Not your typical "politicians under fire" story.

(Not sure how I missed this one from over a month ago, but here it is anyway. Thanks to Reddit's /r/firefighting page for helping me out!)

Erin Cox, of The Baltimore Sun, covered a "Fire Ops 101" course in late September in Maryland's Anne Arundel County. The purpose was to put council chairs and other "lawmakers" into the very situations that county firefighters experience—all while having their budgets slashed and their manpower reduced. Humping hose up flights of stairs, crawling through pitch darkness, vehicle extrication; no scenario was avoided, and each participant was warned by Division Chief Keith Swindle that "…I'm not going to coddle you" while they did it.

"I knew it was going to be tough, but this is 10 times harder than I thought," [AA County Council Chairman Derek] Fink said. “It made me appreciate the shortage of manpower they have,” [Councilman Peter] Smith said. "When me and Derek were going through that building looking for people, it wasn't enough. You just need more people."

A few lines from the article struck me as rather poignant:

  • "…how budget cuts have sapped morale…"
  • "…Fire Chief John Robert Ray said that to help balance the budget, the county cut 75 vacant jobs in the Fire Department, enough to eliminate a shift of firefighters. For now, the county has been paying overtime to fill the vacant spots."

Sounds a bit familiar.

Apparently, Anne Arundel isn't the only county with progressive enough administrators to participate. According to the article, "…it follows jurisdictions across the country that launched the program designed by [IAFF]. This year, firefighters have hosted politicians in Omaha, Neb., Memphis, Tenn., and Denver. In May, Howard and Prince George's county executives, along with some other elected officials, completed a "Fire Ops 101" in College Park."

I would love to see this become a reality in Washington, D.C. I know I'm certainly proud of my city—but would our government officials let themselves be bested by those in charge of the surrounding counties?


Full article here (it's a great read, especially what some of the firefighters had to say). All direct quotations Copyright © 2012, The Baltimore Sun.

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