, the populace couldn't have been prouder. There wasn't a politician anywhere who didn't want to have his or her picture taken with local firefighters, hoping to be in on the glory that 9/11 brought to the fire service all across America. Today, firefighters are under attack during every conversation about budgets, contract talks, consolidations and outsourcing. Despite states and local governments underfunding pension programs, firefighters are easy targets for those who need to save money via pension reforms.

Unfortunately, some firefighters have brought undue attention to themselves and their departments. Fire service members who get into trouble continue to appear on the TV news, front pages and the Internet. The public apparently has a thirst for this type of news. So what does that mean? That in this day and age, you can't do many of the things that were done in the past and think you are going to get away with it anymore. Firefighters have always worked hard and played just as hard. Now, everything we do is under a microscope. Remember — every time there is a serious crime or accident, the first thing the police do is look for a surveillance video. If you do something the public perceives to be wrong, then you must suffer the consequences.

After the November elections, many senior members of Congress saw the handwriting on the wall, as the voters made wholesale changes and parties traded places. As of last month, 60 U.S. senators and 203 U.S. representatives were members of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus. That left 40 senators and 232 representatives who were not members of the Fire Caucus. Fortunately, a significant number of members of Congress are involved with the fire and emergency services. With even tougher economic times ahead, we need all the help we can get.

April 10–16 marks national public safety telecommunications week, dedicated to our public safety telecommunicators. There are more than 6,100 emergency dispatch centers in the United States, staffed by 99,900 public safety dispatchers. It's a tough job — according to the Association of Public-safety Communications Officials (APCO) International, only 3% of those who start a career in dispatching stay long enough to retire. Many 911 centers are experiencing staffing shortages. Coupled with reductions to suppression personnel, this creates a significant challenge to firefighter safety.

In this issue, we present the honorees in our Firehouse® Magazine Heroism & Community Service Awards program. We are grateful to the departments that submitted applications, to the judges and to the sponsors, whose generosity makes this program possible.

We are sorry to report on the recent loss of ray hoff, a retired Chicago Fire Department battalion chief and the brother of current Chicago Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff. Ray was an instructor at several Firehouse conferences. I interviewed him when he was first-due truck captain at the Paxton Hotel fire in Chicago, where 21 people were killed.

Congratulations to boston fire department Firefighter/Photographer Bill Noonan, who retired in March. The photo on page 92 of Engine 7 covered in ice after the Plant Shoe Fire appeared in the first issue of Firehouse® in September 1976, titled "Send me all the engines you've got." Have a great retirement!

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