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What should the role of the Federal Gov't be in the Fire Service?

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  • What should the role of the Federal Gov't be in the Fire Service?

    Well, that's a title!

    I was reading a commentary today on the FIRE bill. A main point was that fire funding has been neglected locally for a long time, so the Federal gov't should now make up the difference.

    I don't cotton to that view. Neglected or not locally, direct Federal subsidies, loans, or whatever are not the route to go. Basic fire department operations are a local and state matter.

    Now where can the Federal Government make a positive impact? Let's take an organization like U.S. Fire Academy and make it a truly an incredible resource.

    Federal grants to a local fire department is like handing someone a fish -- it feeds them for today, or gets them a nice pumper for the next 15 years.

    But let's look at developing each year many excellent leaders for the fire service. People who can make a difference for their department. People who can even make a difference for other departments by raising the bar of what the public expects, who can work with the state Legislatures to develop excellent state acadamies for fire department operations. Rather than depend on a fickle federal funding, let's develop leaders who can secure regular local and state funds.

    Let's take USFA. Let's continue it's residential and outreach programs -- even expand the number who can attend. Let's add to it a central federal Research & Development Center at Emmittsburg that coordinates federal research, publishes it timely to the fire service, and provides an extension service to each state to help answer fire chief's technical questions when they find an unusual situation. Maybe even we develop a residential program at a land grant university that's similiar to a service academy (or maybe a better example would be ROTC) in developing leadership skills and teaching a engineering specialty -- the goal being smart, sophisticated new generation of leaders.

    Comments? This could be a good discussion thread!

  • #2
    Oh Matt, now you've gone and done it ....... you've pushed my button! Seriously, though, I think this is a subject that we should all give some careful consideration. I'm sorry to hear that you don't "cotton" to the provisions of the FIRE Act (HR-1168). We need to point out that there are conditions imposed on the spending of grant monies received under this proposed legislation. Conditions such as some matching funding by recipient FD's, limitations on how much can be used to purchase apparatus and equipment, etc. There is nothing preventing local FD's from using the grant monies for programs such as you have outlined. I would rather see those types of programs be developed at the local levels than by some "suit" in Washington, DC. I will agree with you that this issue SHOULD be a local and State problem, but what should we do when localities and States abdicate that responsibility? How can we make our communities safe when we are faced with years of neglect and budget cuts at the hands of local governments while at the same time expected to provide an ever increasing array of services? Congress provides $7 Billion a year for programs to assist local police departments ....... are local Fire Departments any less important? Ask your Congressman to explain why they give so much to the police and so little to the firefighters. I have visited volunteer fire departments in my State that attempt to function on budgets of less than $3,000 per year. They have done so much with so little for so long, they are now qualified to do anything with nothing! Why should the federal government help these firefighters .......... because they're worth it!

    [This message has been edited by SNOWMAN (edited October 04, 1999).]


    • #3
      I think Matt and Snowman both made excellent points. While not a fan of Big, or bigger, government... I still have to support the FIRE Act. Matt feels the same way I do about USFA/NFA and I like his ideas...maybe passage of FIRE Act could start a new watershed of recognition and development for USFA/NFA. (Plus, not to start another political discussion though, I'd rather see the government spend the money on FDs than the East Timorese...or something like that)I think maybe the biggest impact will come because recognition of FDs and all they do, how they've survived, how they've struggled...is bound to be raised; seems like the government lacks an awareness about some things until they decide to start spending money on it. And while I don't agree that just throwing money at a problem is good enough, neither do I want to "shortchange" our chances to get some of the help we need. An increased awareness could lead to greater development and expansion of the USFA/NFA's programs and role(s) like we both desire.

      As Snowman mentioned, PDs have been and still are getting a huge chunk of money every year...the FIRE Act is unfortunately small change (still) compared to PDs allotments. I do realize that the police are more "nationalized" than we are, just by the nature of upholding the laws. But I also believe that we have as important a role in society as they do and as such deserve some monetary assistance in this era of budget crunching municipal governments, growing fire districts, strapped volunteer departments, etc. (Even if, say, we just saw that every department had a Thermal Imager and the training and personnel to use it....)

