The Mutual Aid Mooch Revisited: Lawrence, Massachusetts

As I was reading a recent Firehouse.com piece on the layoffs in Lawrence, MA, my mind began to travel back in time. The mayor and politicians in this old mill community were looking to their neighbors to subsidize the cost of their fire protection...


As I was reading a recent Firehouse.com piece on the layoffs in Lawrence, MA, my mind began to travel back in time. The mayor and politicians in this old mill community were looking to their neighbors to subsidize the cost of their fire protection needs. Had I not written about this a long time ago? In checking my records I discovered that I covered this topic more than a decade ago. More than 10 years ago I wrote a scathing commentary right here on the electronic pages of Firehouse.com.

That's right gang, I was railing against those thoughtless people who felt that they could balance their budgets on the back of their neighbors. Here we are again, looking at penurious political people who do not want to pay the freight to provide proper fire protection for their community.

Many of you are well aware that I am a strong advocate of mutual aid, automatic aid, and regional dispatching. I would even go so far as to state that I am in favor of regional approaches to the delivery of fire protection services. It has long been my belief that it as an effective way to create a regional firefighting force capable of coming together in a rapid manner for the common good. Over the years I have taken a bit of flak now and then for championing this approach to fire service delivery and deployment, but that's OK. Far too many people think that it is still the 1950's and that they are fully capable of handling everything in their community.

Sorry gang. It just isn't that way any more. However, what really galls me is a group of people to whom I am once again going to grant a scathing nickname. In the year 2000 I chose to label these people as members of a growing group of fumbling fire service phonies. These are the cheapskates that I intend to once again brand as Mutual Aid Mooches.

Think about the concept of what a moocher is. This is the person who sits between two friends in a restaurant and picks a bit of meat off of your plate, and then turns to you other buddy and spears a couple of lima beans. But don't reach for his plate, or he will spear your hand. I have been bruised by people such as this on more than one occasion.

Let me suggest that the same still holds true for those fire chiefs who want mutual aid to run into their town every time they call, but who refuse to send out equipment to standby in another community. They want it all without having to put up a fair share in return. Talk about selfish, these are the folks who have streets named after themselves. You have seen the signs I am sure. You know them, the streets with the arrows that say 'one way'.

Back in 2000 I was taken to task for confusing true mutual aid with regional dispatch. This individual went on at length about how mutual aid was only for when there were real fires and real need. He said that he was tired of having people in other departments mooch off of him. I thanked him for his reply, and filed his comments in the appropriate mailbox.

Back then it was my intention to let this matter lie, because I simply did not agree with most of what this person had to say. But I must say to you that their rantings did cause me to think. Let me once again state my views for all of you to see and hear. Let me assure you that I am a firm believer in automatic aid and regional dispatching for one very simple reason. Fire will not wait for us to respond, decide we need mutual aid, call for help and then fight a holding action until help comes. Fire responds according to the set rules of the standard time and temperature curve. If there is more fire than water being put on the fire, you will probably lose the battle. The help will usually arrive too late to be of any real assistance.

That is my position. Having said that let me once again state that I really do not like fire service cheapskates. These are the people who will use every last ounce of your resources, while many of their people sit comfortably at home. By using your resources, they do not have to recall their own forces and thus dip ino their overtime till.

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