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What a quote...re: college education for firefighters

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  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    I think she's sincere. I think she has a good outlook on this incident and apparently on life. As I stated earlier, I respect her passion for what she believes in. I believe both sides benefitted from the exchange.

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    Guest replied
    Pyroknight

    She used a couple of quotes from things I told her too.

    Just as I suspected though, she wasn't ignorant, just uninformed.

    So what's your opinion of these columns?

    FyredUp

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  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    Kinda weird to see my smart *** comments quoted in a "big city" newspaper. Glad I wasn't quoted out of context.

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    Guest replied
    As part of my running e-mail exchange with Barbara Anderson she has sent me copies of her latest columns on Firefighters. I thought those of you who do not have access to papers that run her column might like to read what she had to say.

    I found them both interesting reading.

    Column #1:

    Column for the Salem Evening News

    by Barbara Anderson

    submitted March 2, 2001

    Help, I’m drowning! Somebody call 911!

    Oh, wait. The guys you’d reach at 911 are the ones who are sending the e-mail in which I am sinking. Never mind.

    It all started with a phone call from a reporter who was doing a story on Governor Cellucci’s proposal to extend a police benefit to firefighters.

    The police law provides raises for police officers who receive college degrees; the community pays half the increase, with the state picking up the rest. A recent Boston Globe story noted that the courses are not monitored by the state for quality or relevance, so I responded that the police program should be audited before it’s extended to another group.

    At some point in the conversation I also said, "Firefighters do their job because they have a certain amount of brawn and courage, things they probably don’t need an education for".

    If I had spoken more carefully, the phrase would have read, "Firefighters already do a great job in an arena that requires not only brawn and courage but basic intelligence; what’s broken that would be fixed by a college degree?"

    Things I have learned since the un-careful quote was sent to a firefighters e-mail list with a request to respond directly to me:

    1. Firefighters can be very thin-skinned. My new penpals accused me of calling them "uneducated muscleheads" and "brave blockheads"; one insisted I was equating them with TV wrestlers.

    Another said I made them sound like Lennie in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men: "a large, gentle, mentally retarded migrant worker". Actually, when someone says "firefighter", I think of Paul Newman. Don’t these guys know they are among the most admired people in our society?

    2. Some firefighters do have B.S. or associate degrees in fire science that they find invaluable in dealing with the complexities of modern firefighting: "hazardous materials, including toxic waste spills; emergency medicine, building construction, management of fire services and fire behavior".

    Yet career firefighting has always been one of the good jobs available to men who couldn’t afford or didn’t want to go to college. Should this change?

    3. According to a firefighter’s recent letter in the Wall Street Journal, "73% of the more than one million firefighters in the U.S. are volunteers". If that’s true, most firefighters don’t get regular paychecks at all, never mind increases due to college degrees. Still it is assumed they do a good job. Some men apparently fight fires for the same reason men race cars, explore everything from deep sea to deep space, and join the Marines.

    4. Here is the shocker. I thought that all firefighters get a basic education at firefighting school before they go on the job. However, in Massachusetts that education is sometimes called OJT -- on-the-job training. There is no state law that requires firefighters to attend the fire academy, which is a training building and tower in Stowe. Some do, some don’t, and some are on a waiting list for months – yet they still go out and fight fires.

    There’s a conundrum here. If the career and volunteer firefighters who contacted me are right, college courses are essential for both their safety and that of the public. Yet here in Massachusetts, recruits sometimes have no formal firefighting education but OJT; still we confidently trust them with our lives.

    I intend to seriously pursue this issue for a future column, but right now you may ask:

    After a week of corresponding with highly intelligent, eventually good-natured firefighters around the world, do I regret the statement that started it all?

    I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. A firefighter from New Zealand made a valiant effort to explain things to me: "What the speaker intends to convey may be very different from what the listener understands. Traditionally men have been similarly misunderstood when they have felt their reference to a woman’s nice (deleted) has been taken badly. Combine this with ‘not particularly bright, but she DOES have a great (deleted)’ and you come close to how the fire-fighters felt about your quoted comments."

