1. #1
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    Angry why politicans shouldn't be firefighters

    Brewer rethinks mutual aid pacts
    Nok-Noi Hauger
    Wednesday, May 17, 2006 - Bangor Daily News << Back

    BREWER - It's a flaming hot question that city leaders want answered: What return do full-time fire departments get from their mutual aid partners, besides being a good neighbor?

    City Manager Steve Bost is so interested in the question that he asked Fire Chief Rick Bronson to make it the topic of his monthly report, which was given to city councilors at Tuesday's regular meeting and has been circulated to area fire departments.

    The Brewer chief's report basically concludes that, besides Bangor, there is little or no return for the city in reference to mutual aid, but the smaller, less organized and less trained partners benefit greatly.

    "The bottom-line fact is that most of our partners have only limited capacities to help us in any time of need," the report states, adding later: "When Brewer sends help to those towns it is very often the Brewer crew that becomes the interior firefighting crew."

    That conclusion spurred another question: "Is it fair for taxpayers to send services to neighboring towns for no fee when the towns can't give back in equal measure?"

    The topic put a fire under the feet of city councilors who, except for the absent Michael Celli, expressed the desire to research the matter.

    "It's gone on long enough," Mayor Gail Kelly said.

    "I think we've gone overboard taking care of" surrounding communities, Councilor Larry Doughty said.

    Councilor Joseph Ferris agreed. "I would ask our city manager, city solicitor and fire chief to take a look at this.

    "We floated the idea of a [regional] fire district and I can see why" no one jumped on the bandwagon, Ferris said. "I don't want to do this anymore."

    The lack of interest in Brewer's effort last year to regionalize fire services is one reason Bost asked for the report. When communities are getting a service for free, why would they want to change? Bronson noted.

    Another concern is placing Brewer firefighters in harm's way because of the lack of experience of incident commanders in outlying communities, a point addressed by Councilor Manley DeBeck.

    "I understand each community has an ego, but they have to understand they have volunteers and we have fully trained professionals," he said. "I'm sure there are going to be some people upset. We're not saying they're not doing their best."

    Historically, Brewer charged fees for its fire services, but in the late 1970s communities began to get into the firefighting business, and a decade later mutual aid agreements were signed as a way to help smaller departments become worthy mutual aid partners.

    "At first it was all really just an experiment," Bronson's report states. "Then, rather secretly, it became clear that the little towns usually had little to offer in trade for the services they receive from the bigger town's fire department.

    "What we give to these other towns is ready response, trained personnel, better equipment all under the leadership of trained fire officers," it states. "Other than Bangor, none of our mutual aid partners can offer that sort of service to us."

    The Brewer fire report for April shows that the department responded to 209 incident reports, with 41 of those being mutual aid.

    The April numbers are the norm, Bost said. "At this point, we want to explore what the relationship should be and what our options are relative to the accountability of other communities," the city manager said.

    http://www.bangordailynews.com/news/templates/?a=134156



    Ok guys am i right to be offended by what these guys are saying wouldn't you be too?
    "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear" - Ambrose Redmoon
    ďItís like Legoís for firefighters.Ē Robert James III talking about hose appliances.
    "Police, Firefighters and EMS are the most collectively dysfunctional group of people in existence and only we understand each other!"

