With the Editor
Where Do We Go from Here?
The President’s Conference on Fire Prevention was held in Washington May 6, 7 and 8, with over 2,000 representatives of the fire service, insurance, educational and government agencies and others in attendance.
Measured by that attendance and the nationwide publicity given the Conference, the affair was a success. Certainly there has never been a similar gathering of such magnitude held in the interest of reducing the nation’s appalling fire waste. Xor, we believe, has there ever been a previous conference, or a program on fire prevention, that had the official blessing of the White House.
All of which is splendid, as far as it goes. The true measure of the success of the Conference and of the President’s Program, will be drawn from the dispassionate statistics of life and dollar losses in the months to come.
Whether or not the costly upward trend in our fire waste can be halted, and reversed, will depend not so much upon the extent and elaborateness of any “action program” as upon putting even the simplest plan of fire prevention over. And that will take a lot more than fine words and full conference rooms. To quote Kipling, primarily, it will take “the everlasting cooperation of every bloomin’ soul.”
The problem cannot be left to the fire service alone, nor to educators or insurance interests. The vital follow-through is to be the task of a Continuing Committee functioning primarily through the facilities offered by the large number of non-governmental, national organizations represented on the Committee of Public Support, one of the six major groups that drew the preliminary plans. This is well and good, but it takes money and organization to keep such a directing body hitting on all twelve, month after month.
That same “big little matter” of the wherewithal enters into most of the other provisions of the Action Program. We’re sure the Governors of the forty-eight states will be much more willing to appoint the recommended state wide fire safety committees, composed of appropriate officials, than they will be to provide funds for such committees.
Much the same thing will quite likely happen with local governments, where all municipal budgets are already getting a kicking around. It is rather difficult for us to contemplate that happy Utopia when municipalities accede to the recommendations of the Committee on Fire Fighting Services of the Conference, to wit:
hire departments should be regarded as lire prevention as well as fire fighting agencies and substantial parts of their budgets be devoted to lire prevention activities, one phase of which should be the educating of the public.
It would be a fine and sensible thing to place all municipal fire prevention as well as fire control under the fire departments and to adjust budgets accordingly. However, right now the fire service is pretty generally more concerned over getting sufficient funds to rehabilitate its present war-weary essential facilities, and bring them into line to meet pressing post-war needs, than it is in seeing the finances that it must have for immediate protection of life and property diverted to any public promotional and educational program, no matter how well conceived and deserving that program may be.
Even without appropriations, the fire service can and will get behind the President’s Action Program—as was clearly indicated by the several hundred members of the Service at their informal meeting May 8, during the Conference in Washington.
Conscientious fire officers do not have to be sold on fire prevention. They would much rather not have any fires than have to fight them. But, with potential disaster always lurking, they must not be expected to give so much attention to fire prevention that fire protection will suffer —nor should any nationwide program to reduce the nation’s fire waste seriously contemplate a weakening of the fire lighting force through unwarranted diversion of personnel and funds to purely fire prevention activities. Fire depart ment personnel today is critically short in most departments, so short as to preclude the taking on of additional activities on a scale indicated by the program of the President’s Conference.