Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fire Prevention Week

It's Fire Prevention Week. Chances are you knew that already, but I had to say it as a kind of due diligence, do-my-duty, tell-the-world-to-be safe, firefighter public education thing.

Usually around this time of year, we get a proclamation in the mail that uses a lot of fancy words like "Queen Elizabeth the Second" and "Commonwealth" and "Right Trusty and Well Beloved," along with excessive use of the word "Whereas." All that rhetoric to say (in common English), "Dudes! Listen to the firefighters and be fire-safe, at least for a week, will ya!" You can read a really and truly authentic Fire Prevention Week Proclamation here.

With that piece of semi useless trivia out of the way, I can tell you that Fire Prevention Week is one of my favourite times of the year. I could spend the rest of this post telling you how much fun I'm having visiting schools and doing public education, but I decided to issue my own proclamation instead:
  • WHEREAS I did such a good job last year telling you about my Fire Prevention Week activities
  • AND WHEREAS my 2010 Fire Prevention Week activities aren't a lot different than my 2009 activities
  • AND WHEREAS I don't want to bore you with unnecessary details
  • AND WHEREAS I have a perfectly good link to last year's post right here . . .
. . . I will refrain from telling the story all over again.
Ironically, the following headline hit the news this week of all weeks: Firefighters Watch as Home Burns to the Ground. That's pretty lousy publicity for an organization that enjoys a reputation for selflessness and dedication. Public opinion, however, is skewed by misconceptions. It's like looking at your hand under water - you sort of see it but you sort of don't.

I have sympathy pains for the good folk of South Fulton, Tennessee, because Upsala is an island of fire protected area in a vast sea of unprotected no-man's land, populated by moose and bears (who rarely need us) and cottagers and loggers and travelers, (that regularly need us). Sometimes we go to these out-of-bounds incidents, and sometimes we decline. In our case, it's largely about timing and location. There isn't much point in driving thirty or forty minutes to put water on some ashes, especially if it's winter and the fire won't spread. On the other hand, we've driven a couple hours to perform a vehicle rescue.

Money is another issue. Our local residents pay for service. Their insurance companies know that they pay for fire protection, and offer them a rate based on our rural suppression capability. If our units are in Timbuktu fighting someone else's fire, and a house burns in our response area, the insurance company will likely request a friendly meeting in court to exchange accusations for cash. So every time the pager goes off for a fire or crash outside our response area, we have to make a decision based on the skimpy information provided to us: Can we get there in time to do some good? What will happen if we don't go? Do we have enough firefighters to leave someone home in case Armageddon happens while we're gone? I wrote an article about one such call which you can read here, along with my logically radical solution to fix the chronic dilemma we face.

As always, I have an opinion about controversial subjects like firefighters standing by while the house burns. Apparently, so does the rest of the world, including the fire service, the town council, the neighbours, and the stray dog on the corner. My opinion isn't a lot better than the rest though, since I am looking through the same twisted fish-eye lens as the others. Suffice it to say that when we do fight a fire outside our area, the owner - or owner's insurance company - gets a bill for the service. Which is sometimes paid, and sometimes not. And you know how much I don't like to think about money.

BTW, you can read Billy G's take on the story here (scroll down to the second story).
All this talk about boundaries and liabilities and billing makes my head hurt. Firefighters are supposed to come when you call, do their job, shake your hand, and go home (in between visits to the school for Fire Prevention Week).

Someday when I'm King of the World, things will be different.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have a comment? Go for it! It's lonely out here in bloggerland . . .

Search This Blog