1. #1
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    Default At what cost ......

    I went to a great seminar today ... After sitting thru it i got to thinking about how the majority of one hundred or so people that represent many different depts . are in two different worlds... The topics discussed spoke on the most effective ways at dealing with different types of constuctions and fire reaction ... But everything is predacated on nfpa standards and the traditional exceptance of what we all agree to be an adequate first alarm response...
    Im fortuanate enough to work in a very busy dept outside Boston and we have the ability to place 16 firefighters on the fire ground on a first alarm assignment ... We pride ourseleves in a aggressive interior attack because frankly we have the ability to so ... And, back that up with more than a complete second alarm ..
    Many of the Depts. represented had the common theme that im sure most people on this board have ... Pulling up with one two firefighters and maybe one guy driving the ladder or another piece following ... meanwhile people are getting toned out and there is a gap before arrival ...
    How can these depts. make any type of an aggressice attack given the manpower.. It really is night and a scary day .. I could not imagine doing the job with anything short of what we have ,,.. And we are down twenty plus bodies...
    So while it was on my mind , and i do far more reading than posting,, i thought i would toss this one out there and see some of the different responses....

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    On a good day, we too can put the required number of firefighters per NFPA 1710 on the fireground for a first alarm.

    When we are at minimum staffing, we are three short.

    Fully staffed or at minimum, we keep on doing it because it's "da job".

    The other day at the Academy, there was a discussion about things like NIMS, ICS and such. The discussion went to one theme.. how the hell diud we do the job before the alphabet soup came along?

    It's getting to the point in some FD's that they won't even put a line into operation unless all of the "vests" have been given out... and that, Brothers and Sisters, is a damn shame.
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    The other day at the Academy, there was a discussion about things like NIMS, ICS and such. The discussion went to one theme.. how the hell diud we do the job before the alphabet soup came along?
    The origin of "IC":
    Originally, this was the guy who was good at strategic planning, bringing people together for a common goal. Line Firefighters would run up to him, bringing reports of progress on various tasks and assignments, at which point he would rub his chin thoughtfully and respond, "I see."
    This made him wise and powerful in the eyes of his peers, because anyone who strokes their chin and mutters vaguely must be wise. This is known as Yoda Syndrome, and has been widely noted amongst many scholars.
    Eventually, the position lost its longer, more complex, and contextual namesakes: "Battalion Chief", "Captain", "Incident Commander", "Guy-In-Charge"...and was shortened simply to the characteristic mutterance: "I See."

    Hope that helps.

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    Most often the fire department has little or no say in staffing levels. My department runs four shifts with eight members per shift, plus three chiefs who are on call 24/7.

    The fire department administration would like to increase staffing to NFPA recommended levels, the union would also like to increase staffing. The people who control the budget have repeatedly said no to any more personnel. Our last increase came 10 years ago when we hired civilian dispatchers to replace the firefighter/dispatcher and hired an additional firefighter per shift. That moved us from six to eight members per shift.

    I have done the pie charts, runs stats, explained flashover, talked about reduced insurance rates, increasing department efficiency and safety, etc, etc. The finance board will not authorize a budget increase to raise fire department staffing. We tried to reactivate our volunteer department as a supplement to the career fire fighters and received two applications.

    The chief and I are going back to the budget battle starting next month. We are asking for a lot by requesting our ladder truck have three firefighters instead of two. We already know the answer but will try to sell it again.

    My department does an aggressive interior attack. About 90% of our fires are in one to three family wood frame homes. We may get four or five off duty firefighters on a call back. Mutual aid engine and ladder are few minutes away.
    Last edited by KenNFD1219; 11-11-2006 at 09:13 AM.
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    Initial daytime response for us during the day is 3 paid firefighters plus 4-5 volunteers who may be at the station and "riding out" or responding from home. Evening response is one paid men, plus ride-outs and volunteers responding from home.