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    Default my response

    Well my thought is we are all professionals we shouldn't be acting like this. This is the city council that only thinks in dollars and cents. If we want to fix this problem we need to spend more time training together, we don't do that. I think they are only partially right in this case it is lopsided but I think they are dead wrong about our leadership Councilor Manley DeBeck "I understand each community has an ego, but they have to understand they have volunteers and we have fully trained professionals," he said. "I'm sure there are going to be some people upset. We're not saying they're not doing their best." This man is full of crap... what the hell is the difference between a Volunteer Firefighter and a paid Firefighter, donít we take the same classes do the same training, the job is the same where ever you do it we go into a situation we may or may not come back out of. A question for those who agree with the council that volunteers are of little help and a mutual aid contract just costs the town money every time a Brewer tone goes off doesnít their mutual aide stand by and go if called? What if you did they did need the help would those little departments turn you down, even if there was no mutual aide contract? No, Are we not all brothers and sisters in this job we love so much helping people saving lives and property? Donít we all get up at 3 am in the morning and meet every week sometimes more then once a week training? While the people in city halls around the state meet once a month maybe twice and are paid. What would be the impact if there was no mutual aide? Crews are tied up who is going to come into Brewer if they are tied up on a call and can't span the man power does the city council feel they can deal with the loss of life because they are understaffed that day because all the man power is tied up at a general alarm in downtown or MCI when no help is available because the city council wants to insult and come down on the little volunteers who apparently are not good enough to back up their professional department, I challenge the paid brother out there to come to a Fire Department meeting and train a couple times if they have never worked with their mutual depts. See for yourself the quality there is out there and judge for yourself and if you don't see what you like help them, leading by example another attribute of a Firefighter, because if we don't work together these kind of people on the city and town councils through out our state will keep looking at the money nothing else and as we have seen when the money is an issue lives are lost because cuts come in to save a buck, as if we don't all face that huge weight of government BS that sometimes keeps us from doing our jobs. We are brothers and sisters as the great fire cartoonist says "Excuse me, but aren't you on the same team?" "Brotherhood MEANS Brotherhood" We need to have the best interest of the safety of the public not the safety of the almighty dollar
    "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear" - Ambrose Redmoon
    ďItís like Legoís for firefighters.Ē Robert James III talking about hose appliances.
    "Police, Firefighters and EMS are the most collectively dysfunctional group of people in existence and only we understand each other!"

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    Offended by what?

    I agree with this 100%. This is a town government that:

    1. Identified a problem
    2. Provided a solution and was turned down
    3. Is now standing behind their FF and looking to terminate mutual aid agreements that are of zero benefit to them

    Mutual aid agreements are not mandatory. Also, note the word "mutual".

    And, of course, the smaller FD's would ot turn down a chance to go fight fire in the "city". Doesn't sound like it happens all that often does it?

    Another example of a sqaured away FD being taken advantage of by less prepared FD's.

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    George - it always makes me a little nervous when someone agrees 100% without being there or having all the facts. Sorta like Monday morning quarterbacking. This article presents one part of the big picture. Seems to me by just this one side, they may be burning a few bridges they may need in the future. Times change and while they may not be reaping the benefits now, the next fire may be the "big one" that is going to tax all thier resources. Those departments who may not be as well trained as this department claims to be might just be those who come in to provide much needed help. Either way, it appears to be putting brother-against-brother in a time when this can do no good. Just my two cents.
    IACOJ

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    Based on the article alone, I agree with George.

    If someone with more knowledge of the area could chime in some more details, that may sway my opinion. Are the surrounding vol departments trained, as well trained, better trained? Do the surrounding departments ever actually offer aid to the paid guys? 41 mutual aid responses in 1 month seems like they are going to help their neighbors an awful lot. Seems like quickest answer would be to go back to charging fees to the neighbors.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    I don't think the training has much to do with it. I think the fact that it appears this career FD is being taking advanatge of by the outlying depts. is the issue. The city FD saw the problem and came up with a solution that would have, actually, benefited all involved. Then, as is typical with the volunteer fire service, they kick and scream and yell like girls and lose an opportunity to truly improve their ability to provide fire protection. I do not blame the city FD one tinly bit for packing up their tents and going home.

    My bet is that they will be just fine w/o the little FD's.

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    I think this has less to do with career vs vollie than it has to do with one dept that is up to snuff and another that isn't. It just so happens in this case that the career dept feels that the small vollie depts bordering it are taking advantage of the guaranteed response of the big city dept to bail them out all the time. That's not "mutual" aid if the smaller depts aren't prepared to provide real resources in return when called upon. Whether the city ever does need to call upon them is another matter entirely, but they should at least be prepared to return the favor. Otherwise, what good is a mutual aid program?

