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Stop The Bleeding! Stop The Insanity!
With the avalanche of job losses, budget cuts, and equipment shortages - creating June's FE illustration felt appropriate and needed. Thoughts?

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A very accute illustration of what is happening all over the country. Perhaps we are fortunate here in Spain where fire and local police are public service employees, who have their positions guaranteed by law. About the only way any can be fired is by having committed some very serious offence. One way Spanish municipalities have found to "reduce" staffing is by not replacing retired or disabled personnel. This happened several years ago in the country's second municipal fire brigade when a "creative thinking head" consultant convinced the city authorities that by eliminating a couple of stations and cutting back on manpower by not replacing retiring FF's, the city could save millions. In 8 years, staffing dropped from 1,010 to just over 700. However, the average age of first response engine company personnel rose from 35 to 52 years old. The reirement age for Spanish FF's at that time was 65 (now 62 and dropping to 59). Us oldies apparently can do the same as you youngsters.
Keep safe over there.
Another "on target" picture showing what is happening right now in the Fire service. No one is safe, especially those we serve in our communities.
Fiscal Responsibility or Irresponsible Behavior?

The concept of operating at a blaze with a handful of personnel is foreign to many firefighters, both career and volunteer. But during these hard times, more and more city administrators are looking toward the public safety sector to make cuts in order to make ends meet. To them, getting several apparatus to the fire is what the public expects, despite the fact that many of the rigs are staffed with 2 and 1 man companies.

You heard it right, a driver and partner to make up the supply line, advance the attack line, make forcible entry, and attempt rescues until the 2nd due company rolls in with additional help. Hopefully, the “2nd due” company, staffed by yet another 2 man crew, will arrive quickly. It’s a procedure that troubles firefighters and union officials, and when it tragically hits home, the citizen public will be in an uproar.

What we're seeing is a risky trend, because city administrators are placing the public and firefighters at risk. The mere suggestion that 5 or 6 firemen can mitigate a working house fire shows a total ignorance of firefighting tactics and a blatant disregard for personal safety.

"We need to reduce staffing and be fiscally responsible." one mayor said. If there is a significant fire he added, "...we'll use neighboring volunteer departments for mutual aid." However, most volunteer chiefs acknowledge that their own staffing is way down, and what resources they do have are dedicated to protecting their local alarm district.

Like the Ohio fire chief said, check the batteries in your smoke detector, because we won't be able to come in and get you.

Lou
The city is threatening to close two of our engine companies permanently. we're fighting them but only time will tell.
Excellent editorial cartoon. I was laid off once in the mid 70's and went into the military because I had a family to support. I retired from the military and as I was going through the application process, with the same fire department, I was laid off again. I was recently asked if I would return to that FD. As much as I love that FD and the city it protects, I can't afford to lose my job as I have kids in college now.

When we have a major conflagration in a city that laid off firefighters, then and only then will the city fathers see the error in judgement. I have heard a major city major say . . . "that we do not need all these firefighters. All they do is sit around the firehouse and do nothing. They are a waste of the taxpayers money." . . . Now, that individual is currently living in a prison cell for fraud.

We in the Fire Service have not done a very good job of promoting ourselves. Look at the money that is thrown at police departments around the country. Some of the PDs get equipment that isn't even asked for. Some of our Brothers & Sisters have to buy their own forcible entry tools. We had a lot of support from the public right after 9-11 and while the goodwill is still there we haven't used it for our advantage. Example, the local TV news stations are more than happy telling stories about the wonderful things cops to for the neighbourhoods. It's like pulling teeth to get them to show the positive things we, as firefighters, do for the community.

Although we do get some coverage, on the community access channels. But, my neighbours don't even know where to find those channels.

While I'm not for beating my chest about commercial enterprises in a forum like this, I think this is different, very different. There's a website called TheBattalion.tv. They show, without the pomp and fanfare, what we do day in and day out. They're currently trying to make the switch from the Internet to TV. Give the show a look and if you feel that they truly show what life is like for us, support that additional exposure for them to TV. I feel that by doing that more of the public will be exposed to what we really do everyday, the dangers we face keeping the public safe and how we are forced to just make do with shrinking budgets and personnel layoffs.
What will end up happening when short staffed on the engine companies that respond to a working fire will have to waste time by going to a defensive mode until other companies come on scene. This puts our citizens who pay our salaries directly in harms way. It is absurd to expect there to be 2 man engines to be on duty. It is the same old story, It will not be an issue until it happens to someone who can change policy. So it comes down to the Fire department administrative personnel sitting down and revising the SOP to reflect the crew shortages and Captains to use common sense when thinking tactics.

Lou Angeli said:
Fiscal Responsibility or Irresponsible Behavior?

The concept of operating at a blaze with a handful of personnel is foreign to many firefighters, both career and volunteer. But during these hard times, more and more city administrators are looking toward the public safety sector to make cuts in order to make ends meet. To them, getting several apparatus to the fire is what the public expects, despite the fact that many of the rigs are staffed with 2 and 1 man companies.