    It's all about knowing what you can do safely, and recognizing what you have the manpower not to attempt. In our community, structure fires are rare and it would be impractical and unfair to the taxpayers to ask them to finance any additional full-time positions. Our full-time manpower levels combined with our volunteer response is sufficiant for 99% of our incidents, but when we do get a 1%er, our chief has made very clear that the priority is our safety, and if the structure burns, so be it. While that may sound cold, he has recognized that we need to work within our limiations, and has accepted responsibility for explaining to the public why we were not able to do more if they should ask.

    While we will put a line out "before all the vests have been handed out", there has been more than one occasion where the IC has chosen not to make an interior attack and sacrifice a structure as a trade off to our safety when manpower was not sufficiant to man a backup line, assemble a vent team or garuntee a water supply.

    And the answer to your question .... No, there are many times where it's not worth the cost. IMO, Firefighter safety should never be sacrificed for a structure and honestly, should rarely be sacrificed for a possible victim.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator
    Initial daytime response for us during the day is 3 paid firefighters plus 4-5 volunteers who may be at the station and "riding out" or responding from home. Evening response is one paid men, plus ride-outs and volunteers responding from home.

    In our community, structure fires are rare and it would be impractical and unfair to the taxpayers to ask them to finance any additional full-time positions. Our full-time manpower levels combined with our volunteer response is sufficiant for 99% of our incidents, but when we do get a 1%er, our chief has made very clear that the priority is our safety, and if the structure burns, so be it.
    Ok you say that its unfair to ask for more manpower then you say

    While we will put a line out "before all the vests have been handed out", there has been more than one occasion where the IC has chosen not to make an interior attack and sacrifice a structure as a trade off to our safety when manpower was not sufficiant to man a backup line, assemble a vent team or garuntee a water supply.
    So you dont have the manpower but yet you say its unfair to ask for more manpower. I gurantee you when you all have a family of 3-4 die that involves kids and I hope you dont but you can bet the public wont think its unfair.

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    Great Discussion. I too, am fortunate in that manning levels are good, with few exceptions. We are a combination department, with four (sometimes five) full time folks on the floor 0700 - 1500 weekdays, along with any Volunteers that may be in the station. All other times Voluteers make up the full crew. Good example - Last night a box for an Apartment Fire (Auto aid to the next station west of us) Rescue Engine with 5, Fire Engine with 4, and a Chief (me). Other stations sent 2 more Engines with 4 and 7, 2 Ladders with 4 and 6 and a Heavy Rescue with 7. EMS Response was 1 BLS with 2 and 1 ALS with 2, and the EMS Supervisor. A total of 8 Chief Officers also were in attendence. That put 49 people on the Fireground (all on the Apparatus, no call back or home response) with the last unit getting there about 7 minutes after the Alarm was sounded. Career folks totaled 8, with 41 Volunteers. For our part of the world, this is about usual for a Working Fire. Daytime Staffing with the same stations responding would have been a minimum of 27. What's the secret? Attitude Shift. We WANT a Combination system, and one that works well. We absolutely encourage anything (well, almost ) that gets folks to "hang out" at the station. Big Screen TV, Bunkroom, Excercise Room, Etc. We actively recruit Volunteers all the time, maintain an active, ongoing Training program, and do what it takes to get people on the Apparatus. FF1 course (110 hours) and several other items are required for interior Firefighting. Most new folks are going in after about 8 months of joining. Everyone is also required to be an EMT-B, and we have additional training requirements for Heavy Rescue operations. At the other end, Chief Officers need to be certified as a Fire Officer II by the National Pro Board. Does it work? Yes! Is it perfect? No, but we're working on it.
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    I went to a seminar several years ago on Rural firefighting.

    The biggest thing I cam away with, for us rural guys with only 2 or 3 men is to do what you can and make sure no one gets hurt. While to lose of property is a trerrible sometimes heart breaking thing, but worse than that would be the injury or loss of personell.

