Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Agreeable Disagreement

I don't claim to know everything, which is why this is strictly an opinion blog. I'm not a ram-it-down-your-throat, this-is-the-way-it's-gotta-be kind of guy. I'm a here's-my-opinion, take-it-or-leave-it kind of guy.

Mind you, I do hold some pretty strong opinions. If you ask about my thoughts on terrorism, or sore-losing rioters, or volunteer fire departments hanging onto cliffs by their fingernails, I'll give you an earful. Or I guess it would be an eyeful if you are reading my blog rather than listening to my rant.

Occasionally I meet someone who disagrees. It's only occasionally, because most of the people I rub shoulders with have no connection to Al Qaeda or Stephen Harper or the Stanley Cup. Differences in opinion aren't always bad, however. In fact, sometimes they are enlightening.

A few weeks ago Frank the Killer Whale (aka: Fort Frances Fire Chief) said that while he didn't disagree with my view on volunteer fire departments (at which point I sensed a variant opinion developing), the fire service problem encompassed more than just volunteer fire departments. I look at Fort Frances Fire Department, and I see expensive trucks, career firefighters, and lots of nice equipment. Frank sees the career portion of a composite department pared to the bone, and an expectation to do more with less.

Even those closer to the centre of the universe aren't exempt from the squeeze. The Toronto Fire Department is facing a 10% budget reduction for 2012. It's hard for a small-time guy like me to comprehend 37 million dollars being only 10% of an operating budget. That money would keep Upsala Fire Department going for about 435 years . . . but then, Upsala responds to about 35 calls a year and Toronto responds to over 140,000. The point of all this is that a little disagreement broadened my perspective to include the whole fire service, not just a piece of it.

Speaking of Toronto Fire Department and perspective, Peter Sells wrote a piece on live fire training over at Firefighting in Canada. While I didn't completely agree with his point of view, I'm smart enough to know that I'm not smart enough to argue with Peter Sells. The retired Toronto District Chief knows more about training than I could possibly learn in 435 years. That didn't stop me from giving my two cents though. You can read the article and several comments (including mine) here

Not all disagreements are agreeable. A columnist from the Brantford Expositor wrote a criticism of what he calls a "hullabaloo" about funerals for line of duty firefighter deaths. "Disingenuous" and "Self-indulgent" are among the charges that he lays at our feet. My blood was boiling by the end of the article (which you can read here), and I lost no time in typing a response to the editor. In view of the recent deaths and subsequent funerals of two volunteer firefighters in Listowel - of which the writer must have been aware - the article was rude and insensitive. My letter to the editor didn't get published, but you can read two others here and here.

Lest you think that I'm a completely disagreeable person, let me hasten to tell you that the Fire Within likes me, and asked me to write a piece for their new blog. You can read it here. Incidentally, they also asked Peter Sells (whom I almost never disagree with) to write a piece as well. For the record, it's a double honour to be included in a Fire Within venture alongside of Peter.

To finish off this agreeably disagreeable post, here is a video that I found at Firefighter Close Calls that shows a near disaster during ventilation. For any students that have taken OFC training, this is why we insist on using a roof ladder during ventilation operations.

That may be just my opinion, but this time at least I'm in good company.

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