      The FIRE Act feels like some long-overdue respect and recognition to me. (and don't take that as any kind of complaint!) Depending on the details of how it is administered...I think it would end up helping a lot of departments. As usual Matt, an excellent topic. I have been curious to hear what others think about this myself...just haven't been able to organize my thoughts on it. (so hope this made sense)


      • #4
        Here's one one vote for the FIRE act, even though my political views tend toward the Libertarian. While I dislike the strings that always come attached to federal funds, the pork barrel projects that worm their way into worthy projects, and the non-germane nonsense that often must be swallowed to obtain any truly national benefit, I feel that this legislation is an indication of long overdue recognition that the fire service is just as necessary and important as law enforcement. Wouldn't it be wonderful if this attitude carried over into the government departments that attempt to regulate every moment of our lives- say when airbags were required (and I am for airbags), that the regulating agency also required that there be a standard and a forum for notifying those tasked with extrication where and how to disable them? Would anyone else agree that it would be wonderful if funds were made available for a comprehensive system to handle Haz-mat? I say bring on the federal government, and if we can, hold their feet to the fire over national concerns. Capt. Dan


        • #5
          The cops get billions every year for training and equipment, get benefit of military surplus in ways the fire service can't, get drug related property seizures, all because of the federal government. Who do you think pays for all that? We do!! So why shouldn't the feds kick in some money to assist the fire service on a local basis? There are many parts of this country that are still dirt poor and can't afford decent fire protection. I myself am kind of wondering when Clinton will suggest putting 100,000 new firefighters on the streets like he did with the cops.

          The NFA is great, I've been there, but for many departments the basic tools are not available. Have any of you ever fought a fire with a piece of apparatus that was 40 or more years old? Or been on a department of 30 FF's with 2 SCBA? I teach for a tech college and I've seen these situations. It is pitiful that the fire service has been neglected for so long.

          [This message has been edited by FyredUp (edited October 07, 1999).]


          • #6
            I'm sure we can all agree the Volunteer fire service is having difficulty in keeping members and getting new ones due to todays more busy lifestyle. The federal goverment and given the police service money up the ying-yang but nothing ever is given to help the volunteer fire service which is still the bread and butter for most of america's community's. Our local police department is always recieving grants to put additional officers on the streets, but our local fire department is having problems keeping members. Additional training to keep certified along with new responsibilites placed on the fire service is keeping us from getting any new members. Sure we are volunteer but we need to keep up to date and equiped just as any paid fire service. The Gov't needs to do something to help small communities in america such as maybe giving volunteer firefighters some incentives such as federal or local tax breaks, or Moneys for small re-numeration or pay for there efforts.


            • #7
              I feel that all of the posts, to date, have had very valid, and real points. I hope that everyone reading this forum takes some knowledge away from having read them.

              My opinion....

              I partially agree w/ Dalmation90-- yes, handing a Fire Dept money is like giving them a fish. It feeds them today, but what about tomorrow. We are not talking about one time monetary grants here. We are talking about continued financial support. How about matching funds grants? I am not an advocate of big government, but I would like to see my tax money go toward something that I consider to be useful. If that means that a Rural FD can now wear SCBA into a fire, than I am all for it.

              The Fire problem in the United States is everyones problem. Yes, basic day-to-day operations of the fire department are a local, and state matter. However, to take your view would be the equivalent of saying a wildfire of immense magnitude is one departments problem.

              I don't believe that. If I need help, I am going to ask for it. I am glad to see that the Fire Service is finally asking for help. Let's not be stubborn, and let tradition get in the way, let's get the problem solved--the job done.

              I also agree that the USFA is a great asset, and that more people should benefit from it. We need to take the course out to the people to accomplish this. Not all of the courses offered by the NFA are available at the state and local levels. I am currently at a land grant university (Oklahoma State University) and furthering my education to be able to serve the fire service-- However, I am doing this at my choosing. (Let me get off that soapbox )

              What I advocate is getting these programs out to the public. We need to educate our firefighters, and we need to educate the public.

              As the title of this thread suggests (WHAT SHOULD THE ROLE OF THE FEDERAL GOV'T BE IN THE FIRE SERVICE?) -- The Federal Gov't is involved in the Fire Service. That being said-- How can we better use the resources that the Federal Gov't has to bring to the table??

              I don't want the gov't to take over firefighting, I LOVE IT TOO MUCH - but I think that it will never come to that either.

              I do feel that the Fire Service can benefit from federal involvement.

              Could we establish a 2nd NFA on the west coast, or possibly even a third in the central US? This would certainly help those firefighters from the western US.
              Can Departments benefit from Gov't surplus? YES.

              It is our Government. I think that it is time that we act, and tell them what we want from them. I feel the Fire Service can benefit from continued, financial, Gov't support. We can also benefit from technical resources available to the gov't.
              The government IS involved, let's see to it that WE get what is beneficial to the Fire service out of this bargain.

              Gentlemen, these are my opinions. I hope I haven't ruffled too many feathers.



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