You heard it right, a driver and partner to make up the supply line, advance the attack line, make forcible entry, and attempt rescues until the 2nd due company rolls in with additional help. Hopefully, the “2nd due” company, staffed by yet another 2 man crew, will arrive quickly. It’s a procedure that troubles firefighters and union officials, and when it tragically hits home, the citizen public will be in an uproar.

What we're seeing is a risky trend, because city administrators are placing the public and firefighters at risk. The mere suggestion that 5 or 6 firemen can mitigate a working house fire shows a total ignorance of firefighting tactics and a blatant disregard for personal safety.

"We need to reduce staffing and be fiscally responsible." one mayor said. If there is a significant fire he added, "...we'll use neighboring volunteer departments for mutual aid." However, most volunteer chiefs acknowledge that their own staffing is way down, and what resources they do have are dedicated to protecting their local alarm district.

Like the Ohio fire chief said, check the batteries in your smoke detector, because we won't be able to come in and get you.

Lou
I'm back,
The following happened in Spain's fifth most populated city 30 years ago. Zaragoza's population at that time was around 500,000 and the municipal fire brigade (all paid career public employees) covered the city from one (1) station staffed by just over 100 firefighters working four shifts; some 20 on duty on any given day.
The chief at that time had requested increased staffing, additional vehicles and equipment and a new station over the years. Each request was refused by city management. late in the decade, a major fire occured in a petroleum storage facility within the city limits. All on duty personnel and many off duty FF's battled the blaze for several hours, unable to gain control over it. In desperation, the chief requested aid from the nearby United States Air Force base. Two major crash tenders were dispatched and helped the city FD in gaining control and extinguishing the fire. The Spanish political scene during that time was in a certain turmoil, the 40 years of the Franco dictatorship giving way to an important political transition. Many politicians fomented anti US feelings aruond the country, including Zaragoza. The city's government relieved the chief from his position, claming him to be incompetent. In reality, they could not condone his asking the "yanks" for help, and much less admit that the USAF had significantly contributed in dominating the fire.

A new chief was appointed, who after analyzing the department's situation and many serious defects, started to request personnel, material, vehicles and a new fire station, again to no avail. But this new chief was very "street wise" and insisted that every refusal be signed, dated and stamped by the corresponding city authority. Early on the morning of July 19th, 1979, a fire broke out in the city's most important hotel, the Corona de Aragon; 10 stories and more than 200 guest rooms. The city's fire station was just two blocks away so that initial response was nearly instantaneous. The rapidly expanding fire overwhelmed first and subsequent responders so that help was requested to the regional fire service AND again, to the USAF. Two structural engines and a dozen USAF firefighters responded, and later on two helicopters were also sent. The fire claimed 79 victims and more than 80 injured.

During the ensuing investigations, the city management tried to hang the 79 deaths on the fire chief, who brought out his collection of official refusals for personnel and equipment; "the 100 ft aerial I had requested could have helped save some of the victims, 20 more firefighters could have helped contain the fire....". During the investigations, the city councilman responsable for public safety was relieved and the mayor (and his political party) lost the 1980 municipal elections.
Early in 1982, the city inaugurated the new central fire department headquarters (1 entire city block) two neighborhood stations, 2 aerials (one 100 ft and one 65 ft) and 3 engines, one of Europe's most advanced computerized dispatching systems and 60 new firefighters. The chief remained in his post until retiring in the late 1990's, passing 15 years as president of the Spanish firefighters`association, board member of the European fire service association and founder of the country's most important fire museum.

It only took 79 deaths and 80 plus injured the improve the Zaragoza municipal fire department. This incident also provoked the elaboration of national legislation on fire safety in hotels. Also, after nearly 20 years, the national government publicly admitted that the fire had been caused by a terrorist action (this had been suspected as from the initial stages of the fire).

The answer to staff reductions is very simple. Just have a major multiple fatality fire in your city that your reduced staffing cannot handle and watch the politicians scramble away from asuming their responsabilities. By the way Lou, how's staffing with those surrounding VFD's?

Keep safe over there.
Paul,
We have lost 5 positions through attrition in the last several years and are going to lose one more before they consider hiring again. Two of our shifts are down to seven and one still has eight. During this time of year 3 per company never seems enough. When I stated we had nine per shift, two engines and a light rescue, now we are headed for 7 per shift and two engines. Morale is in the basement, as a Captain, it certainly makes everyday interesting. Keep up the Great Work, if the politicians won't notice, the Fire Service does and appreciates what you do!

Stay Safe Everyone!
Jeff
Those who make the budgets and the budget cuts have no idea at what they're doing. We can try educating them, but they won't get it. Most of them have never worked in this field. The fact that smaller staffing levels drastically increase the fact that someone may not go home never enters into their heads. The only thing that they see is the bottom line on the dollar sheet, not the flag draped coffin with a widow and a child who can't figure out why someone isn't coming home.

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