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    Default It seems to me...

    ...that there is a key difference, maybe just in attitute, between Ken's post and hwood's post that may go a long way toward explaining why Ken's department had the volunteer recruiting problem.

    The difference is summed up in the phrase, "to supplement". No one wants to volunteer in a combo department where the role of volunteers is wash the equipment and maybe do some rehab (whopee!). They want to volunteer in a meaningful role, and be a full part of the team. (Not saying Ken's department wouldn't have done this, just making a general observation).

    When we hired our first two paid guys, we made sure to be very clear that they were not "more equal" than the vollies. In fact, for several years, all of the officers were still volunteers. One reason why so many combo departments fail and have to go all career is that volunteers come to feel (and, frankly, BE) less valued.

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    Randsc-you make some valid points. The situation you described has been posted on these forums numerous times about many different departments..

    My departments desire to recruit volunteers to supplement the career firefighters had the stated goal of training volunteers to work with career staff in all aspects of response. One of my goals, had the recruitment worked, would have assigned volunteers to truck company functions on the fire ground.

    The fire commission disbanded the previous volunteer company last year due to many years of mis-management and little to no response. We wanted to reorganize the volunteer company to work with the on duty shift to supplement the staffing required by contract, not to give them the crappy jobs.

    As an incentive, we would have granted points on an entry exam, if not outright preference, for future hiring.

    It is difficult to start up a volunteer department in an area where many people work out of town and are not interested or able to volunteer. In places were there is a community and family tradition of active volunteers, you can have a department like Chief Wood's.
    Last edited by KenNFD1219; 11-11-2006 at 05:53 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenNFD1219
    It is difficult to start up a volunteer department in an area where many people work out of town and are not interested or able to volunteer. In places were there is a community and family tradition of active volunteers, you can have a department like Chief Wood's.
    I'm willing to bet that hwoods's people live and or work all over the Metro Washington area. That's one of the downfalls of this area - the jobs are here, the housing is there, and the commute is terrible. But the previous poster is dead on in assessing the need of volunteers to feel needed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SBrooks
    But the previous poster is dead on in assessing the need of volunteers to feel needed.
    I am in 100% agreement. No one wants to be a part of an organization where they are not wanted or treated like second class citizens. I've been there and have the t-shirt.
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    Tann ,, Allow me to make a few clarifications.

    While we will put a line out "before all the vests have been handed out", there has been more than one occasion where the IC has chosen not to make an interior attack and sacrifice a structure as a trade off to our safety when manpower was not sufficiant to man a backup line, assemble a vent team or garuntee a water supply

    This situation occured only three times in the 4 years I have been with this department. In two cases, this occurred in a vacant structure, which even if the manpower had beeen available it is unlikely we would have conducted interior firefighting operations anyway, as in our protocol there has to be a confirmed life hazard for interior operations in vacant structures or the structure has to be less than 50% envolved (which these were not). In both situations, there was not enough personnel initially for both a backup line and a vent team, and the IC felt that ventilation was needed for safe operation. A backup handline manned and working is a requirement for our departmeent w/in 1 minute of the initial line being pulled, or the initial line is pulled out. No significant loss as both structures were vacant. The third situation involved a commercial structure where all employees had been evacated and accounted for. The volume of fire dictated a couple of 2.5" lines to contain the fire, which we did not have the manpower for. Again, not significant as it was a commercial structure with no life hazard on arrival.

    So you dont have the manpower but yet you say its unfair to ask for more manpower. I gurantee you when you all have a family of 3-4 die that involves kids and I hope you dont but you can bet the public wont think its unfair.

