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  1. #1
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    Aug 2008
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    Default To Go or Not To Go

    So I've got an odd problem but I think I should start out with a little background info.

    I was the Deputy Chief of a small rural volunteer department. We have a pumper, a tender and a rescue truck. We serve a small hamlet of 350 people as well as the surrounding area. Our entire fire district is within the same municipality.

    My problem is that our councilors have told us that our tender is to be used at rural fires and that our pumper is not to leave the hamlet boundaries. This view is backed up by the County Fire Chief (at least publicly). I have a problem with this for a number of reasons

    1 - The tender is not a "fire truck" as it doesn't have a suitable pump and sufficient hose to safely and effectively fight anything more than a grass fire.

    2 - I believe that where and when equipment is deployed is a decision that needs to be made by the I.C. on scene and not by councilors sitting in council chambers.

    3 - Ethically, what this amounts to is giving the ratepayers different levels of service based on what side of an invisible line they live on. I believe since they are all ratepayers, they should all have access to the equipment and should all be given equal efforts.

    4 - I believe that showing up at a structure fire without adequate fire trucks puts firefighters and the public at an even greater risk.

    The County's response to these concerns is

    1 - The tender is good enough, although the County Fire Chief can't tell me what the tender's pump is rated at. (I doubt we can get 200 gpm at 100 psi – in fact there isn’t even a pressure gauge on the truck)

    2 - Council is above firefighters and they decide when trucks can move and where they can go. It is a policy decision

    3 - Whether the ratepayers are getting different levels of service is no concern to me.

    4 - If we show up at a fire and need a pumper we can call the next neighboring town. (15 minutes away)

    I went to a council meeting to express my concerns. I was told “The safety of firefighters and the safety of the public is irrelevant…follow the policy”. They also said that they wanted to keep a truck in the hamlet in case a fire broke out while we were on another call. The fact that all the firefighters would be at the initial call and nobody would be around to run the pumper didn’t seem to matter.

    Our department went through some changes recently with two of our senior members retiring and after a recruiting drive, we have been left with a twelve-person department with 10 relatively inexperienced members. I am no longer the DC as I told council that policy will never come before firefighter and public safety and issue # 4 alone prevents me from following councils wishes.

    Am I out to lunch? Am I making a big deal about nothing? If I’m right in my views, what do I do? Can I ignore council and take the pumper anyway? Any suggestions?


  2. #2
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    Nov 2007
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    Trenton, MO
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    Wink Ignorance is Bliss!

    Sounds like you have a large amount of new people that, if good to drive apparatus, could take the pumper and then claim ignorance...hehehe. Who's gonna fire all the volunteers? Since you took yourself out of the DC position you have taken your hands of the wheel. Get in there and fight for what is right...

    But in all honesty, how often does the pumper need to leave the hamlet on an annual basis? If it doesn't happen once a year...pick your battles. Will taking the pumper out of the hamlet once a year (and it just so happens that the guy that brought the pumper didn't know about the rule) make any difference? If it happens, drop your drawers and take it once a year.

    Make an invitation to the council to wear a pager and show up to a fire and see what really happens...if they don't accept then rub it in their face.

    Oh and that whole “The safety of firefighters and the safety of the public is irrelevant…follow the policy” stuff...have those minutes published. Get that in writing and then go up the food chain with that. How deep you wanna go? Amazing what a state fire marshall can do with that documentation. If you wanna take this a long way...think like a lawyer.
    Last edited by tfd218; 09-04-2008 at 09:39 AM.

  3. #3
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by tfd218 View Post
    But in all honesty, how often does the pumper need to leave the hamlet on an annual basis? If it doesn't happen once a year...pick your battles.
    We have about 15 rural calls a year and at least half could use the pumper, even if only to block a lane of traffic on the highway. We have lots of irrigation here so available water is not an issue. There are canals and reservoirs everywhere.


    Quote Originally Posted by tfd218 View Post
    Make an invitation to the council to wear a pager and show up to a fire and see what really happens...if they don't accept then rub it in their face.
    Excellent idea!

    Quote Originally Posted by tfd218 View Post
    Oh and that whole “The safety of firefighters and the safety of the public is irrelevant…follow the policy” stuff...have those minutes published.
    Unfortunately the Administrator was smart enough not to put that in the minutes. I've tried to get the Chief to put it in writing put he hasn't (I don't think he ever he will). I suppose that could be a good thing in that it allows us to disregard the policy and claim "safety first" since there is nothing in writing.

  4. #4
    CFEI / CFII cubbie's Avatar
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    Jan 2007
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    Georgia
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    Default

    Don’t fight with the elected officials you will never overcome their ego’s Take your fight to the public. Educate the public as to what you do. What your needs are. Education is your greatest weapon. Get the news media to run a series positive articles on what great department you are. Then share your goals and let them help sell your department to the public. If you divide your department’s budget by the number of structures you protect. What is the cost per structure? It may surprise you when you figure out just how small that amount is. When you do your next budget include your increases in cost per structure. The public really doesn’t understand the millage rate system. A one mill increase in taxes seems like a lot; but it really is only a few of dollars per structure.
    Educate the public!
    This maybe apples and oranges a little bit.
    Look at the history of the world. Many times you will find that when a country is conquered. The new leaders kill the teachers, doctors, and religions leaders. Then they start re-education programs to indoctrinate the people into the ways of the new government.
    Now I am not encouraging you to start killing anyone. What I want you to understand is how effective public education can be. What I am encouraging you to do is start a public education program and sell your department to the people who pay the bills. Start with the members of your own department first. This is how you overcome your elected officials. Best of all when they make the decision to change. Their egos will let them think it was their own idea.

    Best of luck
    Last edited by cubbie; 09-11-2008 at 02:20 PM.

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