Mutual Aid Increases Attack
The Editor’s Opinion Page
Back in the frontier days when a man wanted to build a house or a barn, he often had to do it himself. There was just no other labor available. And building was a time-consuming, back-breaking job that ate into his primary job—survival by hunting and farming.
But as time went by, he acquired neighbors who were in just as bad straits as himself. However, all soon realized that collectively they had a good labor pool. And from this, the earliest form of mutual aid was born.
House raising and bam raising then became relatively simple. Whole families joined in the work—and festivities—and in one day a man was in business.
Mutual aid was later extended to fire suppression. When the bam that the neighbors created went up in smoke, they returned to try to save it.
This attitude carried over to the fire service when it was organized. In 1835 Philadelphia sent men and apparatus to the burning of New York 90 miles away. In 1904 New York loaded a train of flat cars with apparatus and horses and sent it to the Baltimore conflagration—190 miles away. There are hundreds of other instances of this cooperation in the history of early fire fighting.
These responses, however, were spontaneous, one-of-a-kind affairs and not based on any organized plan. Today, every fire department is (or should be) involved in some sort of mutual aid plan.
Fire potential in rural or suburban areas has markedly increased in recent years. Factories, high-risers and sprawling shopping centers now dot the once quiet landscape. And small town fire departments find themselves with big city problems.
But big city problems can be met only by big city apparatus and manpower, and the only way to provide this is through mutual aid.
One man and a pumper is not much help at a major fire (manpower is always the prime ingredient). But neither are 50 men responding in their private cars without apparatus.
Mutual aid should be formalized, spelled out and written down by all participating. In this way each department will know what it has to do when neighboring departments call and what help it can expect for a fire at home.
Departments entering into mutual aid agreements must bear this in mind. Their first obligation is to protect the town that supports them. It follows, therefore, that any mutual aid plan should have provisions for relocating companies so that each town will be covered at all times by at least a minimal fire fighting force.