    We are a primarily rural area with a very limited commercial tax base. The first $75,000 of property assessment in Louisiana is exempt from any kind of taxes, including fire district taxes. Approximatly 30-40% of our residental prperties pays no fire taxes because of this. Our fire tax is already slighty over the parish average. The community cannot simply afford additional fire taxes. Nor would they stand for it if we explained that 99.5% of the time our career-volunteer staffing is perfectly adequate for what we face. Maybe I am just one of those who beleive that we have a responsibility to be fiscally responsible, and to me, it is not fiscally responsible or fair to the taxpayers to ask them to fund postions that will be used on .5% of our runs (or about 6-7 times a year). The community as a whole is happy with what we give them and understnad that at times we have limitaions because of our fiscal situation. It is in those situations that we have to make hard choices ... but those hard choices have to be made with our safety first.

    We are a combo department that makes no bones about saying that we are a primarily volunteer combo department. Our paid staff exists to support the volunteers .. who provide 70-90% of our manpower at our incidents. The paid staff exist to take care of the daily chores, daily truck checks and maintanece and routine tasks such as hydrant maintanence. Any vollie riding out must participate in the daily task assigned to the career staff. It works very well here, and it will be the way we do business for as far into the future as we can predict.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator

    We are a combo department that makes no bones about saying that we are a primarily volunteer combo department. Our paid staff exists to support the volunteers .. who provide 70-90% of our manpower at our incidents. The paid staff exist to take care of the daily chores, daily truck checks and maintanece and routine tasks such as hydrant maintanence. Any vollie riding out must participate in the daily task assigned to the career staff. It works very well here, and it will be the way we do business for as far into the future as we can predict.
    I understtod what you said in your post. But anyway gonna respect the thread. So with you all being a rural department how many calls etc do you all run a year? Also what part of LA. are you all in?
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    Quote Originally Posted by throthestick
    I went to a great seminar today ... After sitting thru it i got to thinking about how the majority of one hundred or so people that represent many different depts . are in two different worlds... The topics discussed spoke on the most effective ways at dealing with different types of constuctions and fire reaction ... But everything is predacated on nfpa standards and the traditional exceptance of what we all agree to be an adequate first alarm response...
    Im fortuanate enough to work in a very busy dept outside Boston and we have the ability to place 16 firefighters on the fire ground on a first alarm assignment ... We pride ourseleves in a aggressive interior attack because frankly we have the ability to so ... And, back that up with more than a complete second alarm ..
    Many of the Depts. represented had the common theme that im sure most people on this board have ... Pulling up with one two firefighters and maybe one guy driving the ladder or another piece following ... meanwhile people are getting toned out and there is a gap before arrival ...
    How can these depts. make any type of an aggressice attack given the manpower.. It really is night and a scary day .. I could not imagine doing the job with anything short of what we have ,,.. And we are down twenty plus bodies...
    So while it was on my mind , and i do far more reading than posting,, i thought i would toss this one out there and see some of the different responses....

    Got thrown off sorry. Anyway where I am at we have 7 on duty per shift right now. THey are going to be hiring 6 more within the next 2 months or so. But what you see is what you get. We use 7 people currently on a structure fire and no we do not meet the 2 in 2 out rule. We are a very aggresive department. We do recall 3 off duty firefighters when we have a structure fire but there purpose is just to man the hall just in case something else comes in. However like everywhere else we have to have parks and greenways. They just spent 2.8 mill on a park and when its done it will have cost over 5 million. And not to mention how much they have spent on greenways. I think if we changed our name ot parks and rec we could get anything we wanted.

    But anyway do what you got to do with what you have.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator
    IMO, Firefighter safety should never be sacrificed for a structure and honestly, should rarely be sacrificed for a possible victim.
    So if you have 3 or 4 men on scene, with a report of a person trapped, you will do nothing besides exterior ops? All because you are afraid of a fireman possibly getting hurt trying to do his job? How do you justify your existence? There is a big difference between going interior and taking a calculated risk to do what you can do without getting in a "pinch", and doing absolutely nothing because you are a coward.

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    Tann ..

