On Jan. 22, the Western Fire Chiefs Association posted another article on their website titled "Arizona Fire Chiefs Association Issues Position Statement on Recent OSFM Cuts."
Again, the link to this article is attached below and I encourage you all to read it in detail. I am sure that just like I, you will also appreciate the unified stance and the strong leadership that AFSI has displayed in making the best out of their current crisis.
Here is how they explained the extent and impact of the problem: "We have spent over 20 years working with the OSFM, and working through some difficult issues to build a good program. However abolishing the training and certification functions of the State Fire Marshal's office along with the suspension of National Incident Reporting System coordination and State Resources Tracking in support of Statewide Mutual Aid is taking a huge step back and as a state, we're worse off in these critical areas than we were before the Fire Marshal's office was established 1970."
What is truly admirable though is the fact that the fire service organizations in Arizona are rolling up their sleeves to help the OSFM, and do the best that can to salvage some of the services that were unfortunately discontinued.
They indicated that "We are trying our best to work toward a unified solution that doesn't leave the state's training program fragmented and inadequate. The AFCA, along with other major Arizona fire service groups, including labor, volunteers, districts and metro departments, is currently conducting meetings to determine how such a transition might work so the training curriculum, coordination and certification process isn't lost."
My friends, this is not only about this particular case in Arizona. It could happen to all of us in our own states. We must truly appreciate the important role of the office of the state fire marshal in our own states, and be prepared to defend them the best that we can.
Despite some minor organizational challenges that we might have had in dealing with them here or there, never doubt that they are part of the fire service family, and they serve us all well. Their organizational well-being is crucial to us all, whether volunteer, combination, or career fire departments.
That all being said they deserve all our support.
On that note, I want to personally thank Phil Mele, the Arizona State Fire Marshal, and wish him the best on his retirement. On Jan. 22, after more than 33 years, Phil turned in his "Notice of Intent To Retire From State Service" effective March 26 (see attached).
I know that times are tough and our hands our tied. But, despite all that, it is even more important now than ever before, for us all to intensify our lobbying efforts and further increase our public education and advocacy at all levels of government. We must work harder to market our product of community fire protection and life safety to our customers, our public and their elected representatives.
We must better educate our public about the services we provide, the magnitude of the fire problem, and the consequences of their decisions. And that goes for our public officials too. When the elected officials are better informed about the basic concepts of community risk assessment and integrated risk management, then they could hopefully make better decisions in performing their responsibilities in mitigating hazards and protecting their communities.
They must be fully well aware of the probability and true magnitude of failure, and be willing to accept the long-term impact and consequences of their decisions on their communities' levels of life safety and fire protection. Without such cost/benefit analysis, across-the-board blind budget cuts, will undoubtedly have devastating impacts not only on our communities' fire protection and life safety, but also on the safety of our own firefighters for many decades to come.
It is important that our policy and decision-makers realize the wisdom in the old saying that "you reap the harvest that you sow".