Fire Service Leaders Reflect The Past, Present and Future of Firehouse Magazine

A sampling of long-time contributors look back at our first 30 years to assess that state of the fire-rescue service then, now and in the years to come.


HAL BRUNO Hal Bruno, a Firehouse® contributing editor, retired as political director for ABC News in Washington and served almost 40 years as a volunteer firefighter. He is a director of the Chevy Chase, MD, Fire Department and chairman of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation...


To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Firehouse. Already have an account? Login

Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.

OR

Complete the registration form.

Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required

The issue, of course, is that we need to look at our fire prevention/public education messages and efforts. When we talk about working smoke alarms, the people who need them (or need to replace the battery) are living different lives than most of us. Buying a smoke alarm or a battery may not be as easy for them as it is for us. They may be ashamed to ask for something so inexpensive, or may not know where to go to get one. They are probably more concerned about crime, drugs, clothing for their children or their next meal than they are about fire safety.

Firehouse: What are some of the most significant advances in the fire service in the past 30 years?

Onieal: Two hundred years of tradition unimpeded by progress is an amusing statement; but so far from the truth that it’s absurd. Thirty years ago, the Boston Fire Department instituted a mandatory mask rule, requiring every firefighter and officer to wear SCBA. The “Commish,†Leo Stapleton, was practically run out of town on a rail; he was probably accused of everything under the sun, but he loved his firefighters and he stuck to his guns. Today, a firefighter wouldn’t think of going into a burning building without an SCBA, and many of us are living more than three years past retirement because of Leo. Thanks, Commish!

Alan Brunacini’s Fireground Command and Firescope’s Incident Command took the same view of fire operations that General Dwight Eisenhower did of the invasion of France in June 1944. Thirty years later, everyone and their sister is looking toward the fire service (and rightfully so) to learn how to organize for the small and large disasters.

Jim Page single-handedly brought emergency medical services into the fire service, saving many lives (and quite honestly, many jobs). As the baby-boom generation begins to hit the health care system, we are going to see demands on that service that we can’t even imagine today. Jim saw what was coming, and got us ready for it.

Some very smart and energetic people realized that working smart was much better than working hard, and that the fire service would benefit from differing points of view. Some courageous women and people of color decided that they could contribute to the great traditions of the fire service while at the same time throwing out a few of the clunker traditions. Today, I’m overwhelmed by the talent and dedication I see; especially the leadership at both the department level and the fire service organizational level. There are some remarkable leaders out there, and they’re not all white males of Irish descent.

Firehouse: What have you been a proponent of during your career?

Onieal: Two things, safety and education; and think I’ll just let the record speak for that.

Firehouse: What do you see changing or needs to change in the next 30 years in the fire service?

Onieal: There are two, EMS and training. The biggest is the demand that the baby-boomers will place on the EMS system; the beginning of the boomers turn 62 in 2008. The end of the boomers turn 85 in 2050, so we’ve got about 40 years of demands to face, and I haven’t yet seen a plan. It is getting harder and harder for some departments to keep paramedics; and I suspect that before long something is going to have to “give.†What that change will be, I don’t know; there are probably as many options as there are opinions. But this issue is not going away; it is going to get worse.

The second is the generation that is coming up (pick your favorite letter, X, Y, Z) are going to be self-learners (why do you think they spend so much time on the Internet?). The “sociology of training†is going to have to change. People will be used to learning from other people, not necessarily from professors or organizations. Because people will be learning from people, that obnoxious jerk you know who is very smart but has the interpersonal skills of a hungry rattlesnake will be at a distinct disadvantage. People will not want to share information with them. Stand by; it’ll be fun to watch.

By the way, I’m not an alarmist about the next generation; I think that they’re going to do very, very well, thank you. I’m always reminded of a famous quote, “Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, they gobble their food and tyrannize their teachers.†Sound like kids you know today? You know who said that? Socrates! (Source: www.quotations -page.com/quote/20946)