    We are in the northwest corner of the state... about 15 miles east of Shreveport. We run about 1,300 calls a year ... 85% of them are ALS First Response. Majority of our fires are brush and wildland. We catch maybe 15 structure fires a year, with about 5-6 being working on arrival. We operate 5 stations - one manned and four are vollie staffed.

    Eric ...

    Quite honestly it depends on the situation... How envolved is the structure?
    How relaible are the reports? Is it a member of the household who escaped and knows that someone is still inside or is it a neighbor who says she thinks someone might be inside because his car is still there making the report? If our manning and/or fire conditions are marginal the reports of a trapped victim will have to be pretty reliable for us to make the risky push. In the mind of our chief the lives of the firefighters in a marginal situation are not worth the risk in a situation where there is only the possibility of a victim. That's the feeling of our chief, and I happen to agree with him. In all honesty, I don't think our community has ever expected us to take unreasonable risks. They do not have the expectation that we are going to die doing our job. They expect us to take reasonable risks in situations where the risks are worth the results.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator
    Tann ..

    We are in the northwest corner of the state... about 15 miles east of Shreveport. We run about 1,300 calls a year ... 85% of them are ALS First Response. Majority of our fires are brush and wildland. We catch maybe 15 structure fires a year, with about 5-6 being working on arrival. We operate 5 stations - one manned and four are vollie staffed.
    What is the population that you all serve and how many miles do you all cover? I see bossier city and they have all career but I dont see bossier parrish?
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    In the mind of our chief the lives of the firefighters in a marginal situation are not worth the risk in a situation where there is only the possibility of a victim.
    LaFireEducator, that's where you and I fundamentally differ in our firefighting stategy and tactics- I don't work in a bedroom suburb, I work in an inner-city house. All those neat little tricks of knowing if anyone is home just don't work consistantly enough to be reliable. Time of day- give me a break, working?; cars in the driveway- all the time; toys- junk everywhere; school day- yea right. So there is always the possibility of a victim, until we clear the structure.
    But I don't what your solution would be- you mention fiscal resposibility, but at what cost to the very citizens you claim to protect? 2 in 2 out is fairly simple to accomplish- 1 engine company suffices. But to add back up lines, vent crews, less than 50% involved, and a chief officer on scene to make the decission, at what point are you hiding behind safety?
    Last edited by SPFDRum; 11-12-2006 at 07:41 PM.
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    Tann ...

    We border Bossier City, which is a career department. The parish, outside of the city, is divided into 8 fire districts, covering the rural areas of the parish. We cover approx. 120 miles of the parish, with a population of about 13,000. Our major hazards are 10 miles of I-20, the south's major east-west interstate and a meduim sized refinary producing high-end lubricants. We also cover 2 railines, and a meduim sized oil field. We are considered by most of the other parish fire departments to be progressive and aggressive. I would dare to say that our fire loss numbers are lower than anyone with a comprable district and staffing. We also have, with the exception of one department, have the most paid staffing in the parish (other than the city). The reality is that our funding for staffing is tapped out. We regularly see what were fields, which we covered in the past, being annexed by a neighboring department as they are built-out with high-end homes. While we are seeing growth, the yearly budget increases are quite modest, and not enough to add additional paid staffing. At this point, the slight funding increases are being used in other areas such as facilities, training, infrastucture and equipment.

    We have an aggressive volunteer base which responds on all runs. Training levels vary based on time served. The response is good. Rideout participation, though not required, is very good with our younger members.
    At this time the chief sees not pressing need to add full-time bodies and wishes to retain as much of a volunteer department as possible. There are plans to add a M-F daytime firefighter in 2010, or sooner if our SAFER grant is approved for a firefighter/public educator/code enforcement officer is approved.

    SPFD .. allow me to clarify ...

    I never meant to say that there needs to be a chief officer on all runs, though daytime calls will get the Asst. Chief, who is afulltime employee (Chief and Deputy Chief are volunteers). The Chief makes the policies that all the officers are expected to follow. What I outlined were SOPs ... developed by the Chief and expected to be followed by all officers as they function as ICs.

