Fire Knows No Economies
Postpone… Put it off ’till next year… Patch it up and make it do!
Does all this sound familiar to you who administer our fire departments? More than likely it does. It represents thinking which apparently dominates large segments of our municipal administrations in these days of so-called “recession.”
“Postpone purchasing that badly needed equipment … Put off inaugurating that program of modernization and improvement in the department … Patch up the old wornout and obsolete facilities and make ’em do!” A swelling chorus that is too often heard today, at the very time when our losses in lives and property were never so heavy and destructive of the nation’s economy; a chant that is heard at a time when many of our fire forces are being stretched to the danger point in their struggle to keep on top of the multiplying fire hazards which are a concomitant of our almost fantastic municipal growth.
Of course economy is essential in municipal administration at all times, and particularly when tax dollars are hard to come by. But—
What is economy in fire protection and prevention? Is it in refusing to fill manpower quotas when more, rather than fewer fire fighters are so badly needed in so many fire departments?
Is it taking chances on obsolete fire fighting equipment and apparatus when it is more imperative than ever (measured by our mounting fire waste) that our fire attack and response be prosecuted with increased energy and determination?
Is it in postponing purchases of those essentials which are needed to improve working and housing conditions of our fire fighters at a time when morale and esprit de corps mean more to the nation’s fire service than ever before?
Let’s be honest with ourselves and our municipal fathers. No one close to the fire service will deny there is room for improvement in its administration and its methods. But for the most part, authorities will be as quick to point out that these needed improvements cannot be plucked out of thin air. You don’t find schooled, healthy fire fighting personnel growing on every bush. Nor will you find the high-quality, essential “tools and machinery” upon which efficient fire control depends, on every “bargain counter.”
There are doubtless certain facets of municipal services which can buy and use “seconds” and lessthan-the-best, and where top-quality standards are not so imperative as they are in the critical business of fire control. Certainly not even the most short-sighted “economist” will deny that forces that deal with life and death, as does the fire service, should be the last to feel the economy pruning knife.
Carrying this reasoning further, the outlays for those essential elements—from men to machines, upon which our fire forces and our ability to save life and property depend—should be upped as the needs of the community grow.
These are simple facts which those who head fire departments will do well to ponder. There is no time for false economies; there is such a thing as “saving at the spigot and wasting at the bung.” Destructive fire doesn’t recognize “economies” in the fire service, except perhaps to profit by their misapplication as when a hose or a ladder, or a piece of equipment of belowstandard grade purchased purely on a “price” basis fails in operation. The business of being a fireman is hazardous enough in itself without subjecting fire fighters to the added risks inherent with substandard facilities—in the mistaken guise of “economy.”