    But in the end, they were merciful. I sent the really hostile ones over for my partner Chip Ford to deal with, and eventually one of them thought he had it all figured out. As he explained to the other firefighters on the e-mail list:

    "1. They’re civilians. If you think about all the stupid things civilians do, this really isn’t much of a reach. The other day on a rescue training I had a lady ask me, ‘If this were a real emergency, you guys would be doing this a lot quicker, right?’ I told her that if this were a real emergency, we wouldn’t have thrown the victim in the hole.

    "2. These people are as passionate about their politics as we are about fighting fire. Dumb as a box of rocks or not, they ARE bold enough to stand up for what they believe in."

    I consider that a major compliment, coming from a firefighter. Guess I’m not very thin-skinned myself.

    -30-


    Column #2:

    Column by Barbara Anderson

    Firefighters, Part 2

    submitted March 5, 2001

    Since Governor Cellucci proposed extending the police higher education law to firefighters, I’ve communicated with firefighters and public officials in this and other states hoping to property inform readers of this column about the issue.

    Let’s start with two basic assumptions that I believe are held by most of us civilians.

    1. Public safety in general is the primary reason we have government. While we must always weigh risk vs. cost – it would be foolish to have a police bodyguard for every citizen and a fire station on every street – we should fund adequate public safety before we do anything else, or nothing else matters for long.

    2. Firefighters are heroes just for signing up, for being willing to do a job that can turn extremely dangerous. They must respond to not only fires, but hazardous waste spills, water and ice accidents, terrorism and earthquakes.

    Others of my assumptions, however, did not hold up. I had thought that all Massachusetts firefighters got basic training at the Firefighters Academy, before they arrived at the local firehouse to work.

    Fact: There is no state law requiring any training at all for firefighters. Unlike most professions from barber to nuclear physicist, firefighters do not need a license or degree of any kind to get a job. One cannot even go to the Fire Academy unless he first has been hired as a firefighter. There is presently a backlog for the 11 week basic course, and in some communities, recruits are working with just local training.

    A firefighter told me that in his northern U.S. state "the Department of Commerce has established rules for firefighters and among them are a requirement for all firefighters, whether career or volunteer, to have completed the minimum training program at a Vocational Adult Education College before engaging in interior firefighting operations. Many fire departments here set their own (higher) entry level requirements".

    I asked about privatization. One firefighter insisted that it doesn’t work, except perhaps where municipalities keep tight control. However, another e-mail came in from the west.

    "Privatized firefighting is alive and well in Scottsdale, AZ. I was employed by Rural/Metro in (another) County as a private fire fighter. Its Scottsdale operation went union about two years ago, but continues to be a much more cost-effective operation than conventional government-run fire departments... Rural/Metro has emergency services operations running from Canada to South America. Of note in the US are Crash/Fire/Rescue operations for the enormous FedEx hub in Memphis and fire protection and EMS for Knoxville County, TN."

    The Massachusetts political culture won’t allow privatization so there is no point in dwelling on this. The question is, will our mostly career, all-government firefighters get their own version of the police education benefit, giving them payraises and additional pensions as they receive college degrees?

    I would hate to see firefighting become a job that required a college education; much of the job is done now by blue-collar professionals and volunteers who are entirely competent. But some other aspects are more complex than they used to be and more specialized education is surely valuable. Massachusetts colleges offer fire science courses; these are not, however, controlled or monitored for content or value – which is exactly the problem with the police version of the higher education law.

    Also, as more fire departments are trained to do emergency medical runs and fire education, it’s important to make sure they’re not too busy to do the one thing no other department can do: fight fires.

    The first priority should be to make Fire Academy training mandatory before putting any recruit or civilian in harm’s way. The Academy is funded by the state through a charge on insurance companies, but if it needs to be expanded, state and local government should make sure public safety comes before sports stadiums or non-essential services.