    As far as the requirement for a vent crew if interior ops are to be continued after 5 minutes .... well, unless you want to risk a flashover which has killed many firefighters ....

    Backup lines are common sense to cut off extension. They also tend to, in our department, function as search teams as we do not allow structural searches without a handline.

    Will we waive these in extreme situations where we are fairly confident that the reports of a victim are reliable or the exterior signs indicate the strong possibility that there are likely victims inside? Sure, if it can be done with a margin of safety. On at least 1 occasion in the past 4 years we did, IMO, go past the edge of the envelope. Luckily nobody was hurt, but the relaible reports turned out to be false. Did I agree with it? No, but it wasn't my call .. it was the officer on the first truck in's call. Luckily in our district, these types of situations occur very rarely. To me, it's just not worth the potential cost to our staffing. To me, utilizing these common sense SOPs is operating within the margins of firefighter safety, not hiding behind safety.

    I understand we all have our feeling on what role safety plays in the fire service. When it comes to operations, I am quite conservative. That is my style. I very much beleive in risk a little to save a little. While my Chief is not nearly as conservative as I am, his focus is on our safety, followed by what we can reasonably do with a reasonable degree of safety for his men. The community understands this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator




    I understand we all have our feeling on what role safety plays in the fire service. When it comes to operations, I am quite conservative. That is my style.
    That has got to be the understatement of the century!


    "We are considered by most of the other parish fire departments to be progressive and aggressive."

    HOLY CRAP! You've gotta be kidding me!

    Do these other departments even have bunker gear?
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    I am not typical of the level of aggressiveness on the department. We are considered aggressive, within certain boundries. We have not had a single fire-related injury which required transport, with the exception of heat exhaustion, in at least 5 years, and I would venture to guess that our our fire loss numbers are lower per capita than any other department in the parish. In most cases we get inside fast and hit it fast, because it most cases, we have sufficiant manpower to perform all the needed tasks. However, the leadership has idetified the need to back off when the manpower isn't there in the interest of our safety. If lives were at stake, I am sure, much to my dismay, we would push the edge of the envelope more than we should, but honestly, the need for rescue is such a rare occurance in our area, the possibility doesn't even concern me.

    And yes we are progressive. We provide more training options and have more firefighters with advanced skills than any other parish department. We are the only department in the parish with a technical rescue team. I could sit here and list our accomplishments, but I won't.

    Since you have decided to attack my department, I have said enough.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator
    If lives were at stake, I am sure, much to my dismay, we would push the edge of the envelope more than we should, but honestly, the need for rescue is such a rare occurance in our area, the possibility doesn't even concern me.

    Those are the kind of statements that you make on such a continual basis, that absolutely astonish me! I am appalled that a "firefighter" could ever make such a statement!

    If you're not even concerned about the possibility of a rescue, then in my opinion, you have NO place in the fire service!
    Fire Lieutenant/E.M.T.
    IAFF Local 2339
    K of C 4th Degree
    "LEATHER FOREVER"
    Member I.A.C.O.J.
    http://www.tfdfire.com/
    "Fir na tine"

  24. #24
    Truckie
    SPFDRum's Avatar
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    Default

    I'm not sure what scares me more- the fact he is not concerned about rescue or the fact he uses educator in his forum name.
    My posts reflect my views and opinions, not the organization I work for or my IAFF local. Some of which they may not agree. I.A.C.O.J. member
    "I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them."
    George Mason
    Co-author of the Second Amendment
    during Virginia's Convention to Ratify the Constitution, 1788
    Elevator Rescue Information

  25. #25
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    Default Just thought I'd pile on while the gettin is good.

    Quote Originally Posted by SPFDRum
    I'm not sure what scares me more- the fact he is not concerned about rescue or the fact he uses educator in his forum name.
    Kinda reminds me of the saying
    "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."

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