Commentary: DELIVERANCE....In OUR Fire Service?

There is some very strange stuff going on in Washington, D.C. these last couple of days.

Yeah, I know. So what else is new?

No. This is FIRE stuff. Or should I say the possibility of the lack of. Read on.

By the way, if you have access to it, please play the soundtrack from the movie DELIVERANCE while you read this. It will be just perfect to set the mood.

Now, if you are looking for a piece on WMD and Terrorism, hit delete now. You know and I know that, at best, we are barely prepared for what we have to do every day, no less deal with the WMD stuff.

Is that "other stuff" important? Sure it is. But we have to be able to handle the day-to-day stuff first. OK. Now, what was I saying? Oh yeah.

Did you notice that there was a notification sent out this week from the feds that the 2003 FIRE Act Grant Program that had been due to open up, but now due to "technical issues", it is on hold. A simple delay? Yeah, OK.

Before I go any further, I want to comment on that. In my opinion (what did you expect?) the fire service seemed to be in a good light, as far as federal grant funding and support, as we ever have.

Is it great? No. Is it better than what we have been getting? Yes. Is it anywhere near as much as we need? No. But the last few years have been a good start.

We also have some decent fire people running the show at USFA ... or they used to run the show. I think something stinks inside the beltway.

In the last few days we've received some pretty reliable info that there is a distinct and very real possibility that the FIRE Act Grant funds for 2003, the ones you were supposed to apply for this month, may be getting screwed with by an inbred group of clueless commanders from some "other" federal agencies.

We've heard the perps could be the Department of Justice and/or the White House Office of Management and Budget. We'll see.

Seems that something happened in the last few days that caused the FIRE Act Grant 2003 to be put on hold. But other folks right in the heat of it say that the funding may just get shifted, but may be cut along the way.

Some other sources are saying that, while there's talk regarding shifting our funding, the money may not go to the Department of Justice. Some speculation that the Office of Domestic Preparedness, an office that was housed within the DOJ and is now part of the Border and Transportation Security Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security, may become the beneficiary.

Who? Where? What agency?

This is simple: How do we get our funding? With the change last week, who is our "fire voice" in Washington? USFA was the closest thing we ever came to in having a voice for all fire service agencies at the federal level. And now I get the feeling that it's gonna be a cubicle some where.

What is going to happen to the firefighters that worked in the USFA, the one's who have crawled down halls like the rest of you?

What is going to happen to our supporters who were at the USFA? What about the non-firefighters who worked there but also understood what we needed?

You like that? Great! Here is more.

Did you know that on March 1, 2003, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) became a member of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) within the Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) Directorate?

Yeah, come on. You know. It's a Directorate. While they will continue to use the FEMA name publicly after March 1, be sure to watch and see how the word FIRE starts to disappear. Err...uhh...hmmmm....I think it already did.

There will not be an U.S. Fire Administration from what we can tell. Nope. Just like a whole bunch of family members moving into the same trailer park. The "Inside The Beltway Inbreeders", will flourish.

Are we over reacting? I sure hope so. But from all the folks I've talked to and from all the stuff I've received since the last week in February, we need to be very, very concerned.

We have had up until last week, a U.S. Fire Administration with good fire folks running it and leading it. Soon though, it seems that they and our programs may end up in another part of the federal government, The Smithsonian Institution.

While a lot of this stuff is still happening and we are told it's not final, sitting back and waiting ain't the answer this time. We continue to hear about being prepared for Weapons of Mass Destruction and terrorism activities and while we do have a level of concern for WMD and Terrorist stuff, it seems the biggest threat to the fire service appears to be in the form of the