    This does not mean giving police and fire unions everything they ask for: their pay and benefits should be driven by the marketplace, and the bottom-line fact is that there is no shortage of applicants for these jobs.

    Those who acquire additional skills should certainly be eligible, within the restrictions of the marketplace, for promotion and additional pay; I’ve never understood the thing about union group-negotiated pay rates. But then I’ve never understood union group-related work conditions either; in my private-sector world, each firefighter would negotiate his own pay, work hours and job requirements. Then we wouldn’t see the ugly sight we saw in Boston recently when firefighters unhappy with negotiations mobbed the mayor and spit at him and his wife.

    However, I do understand there is value in the present Knight-Brotherhood system that contributes to an esprit de corps within fire departments and among firefighters around the world. As one of them told me, "My Dad was a volunteer firefighter for as long as I can remember. It is very hard to explain what this job means to me, it is as much a calling as a job."

    Many people with higher educations and better-paying jobs would envy him that.

    -30-

    I think she may have learned a thing or 2 from those of us who took the time to try and educate her.

    Take care and stay safe,

    FyredUp

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  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    Originally posted by FFTrainer:
    I guess Ms. Anderson doesn't realize that Brawn and Courage alone will do nothing but increase your potential for injury at a fire scene. Only with Brawn, Courage and KNOWLEDGE can we succeed in our day to day duties of serving as FF's.
    I have to agree-take Lennie from Of Mice And Men. He had brawn, he had courage, he didn't have knowledge, and look where it got him.

    Althea Forhan

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  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    I have had a running e-mail dialogue with Barbara Anderson since this whole flap began. I would say she may be uninformed about the nature of the job and the level of training that we receive as entry level firefighters, but after e-mailing with her I would say she is neither ignorant nor unwilling to listen. Perhaps those of you who sent less than professional sounding e-mails should re-evaluate how you respond to someone who says you are uneducated.

    By the way, I am not defending Ms Anderson's position and personally I think we should have equal educational rights with the cops.

    Take care and stay safe,

    FyredUp

    Leave a comment:


  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    I actually bantered back and forth with some guy named Chip. I am trying to keep in mind several things:

    1) They're civilians. If you think about all the stupid things you've seen civilians do, this really isn't much of a reach. The other day on a rescue training I had a lady ask me "If this were a real emergency, you guys would be doing this a lot quicker, right?" I told her that if this were a real emergency, we wouldn't have thrown the victim in the hole.

    2) The media was involved. Read some of the posts about the Philly river rescue incident. Next to attorneys, the media are probably some of the most gutless weinies out there in civie land.

    3) These people are as passionate about their politics as we are about fighting fire. Dumb as a box of rocks or not, they ARE bold enough to stand up for what they believe in. In the last email Chip sent me, he told me that the reporters will often come to them for the dissenting opinion. They listen for 30, 45 minutes, then take one sentence, twist it to fit their story, and toss out the rest.

    I guess the real villain here is the reporter who took the quote out of context.

    Leave a comment:


  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    Pyroknight,

    I received the same reply to my e-mail that you evidently did. I will admit that the purpose of my e-mail to the lady was not to educate her but to insult her.

    Leave a comment:


  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    An uneducated moron this person is, She's truly one who does not want to understand what the fire service is all about, It is more than just fighting fire, Out here in California most FD's would like you to have some sort of college degree, Reading that laies remaks angerd me, I can never truly understand people who seem not to appreciate the job we do, I'm curious to those who have written this lady, If you could post what she has replied I would me more than intrested in hearing her replys, , If Firefighters are such a large group pf "uneducated" people, Than lets look at some of there credentials, You'd be pretty surprised

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  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    Let's see if you'll demonstrate your belief in freedom of
    speech ... for all. Or is this a closed shop?


