Maintain Fire Equipment Standards!
Those fire officials who have followed the philosophies concerning fire departments and their fire fighting facilities expressed in this Journal, know of our belief that nothing short of the very best in quality of design and construction should do for the vitally important task of controlling and extinguishing destructive fires.
No single agency comes any closer to the wholesale preservation of life and property than the fire service. No other public agency is so called upon to literally duel to the death with a scourge that yearly kills over 11,000 persons (including scores of fire fighters) and wipes out property worth over $1 billion.
On this premise alone, any action which may lessen the efficiency of our fire fighting forces constitutes a serious threat to the public and to the nation’s economy.
This warning is prompted by a growing and disturbing tendency on the part of those charged with maintaining adequate fire defense in our cities, towns and villages, to lower quality standards and accept “less than best” merely to save a few dollars in the procurement of fire apparatus and equipment.
Every fire chief who has weathered periods of economic readjustment—called by some recessions—is familiar with this tendency and the threat it poses to our fire defense.
The importance of adhering to recognized and accepted standards of design, construction and performance in selecting fire fighting facilities, as established by those who must use those facilities, as well as those who manufacture them and those who test and rate them, has been recognized generally through the years. Efforts to depart from these standards and to saddle the fire service with substitutes in the vast field of apparatus and equipment, as was attempted during World War II, should meet with the same united and unalterable opposition that was put forth by the fire services at that time.
The policy of insistence upon high quality and performance standards was never more important than today. That is because the burdens borne by our fire departments big and little, were never so numerous, so complex and so full of threats to our way of life as they are in this chemical, electronic and nuclear era—and as they will be in tomorrow’s “space age.”
Entirely apart from maintaining the strongest possible fire defense in the light of the threat of everpresent enemy atomic attack, the plain fact is that our fire forces in practically every population category are being called upon to protect more areas, more people, more property, and face more acute fire and explosion hazards than at any time in our history.
It is also true that these fire forces are expected to provide this protection with fire apparatus and equipment much of it overage and obsolete; with manpower in many areas far below established minimums, and with operating budgets already trimmed to the danger point.
That greater economy is possible in the administration of some fire departments cannot be denied. True also, in many cases standards of operating efficiency may be improved, even with the use of existing facilities. We know of no fire fighter or fire department that has achieved perfection.
The conscientious fire chief will not rest content until he has explored all possible avenues to attain greater economy without sacrificing efficiency. But he cannot in all honesty, accept the responsibility for safeguarding his political subdivision when his department lacks the fundamentals of men, materials and methods requisite to effective fire control and extinguishment.
Viewed from every angle, this is not the time to jeopardize the nation’s fire service through misapplied “economies.”