    Problems like this are NOT exclusive to career vs vollie situations. In our county (all vollie), there are some depts that are extremely well equipped and professional, and others not as much. The larger, well resourced depts are often being called for mutual aid to these smaller depts, and sometimes indeed do wind up taking over primary operations. Or worse, all but beating the primary dept to the scene altogether and fighting their own fires for them. Of course, it's probably a little less contentious when it's vollie on vollie like this, but still it's not really fair to the taxpayers of these larger fire districts to be basically picking up the check for the neighboring area's fire protection. Nor is it fair to the taxpayers of the ill equipped district to be paying these taxes and getting limited or inadequate service in return.

    In fairness though, our county is pretty good and even the smaller depts try in very good faith to respond when called to return the favor. We have a countywide mutual aid agreement that spells out requirements/standards that participating depts have to meet or exceed. If they don't, they can be excluded from the agreement and have no right to call for aid should they need it.

    I would say that's one of the most important aspects of any mutual aid agreement, standards that must be met to remain a participant. If you can't, then there is nothing mutual about it and you shouldn't reap the benefits of your neighbors simply because you can, or because it's easier to call for help than address the problems within your dept.

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    The analytical side of me can kinda see their point. As mentioned above, mutual aid is mutual and if Brewer is constantly going out of town and not getting equal support then they can fairly question the arrangement. It is the City Council's job to look after the welfare of its taxpayers.

    Based on the article it seems that Brewer FF's are constantly going out of town as first-due units. That's not mutual aid. I see mutual aid as more "We've got something and we need coverage" or, "We've got something BIG and need help". Mutual aid is not, "We can't get a truck out, so you're it".

    On the other hand the council, at least as they appear in the article, seem very hostile toward the situation in surrounding towns. I take offense to the "They're volunteer and we're professional"-comment. I think its comparing apples and oranges. If the problem is training, certainly there are things both sides can do to fix that.. mutual aid companies should train together anyway. If the problem is manpower, then they have a legitmate issue but it could be addressed without the mudslinging.

    BTW: Robert, where in ME are you from? I grew up on MDI.

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    I think its comparing apples and oranges.
    That's exactly the point. And it's exactly the point whether it is a career department or a highly trained, professional volunteer FD.

    I commend the Brewer City folks for trying to help this situation out. When their offer of a solution was rejected, they hadevery right to say "Screw them" and walk away.

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    If you belonged to a department that went mutual aid 41 times wouldn't that set off some bells??????

    Of course, I wish we could go mutual aid 41 times a month but thats another dream.

    As far as the politicians hammering volunteers, we all are not the same.
    It might be the case where they are but many of the volunteer departments that I live near as well as area's I vacation in are better equipped than career depatments and quite a few have very commendable training programs.

    I can understand the Politicians being concerned. I obviously am a supporter of volunteers, if they are not getting it done its time to punt or kick a field goal.

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    In general I don't think the problem is a career/vol issue. A city is finding itself in a one-sided mutual-aid contract with the surrounding departments.

    Now, in this case I think many of the reasons that the surrounding departments cannot live up to their side of the contract is because of manpower/training problem. The article hints that this is because they are volunteer.

    I wish I could side with the smaller FD's on this. I sympathize with their situation but it does sound like their not complying with, and maybe even taking advantage of, the mutual aid agreement.

    My comment above (apples & oranges) was more reflective of the city councilman's quote (vol vs. professional) then of the situation itself.

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    Numbers just don't seem to make sense...

    Brewer, ME has a population just under 9,000.

    BFD has about 20 Career & 20 Paid-on-Call members.

    Basically, Bangor with 32k in population is on one side of the Penobscot, Brewer is on the other.

    Where the heck is 41 calls m/a a month coming from? I can see it if they're running Mutual Aid with their Paramedic for intercepts (and they'd probably could be earning a nice income from that).