    ***Chip, if your uncle was a firefighter, you should know better than to challenge a firefighter to demonstrate his intestinal fortitude.***

    Forwarded from Barbara Anderson

    Hi guys

    Maybe one of you would like to post this in your discussion group; I'm
    running out of time to respond to you individually, though it's been
    interesting and fun. Also miss those of you who read the original posting
    but didn't follow through -- probably some of you realized that a quote
    taken out of context isn't a good representation of a position on an issue.

    First, for some of you from Massachusetts: I know you're still mad about
    Proposition 2 1/2, sorry you aren't still paying the highest property taxes
    in the nation. Get over it.

    To those from other states and countries: that was twenty years ago, and
    some of the guys are still sulking cause they lost the ballot campaign.
    In
    the long run, it was good for our economy, the state finally started sharing
    revenue with the cities and town, and fire departments get their fair share.
    Most of the cuts came from what passes for education in this state. And
    any
    firefighter who was around then has saved enough tax dollars from it to
    pay
    for a college degree if he wants one.

    Actually, I didn't have a position on either the original police bill, which
    was before my time, or the proposal to extend it to firefighters, though
    the
    latter popped up right after the expose on the abuses of it by some police
    officers. Got a call from the media and my full response was that first,
    the
    police version would have to be tightened up with oversight and
    accountability, then I questioned the need for it with firefighters. It's
    my
    fault that I said "education" instead of "college education" in the part
    that was quoted.

    Never occurred to me that firefighters aren't educated, aren't smart, and
    aren't trained adequately. The part about "brawn and courage" was, I
    thought, a compliment; something that isn't required in a lot of other jobs.
    Always thought of police and firefighting work as a good job with pretty
    good pay and benefits (except where it's volunteer: are there any
    firefighters from Reading PA out there? are you still volunteers except
    for
    the drivers? Is firefighting still privatized in Scottsdale AZ?) and an
    unquestioned importance that doesn't require a college education.

    If you all keep insisting that it should, then fine -- but are you sure
    you
    want to give the impression you're sending, that Massachusetts fire
    departments aren't up to speed (and fire departments everywhere else aren't
    either unless they have a version of this police education bill, which most
    states don't have)? I've never heard any fire chief say that his men weren't
    educated enough for the job -- and as I said to the reporter, the problem
    firefighters will have getting this law is that they are perceived as
    professional and competent without it, so what's broken that we have to
    fix?

    And yes, some of you have had to pay for your own advanced education, with
    which you can get promotions -- just like most of the rest of the workforce.
    But I still assume that those firefighters who don't take courses beyond
    what they get at the academy and what their towns pay for after employment
    are still entirely capable of doing their job. If I'm wrong about that,
    this
    is a *very* big story...

    Barbara Anderson
    Citizens for Limited Taxation
    Massachusetts, USA

    Leave a comment:


  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    what can i say....common sense is hard to find now adays. here's a perfect example. think she'd reconsider her thoughts if she saw what we really did at a call and what is involved back inhouse?

    stay safe everyone!!!
    Robert A. Klinger, Jr.

    Leave a comment:


  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    Don't feel bad Hamy91, she may not have replied, but her group is recycling it! I received this email with a copy of your email attached:

    Hi Mike:

    Following your letter (below), is a letter from a firefighter who knows how to try winning friends and support. You might take a lesson from that twenty-two year old gentleman. It could further your position instead of alienating your audience. Just a positive suggestion.

    By the way, how much did you pay in Massachusetts state taxes as your entrance fee into this debate? (When you're subject to taxation you then get representation.) Does Colorado provide its own version of our "Quinn" law to your state's police officers and firefighters?

    Best of luck.

