Thursday, March 11, 2010

FINALLY a firefighting post . . .

"Read letters from irate government officials." That's part of my job description. This particular letter was written in the severe, polite jargon of the well-chained bureaucrat. Yes, I said well chained. Bureaucrats are humans like the rest of us, and they get mad like the rest of us, but they aren't allowed to tell people off like the rest of us. Their training forbids them to say what they really think . . . like, "You boneheads! Get your act together, or there will be hell to pay." They aren't allowed to say that, so they slide veiled threats across the page, mixed with menacing innuendos about the severe consequences of non-compliance.

I don't do veiled threats, so I picked up the phone and called my friendly neighbourhood bureaucrat to see what this was all about. Turns out, the letter wasn't aimed at me particularly, but at chiefs that are behind on their training and reporting . . . two deficiencies that can trigger a bureaucratic apoplectic fit, if anything can.

This is the tip of a Titanic sized iceberg, and it isn't showing any signs of thawing. I don't blame these bureaucrats for their apoplexy. They are trying to melt a glacier with a blow dryer.They've been given a few fistfuls of small change for a budget, and are expected to support 50+ fire departments . . . many of which are at the end of their rope. People are moving away, volunteers have worked for years without pay, and everyone is approaching burnout.

At the heart of the issue is training. Everyone needs more of it, and when you get a guy that has it, you want to chain him to the pumper. Even bigger, composite departments like Orangeville, Ontario, face training dilemmas. In this case, it's with two-hatters, who are career firefighters that work as volunteers in their off time (which is against union rules, and can cost them their jobs). The two-hatter issue is more than I want to tackle in this post, but I can safely say that if Upsala were close enough to civilization to have career guys living here, I'd try to chain them to my pumper.

Wow. Two untouchable issues in one post. I'd better shut up and go to bed before I really do get in trouble.


  1. I'm going to have to pull out a map and find Upsala...

    I'm guessing I'll need to look at the top, right-hand side of that map :)

  2. Find the north shore of Lake Superior, then find Thunder Bay. We're about 90 miles NW of Thunder Bay on Hwy 17. You might have to look hard . . . Upsala is so small it almost doesn't exist :-)


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