Election Campaign: Time To Raise Fire Issues

Another election campaign is underway and the next few weeks present a small window of opportunity to let the politicians know about the issues that concern the fire-rescue service. Their eyes may glaze over and they may profess total ignorance, but at...


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When it comes to congressional races, a fair question to ask your House or Senate members is whether they've joined the Congressional Fire Service Caucus and, if not, why not? Impress upon them how important it is for the U.S. Fire Administration and National Fire Academy to have proper funding and for the federal anti-terrorism effort to provide the money, training and equipment that's needed to prepare local fire departments as the first responders to any terrorist incident.

In the farm states, let your House and Senate candidates know that the hazmat labeling exemption given to the agriculture-business industry is dangerous to firefighters and the citizens they protect. A truck carrying eight tons of ammonium nitrate should not be allowed to travel without a warning label and, when it comes up in the next Congress, you want them to vote against the exemption.

There's a long list of issues that concern firefighters, so it's best to pick out one or two that are most important to you and your department. How much some candidates will remember after they're elected is questionable, but this brief period is the only chance you have to get their attention and it's worth making the effort. If you don't, the special-interest groups who oppose fire safety legislation will have the field to themselves, with their political action committees pouring big money into campaign funds.

You can't outspend them, but a just cause - saving lives and property - is the fire service's most powerful weapon. It should be exploited for all it's worth and, if that bothers you, just remember the words of the legendary Mr. Dooley, who once said about politics: "That ain't bean bag they're playing out there."


Hal Bruno, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a political analyst with ABC News in Washington and served many years as a volunteer firefighter.