    Chip Ford --
    Director of Operations
    Citizens for Limited Taxation


    And my reply:

    Chip:

    I do not need you as a friend and the last time I checked did not need your support. If Ms. Anderson had done her research in the first place I would never have had any reason to know who your little group of Massachusetts tax reform crusaders were and I would not have had any reason to correspond with you at all. Unlike most professions, firefighters, as a general rule, still take great pride in the performance of their duties and have a tendency to band together as a brotherhood. When one makes disparaging remarks about me and my brothers, I take offense. I do not have to be a citizen of any particular state to comment, because in the United States we still have a little thing called free speech which allows me to comment upon ignorance when I observe it, ESPECIALLY when that ignorance is on public display. If you do not want the blabbering of your cohorts commented upon, you should advise them to refrain from making an *** of themselves in front of representatives of the media. I am not soliciting your representation and was not entering into the debate over how your tax dollars are spent. My comments were directed to the weak attempt to justify your position against the spending by portraying today's firefighter as an oaf who has no need for higher education. The next time your organization wishes to make a statement against a particular spending proposal, I suggest you either select a representative who is or will become informed on the matter at hand or make no statement at all. Just a positive suggestion.

    Mike Branum
    Over-educated Firefighter
    Castle Rock, CO

    Leave a comment:


  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    Ms. ANderson has not replied to my e-mail and I do not think that she is going to.

    ------------------
    Hamy91

    FIrefighters are the chosen people.
    _________________________

    My views do not reflect that of my department or the United States Air Force

    Leave a comment:


  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    BTW... Hamy91... that WAS an excellent email. Bit more reserved than mine... still just as true.

    Leave a comment:


  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    Here's what I had to say to the lady...

    Attn: Barbara Anderson,
    I take great offense at remarks in the Telegram that were attributed to you, i.e. “I’m not sure what it has to do with firefighting… firefighters do their job because they have a certain amount of brawn and courage… things they probably don’t need an education for….” I am a career firefighter (15+ yrs) in Midland, TX and yes, even I have seen evidence of your statements. Without recounting a whole litany of my education and certifications, I will say that among them I am certified as a Master Firefighter, have nearly 140 college hours, an Associate Degree in Fire Science and a Texas Department of Health (TDH) paramedic license. I was eligible for licensure because of the number of college hours and courses that I possess.

    Recently, the TDH paramedic certification was revamped to become a two-year college-based program. The TDH deemed it necessary and beneficial that the previous one-year program include a number of prerequisite and complimentary classes.

    You have already received a number of emails emphasizing the importance of education in the numerous and varied fields that fire departments are now required to mitigate. I would also suggest to you, as any CEO would recognize, that educated employees make a more valuable, dedicated, disciplined and versatile workforce. It is no different in the fire service. One hundred years ago, firefighters probably were selected solely because of their stamina, brawn and courage but that is hardly the case today, no more so than a horse-drawn piece of apparatus is an appropriate response to a major conflagration.

    To extrapolate your remarks, why would a surgeon need to know any more anatomy than that of an accomplished hunter? Why should an auto mechanic exhibit anything besides a certain dexterity with hand tools? What else but imagination and a proclivity for neat and precise drawings is required of an engineer or architect? In your view, scientists would need no more than a desire to be alchemists.

    I will accept your premise that we are burdened with taxes, whether in Massachusetts or Texas. Unfortunately, that is the government we have made for ourselves and that continues to perpetuate itself. I know only too well their influence on my salary, which is in effect, held hostage by the very taxes we all pay.

    However, we are promoting the professionalism of the fire service with education, above and beyond that which may be required to perform the basic “brawn” of our job, at least as you would define it. We are at times: managers and supervisors, neighborhood priests and psychologists, chemical and medical detectives, building engineers and repairmen, politicians and reporters, budgetary planners and purchasers, law enforcement officers and expert witnesses, code enforcers and inspectors, risk management and safety actuaries, apparatus designers and specification artists, fire prevention educators and tourguides, thermodynamic scientists and hydraulic engineers, PTSD sufferers and critical incident debriefers, husbands and wives, parents, brothers and sisters. Your remarks exhibit an unseemly lack of education on your part and are a deplorable insult to the integrity of the women and men who would risk their lives to save yours.


    ------------------
    Watch yer topknots,
    Led

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