    Hmmm, actually back those 41 calls out, that gives us an annual incident rate of 2,016 in the City with a population of 9,000.

    My town, in a different part of New England has a population of 7,500 and had 869 incidents in town last year* -- and we're on the high side in our region because we have a several concentrations of elderly and low income residents that create a bit more medical calls.

    The numbers just don't make sense to me -- I usually have a pretty good feel for what a given community's call volumes should be...2,000 incidents per year in a City of 9,000? That area isn't big enough to have a huge commuter influx; I can't imagine anyone tolerating enough faulty alarms to generate that many more false alarms. The numbers just don't make sense to me from what's in the article and what a quick google of their demographics showed.

    -------------------
    * Wow. When I joined, we had 5,500 residents and I think the town was in the lower 400s for annual incidents...and that wasn't quite two decades ago
    Last edited by Dalmatian190; 05-19-2006 at 11:38 PM.

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    George,

    I usually can agree with your comments in this forum. Even in this thread....untill you made this statement:

    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgeWendtCFI
    Then, as is typical with the volunteer fire service, they kick and scream and yell like girls and lose an opportunity to truly improve their ability to provide fire protection.
    I know how angry you get when someone takes a pot-shot at cops. Please don't return the favor!!!

    Just my two cents.
    Just someone trying to help! (And by the way....Thanks for YOUR help!)

    Aggressive does not have to equal stupid.

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    Dal,
    Great point. I always thought Brewer's population was higher then 9k. I knew it was smaller than Bangor, but not by that much.
    According to their 2005 report, they had almost 2400 runs, 88% of them medical.Report
    If the article's math is right, 20% of their calls are out of town. Their web site even mentions starting a 2nd ambulance because they're the primary service for some of the surrounding towns.

    Reading the article makes me thing the problem isn't mutual aid to Bangor, but the smaller towns surrounding Brewer such as Clifton, Holden, and Eddington.

    Also, the some info on their regional proposal can be found here.

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    Question

    I am not familiar with this particular Maine town, but is it in an area that the tourists frequent due to the Seacoast?

    I know that Wells, Kennebunk (area) has a huge change in population during the summer due to tourists. Possibly causing a call volume jump.

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    So the big question is: are those 41 runs out of the city in April EMS or Fire runs for mutual aid? If they're mainly EMS, then something needs to be done about the EMS coverage outside of the city. If the VFDs are handling that also then something definitely needs to be done, especially if they are calling Brewer just for ALS service. EMS should then be regionalized to provide a better solution. Of course Brewer should be billing and collecting for those runs they make also, but we all know the collecting part of that always falls short of covering costs.

    Making 4-6 mutual aid fire runs outside the city isn't a lot and not very taxing on any agency, but I agree with the others that Brewer shouldn't be showing up and being the primary suppression crews. That smells a little of exaggeration. If they are a late arrival and manpower is short and already out changing bottles, then of course the next in crew will take over primary suppression. But if they are showing up and no one has started interior ops, then that's a different story. Each individual department has to as least make an effort to have something come out of the barn to their own calls and have enough to make an interior attack or rescue effort.

    It does sound like there is more to this than what has been reported. Lots of information missing.

    - Brian

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefDog
    I am not familiar with this particular Maine town, but is it in an area that the tourists frequent due to the Seacoast?
    Brewer is in central Maine Map
    so it doesn't get a huge upturn in population in the summer. Traffic probably gets a lot worse in the summer due to it being on a major access route to coastal Maine (I395 & Route 1A).

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    Quote Originally Posted by THEFIRENUT
    George,

    I usually can agree with your comments in this forum. Even in this thread....untill you made this statement:



    I know how angry you get when someone takes a pot-shot at cops. Please don't return the favor!!!

    Just my two cents.
    I AM a volunteer! Almost 30 years. Grow up.

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    Dal-

    Brewer may only have 9000 population but it is pretty industrial, and along with Bangor is the economic hub of a HUGE area of Maine.

