On the Road Again

With apologies to Willie Nelson, come June 2010, I will be "on the road again" for another Harry Carter Road Trip. It is my intention to hit the road on or about June 1, 2010. My mission will be similar to the theme of my highly successful 2006 version — I want to meet the real members of the American fire service and speak with you about your concerns and your successes, as well as your failures.

Things will be a bit different this time. For one, my sidekick, Jack Peltier of Massachusetts, and I will be joined by a long-time buddy, Ken McMahon, a Delaware state fire commissioner. Ken is a past chief and life member of the Christiana Fire Department.

It is our intention to meet with members of the American fire service who can share stories of successes based on grants received from the FIRE Act program. It is our desire to begin our journey in Denver, CO, and then along a more circular route that includes Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas before closing out our journey in Denver. We want to travel through our nation's midsection. I already have tentative visits lined up at county and state events in Nebraska and Kansas. I look forward to meeting with Steve Hirsh in Kansas and George Teixeira in Nebraska. Given the greater distances between cities and towns in the Midwest, we intend to set up fewer stops, but we want to meet more people at each location.

My many friends in the fire apparatus and equipment manufacturing world are once again helping us meet the costs of this journey. We will raise the necessary funds to make this trip happen. However, why am I doing this, you might ask? Why are Ken, Jack, and I taking a month out of our lives to travel and meet with you?

The answer is simple. I believe in the worth of the FIRE Act. I have seen its impact up close. I am well aware of the importance of this legislation. However, there are those who want to see it go away. There are also those who want to see it changed so that nameless and faceless bureaucrats are allowed to make the decisions on who gets what. As one who was in the mix at the very beginning of this program 10 years ago, I know what was agreed to. I was a party to the development of the program and while I am no longer on the inside, I like to think that I have a handle on what is happening.

Jack and I saw people whose fortunes have changed seeking to carve up the FIRE Act money to suit their needs. I am not happy with several of the moves that are being made at the national level, but am really powerless to do much other than write about them. Let me also make you aware of the fact that there are also those people who have said the program should not have been created in the first place. Apparently, these folks do not get around much. Let me assure you that I have taken a certain amount of flack for my support and promotion of the FIRE Act program.

However, Jack and I saw the results of this outstanding program at the grassroots level. We saw people who were sharing turnout gear and driving vehicles that should have been in the junkyard a long time ago. We saw others who did not have a sufficient number of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) units to mount any sort of an interior fire attack. We saw units who were able to provide a better level of training thanks to the programs and devices that were funded by the FIRE Act.

Sad to say, but our fire service is taken for granted by many in our nation. Oh, people will praise the daylights out of us on the surveys that ask for people's opinions of their fire department. Unfortunately, when we ask them to fund our operations, or volunteer to join with us in the delivery of our critical infrastructure protective service, we get an overwhelmingly cold shoulder. Worse yet, when they need us, they are all over us if we fail to be on location in 45 seconds.

The problem here is that when I write for Firehouse®, I know that I am "preaching to the choir," except that many within the choir are not reading off the same sheet of music that you and I are using. I promised that I will keep writing to direct us all to a common ground for this battle.

If you would like to meet with our traveling circus, please let me know. I am working on planning this trip a lot sooner than the last one. If you want us to visit with you, just contact me.

We are also looking for support from you and your organizations whenever possible. I assure you that any help you can provide will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

DR. HARRY R. CARTER, Ph.D., CFO, MIFireE, is a Firehouse® contributing editor. A municipal fire protection consultant based in Adelphia, NJ, he is the former president of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors. Dr. Carter is a past chief and active life member of the Adelphia Fire Company. Currently chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners for Howell Township District 2, he retired from the Newark, NJ, Fire Department in 1999 as a battalion commander. He also served as chief of training and commander of the Hazardous Materials Response Team. Dr. Carter is vice president of the American Branch of the Institution of Fire Engineers (MIFireE). He published Living My Dream: Dr. Harry Carter's 2006 FIRE Act Road Trip. He may be contacted at drharrycarter@optonline.net.