The Missionary Position

The current administration does not seem to care at all about the majority of the fire service.


Specifically, I am referring to those people out there in America who believe that the federal government has no business providing funding for our beloved fire service. This is a topic close to my heart, since I was part of the team which helped to shepherd these new programs into being at the beginning of this, the 21st Century.

More than that, I devoted an entire month of my life to traveling the roads of our nation in pursuit of those successes which have been created by the various grant programs available to the fire service. I saw great changes which had been created by the receipt of federal financial assistance.

I have traveled, lectured, and written about the need to be vigilant about our FIRE Act. As things now seem to be playing out, I might as well have been urinating into the proverbial winds of our nation. But, and here is the big but, I was right. There are people on all sides of the issue who want to take our money away.

You have already seen the first round in the battle reported on the pages of this website. You need only look at the massive cuts in funding that were made to the Fiscal Year 2010 federal budget to get the gist of the problem. The game being played in our nation's capitol is one of true, bare-knuckle boxing. It is turning friend against friend in the battle to meet your needs and mine. Look at the battle between people and things which the current budget changes have created.

Let me share the fickle nature of our Congress with you. This nation's Democratic Congress told our dear friend, Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and his band of fire service supporters, Jason Altmire (D-PA), Steve Austria (R-OH), and Peter King (R-NY), to "hit the bricks." The House Rules Committee issued a ruling which forbade our supporters from making their case before the House. Talk about a backhand to the chops for a loyal New Jersey Democrat.

The mighty Lords who rule the house rules committee of our House of Representatives (pun intended) smacked our friend Bill Pascrell across the chops with a ruling which prevented him and his allies from speaking on the need to add FIRE Act funding to the 2010 federal budget. Please note that this was a bi-partisan team working for you and me.

This was an effort by people on both sides of the political aisle to come together in support of all that you and I do to protect our communities. My level of anger has been bubbling along on a low-level boil for the past few weeks. I have spent a great deal of time pondered the possible ways in which the protagonists in this battle could be pounced upon.

As I spent time gathering my thoughts, the forces of my brain were thrown into overdrive (warp speed) by the publication of a paper by the conservative Heritage Foundation in their WebMemo which offered a series of strongly negative opinions regarding the FIRE Grant program, the SAFER program, and the Fire Prevention and Safety grants program. This paper was prepared by Dr. David B. Muhlhausen, and was entitled, "Do DHS Grants Reduce Fire Casualties?"

A review of this document served to bring my blood to the boiling point. This researcher chose to focus in tightly on a particular number in the fire service recordkeeping system. This paper alleges that there is no provable tie between the money which has come into the fire service and the number of casualties which have been reported. In just a few short pages, this man dismisses all of the good works which have come from the provision of federal funding.

This author of this paper keeps pounding away at the theme that no figures exist which support any reported reduction in the number of firefighter deaths, firefighter injuries, civilian deaths and civilian injuries. No mention was made of any sort of improved service delivery programs or more effective operations which were brought about by the injection of funds into our service. No mention was made of those lives which might have been saved, or those fires which might have been prevented.

The successes within our system exist and are observable. I will not believe that those examples of improved service which Jack Peltier and I saw on our 2006 road trip were mirages. We saw elements of a fire service that was better able to do their job because of the largess created by our FIRE Act. We met people in Alabama who told us that the fire department pumpers they received through FIRE Act funding were the first new pumpers ever to see the streets of their counties. We saw a county-wide communications program in Greene County, OH, which would never have been built without the FIRE Act funding program.