    OSFD100-

    The volunteer departments outside of Bangor/Brewer are nothing like the departments on the coast, they have nothing, very little EMS, Old apparatus and questionable training. Don't get me wrong, I'm not slamming the volunteers up there but once you cross the Bangor/Brewer city line it get's awfully rural.

    Which leads me to side with the cities on this one, If in fact they turned down an opportunity to regionalize, the towns have to lay in the bed they've made for themselves. You can't expect the taxpayers in the cities to carry the Fire/EMS burden of the small poor towns, even if we are in the "Peoples Republic of Maine."

    -Nick

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    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgeWendtCFI
    I AM a volunteer! Almost 30 years. Grow up.
    I am grown up (thank you very much). I am sorry to hear that you don't have faith in the volunteer fire service in your area (this is a shame). I just don't agree with your generalization that all volunteer fire service personnel act like "kicking, screaming, yelling girls".
    Just someone trying to help! (And by the way....Thanks for YOUR help!)

    Aggressive does not have to equal stupid.

    ** "The comments made here are this person's views and possibly that of the organizations to which I am affiliated" **

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    Quote Originally Posted by THEFIRENUT
    I am grown up (thank you very much). I am sorry to hear that you don't have faith in the volunteer fire service in your area (this is a shame). I just don't agree with your generalization that all volunteer fire service personnel act like "kicking, screaming, yelling girls".
    I have complete faith in the volunteer fire service in my area. I do not have faith in the volunteer fire service in general. And that is based on history.

    Every single time there is a controversial issue-whether on the local level or the national level-the immediate universal reaction is some childish behavior; "We're all going to quit", "We're going on strike", "Paid guys get treated better than we do", "Cops get treated better than we do", "It's not fair, we're only volunteers", "You can't make us follow the rules, we're only volunteer". The list goes on ad nauseum.

    In this particular case, there was a problem. A solution to the problem was found and presented. It was summarily rejected by the volunteers. Then, when the consequences of their rejection come down, they cry like little girls.

    Unless you can bring something constructive to the table, (with apologies to Laura Ingraham), SHUT UP AND FIGHT FIRE!

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    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgeWendtCFI
    In this particular case, there was a problem. A solution to the problem was found and presented. It was summarily rejected by the volunteers. Then, when the consequences of their rejection come down, they cry like little girls.
    It is unclear from the article who rejected the regionalization plan. Somehow I doubt it was the rank and file volunteers. Maybe the chiefs, but more likely would be the town governments, the ones with the purse strings.

    The regionalization plan on Brewer's web site (linked in previous posts) quotes a few surrounding chiefs and they don't seem too against the idea. It seemed primarily financially motivated (pooling budgets and apparatus purchases), though does mention manpower (recruitment) a lot.

    Incidently, is Brewer a combination dept? Their site mentions 20 paid, 20 paid on call FF's. The POC guys could be considdered volunteer. If that's the case then the regionalization plan is much more balanced since it hints that Brewer may have its own manpower issues.

    BTW: They have a hovercraft !

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    It lists a POC force but from the limited knowledge of the way things work up there the Union is pretty heavy handed and the POC guys are very limited in what they do. So much in fact that a friend of mine didn't join up there because of the atmosphere in the firehouse.

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    Ok, revisiting the site to look at the Hovercraft (although they're not uncommon up here anymore), I did notice they also are the primary ambulance to three other towns, with a combined population of 5,500.

    So all four communities = 14,500.

    That would put them right about where I'd expect for a department running 2,000 calls in there own area (EMS + Fire for 9,000; EMS only for another 5,500).

    That still leaves us trying to explain something like 500 mutual aid runs a year. Since they're already covering three adjoining towns for ambulance under contract, I'd assume those aren't counted as m/a...and their overall call volume only makes sense if you assume they're not counted as m/a...

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    Dal,
    As a side, why a hovercraft instead of a simple boat?

    Also, wouldn't an out-of-town run be counted as a call whether it was m/a or contract? I'm not following your math/logic. What assumption needs to be made?

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