Outside Aid by Fire Departments
In this week’s issue we give a short resume and a tabulated summary of the replies to a questionnaire sent out some time ago on the subject of outside aid by fire departments and whether this should be charged for. It is apparent that there is a growing sentiment among the department officials of the need for such a charge in cities which are surrounded by large factories and growing towns, unless there is a definite arrangement for mutual aid. The answers show that where such a charge has been made the towns do not call on the larger city except in case of actual need and are more apt to provide their own protection and then keep the equipment in proper order.
1 fowever, the method of arriving at the amount of this charge is not yet entirely clear. Perhaps it should be based on the actual cost of extinguishing the fire, including the salaries of the men, depreciation of the equipment, fuel consumed and damage sustained.
Where it is possible to work out a system of mutual aid it is hardly consistent to make a charge for this service, as then the protection to each city is increased rather than decreased and each will receive considerable credit under the schedule now in use for classifying cities and towns.
But in the case of large cities surrounded by small towns with volunteer departments, the charge is in many cases justified. There is a tendency in such instances for the smaller fire departments to become lax and indifferent and to lean to a certain extent upon the larger units in fighting fires. There is also, according to the replies, a growing danger of the members of the smaller departments becoming careless in the upkeep and maintenance of their apparatus and equipment and allowing them to deteriorate from lack of attention. On the other hand, if the smaller department knows it must either handle the fire itself or pay for the services of the larger fire fighting body, the members will see to it that the equipment is kept fit and ready for all emergencies. For this reason a charge is probably a good thing in such cases provided it is not an exorbitant one.
The replies to the questionnaire certainly bring out some very interesting and significant facts on the subject of outside aid and whether it should or should not he charged for and are worthy of considerable study by chiefs of fire departments.