MODEL VOLUNTEER FIRE ORGANIZATION
The public in general do not appreciate the advancement in the efficiency of fire departments that has been made by the county firemens’ associations of Pennsylvania, and they do not understand the real status of a county firemens’ organization. County associations aid and increase the benefit of State firemens’ associations in bringing about needed improvements and reforms, which can be obtained only by a State wide movement by firemen. County associations, by closer application and work, can bring about improvements which can not well be obtained by State associations alone. County associations assist State associations in accomplishing many things which, without the aid of county organizations, they might not be able to accomplish. Natural conditions, county regulations, concentration of residents, etc., vary in different counties and rules or -methods adopted to advance fire protection and reduce fire waste are not alike in all sections. Some counties are thickly settled and their towns are connected by good steam railroad and trolley systems, while in another county these advancements may not have been obtained. Co-operation, except under the best of conditions, is impossible. Other counties are composed of one city with a paid force, which presents another situation. The application of a county association to the individual fire company and a State association is the same as the county, over the borough or township and the same relation as the county to the State government. Many ideas and suggestions could be filtered through the county associations, leaving the details unobtainable by them to be solved by the State association. The officers of the State association should be given authority to co-operate with the county associations in any issue needing State wide support. Membership in a county association is the same as any other organization consisting of delegates from each fire company; meetings are held monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly and are devoted entirely to business and to addresses on topics of interest to firemen and the general public. Interest in county associations has so far centered in harmony and co-operation of fire companies at fires, township appropriation, tax exemption of fire company property, free transportation of firemen to and from fires, uniform hose connections, salvage from insurance companies. lower insurance rates on proof of protection, fire prevention applicable to rural districts and increased efficiency of volunteer firemen. Co-operation between fire companies along county lines has also been arranged, as well as the possibility of entering into the fire insurance field, with each fire company acting as agent and stockholder, and to inspect risks carefully before issuance of policy and issue policies and provide for inspection by fire companies. Ample capital has been offered by fire companies to advance this interest. Yearly demonstrations are held to show what the county fire servise consists of. Of course, all such movements take time to get into perfect condition, and one feature of the volunteer fire service that hinders much of this beneficial work is the lack of respect and confidence of the general public towards the volunteer firemen. As a rule the resident of a town does not regard his neighbor in the light of a fire-fighter, because he wears the badge of a volunteer fire company. Any movement beneficial to the volunteer fire service must carry public support, and public support will only follow respect and confidence.
We must advance our efficiency and prove it to the public. In most cases the sacrifice and the time spent in furthering fire organizations is realized by the public, but at the same time forces that work against efficiency are also realized. These can be summed up as follows: Ownership and wearing of active membership badge without required proof of efficiency. Failure to obtain proof of efficiency by examination of practical tests before nomination of a member for chief or assistant chiefs. That balloting for chief and assistants be allowed to members regardless of meeting attendance or efficiency. Most fire companies have a certain number of efficient members, who attend meetings regularly, answer all alarms, attend drills, and who watch condition of apparatus. They are usually a minority of the active membership list. The others go to a meeting probably once a year, on election night, or when something important occurs. They attend few drills, and it is a fact that some who wear the volunteer firemen’s badge are often unable to tell offhand the name of their chief, or what kind of hose couplings they have in service, Crack shots in military organizations are known by the medals they have won. The privilege of wearing the first letter in the name of their college on their gymnasium shirt or sweater is an honor to a college athlete and only permitted when their ability has been proven in various competitions. Even if this recognition in volunteer fire companies be only a copper edging, to the regular badge, it will show the residents that you are labeled specially, because of special ability. The public will have respect for efficient firemen and in this way will be able to distinguish them. Natural envy will create a more active interest among volunteer firemen. In most volunteer fire companies, a badge means membership right to vote for officers, and not that you are a fire-fighter or that your knowledge of fire-fighting is any greater because you are in possession of the badge. The public meet the inefficient firemen with the same badge and judge all firemen alike. The old proverb applies here: “Birds of a feather, or firemen with one badge.” A parade of volunteer firemen docs not inspire like a parade of the paid force. It is proposed to take this matter up with the county association who will send out examination corps to award efficiency recognition. Election of a chief in a volunteer fire company is by popular vote, which, without doubt, is the proper method, as firemen without pay should have some choice as to leader, but in many cases nomination is made without proof of capability. Popularity overrules, and if a man is efficient he cannot be elected chief unless he is popular. If a successful candidate is efficient and demands increased efficiency among the active members of his department or company and orders drills with fines for non-attendance the popular vote will soon put him out of office and a member less energetic will be elected to fill his place. A member before being nominated for chief should pass a test or examination with a fair average and then the public would be assured that the man in charge of the job knew his business. Changing of chiefs annually is another obstacle to efficient service in volunteer departments, where there are but few fires each year. Actual fire service completes the education of a fireman. It is one thing to follow orders and another to assume responsibility after giving orders. Some volunteer companies consist of 25 ex-chiefs and 15 active firemen, which means 25 advisers for 15 firemen and kills enthusiasm. Balloting for chief should be limited to members who attend meetings regularly and have proven their competency for that position. At present many members vote for chief and other officers who attend that one meeting during the year. Every fire company should hold examinations of candidates for official positions. Examinations should cover-location of every piece of minor equipment on apparatus. Topics on fire prevention and modern equipment would be interesting and instructive. Have members attend meetings of nearby grangers or farmers’ organizations and advise on private protective force, as well as fire prevention. All this will increase the respect of the general public for volunteer firemen and increase public support, and the day may soon come when volunteer firemen will not have to beg for proper apparatus and equipment. Efficient companies should visit those who are not and urge better conditions, challenge them to a contest for a prize of any sort. These contests could be arranged the same as a baseball game and would be just as interesting.
Motors at Cleveland Fire
The director of public safety of Cleveland, O., in commenting on the recent extensive fire in that city, said: “If the fire did nothing else, it demonstrated the unqualified success of motor pumping cngincB. It was the first great fire through’which they have gone, and the manner in which they performed makes me confidently assert that in less than five years all the horse-drawn and steam pumped engines will be replaced by them. These new engines were among the first on the scene. They pumped away steadily for twelve hours. There was not one of them that missed a stroke in all that time and there was not one of them that was not as fresh and in as good condition at the end of the twelve hours as when they began. And if it had been necessary they could have gone through another twelve or twenty-four hours at as high a point of efficiency.”