I was on the fire department for 25 years. I hired on in 1970. I have seen a lot through the years, and I am not a stranger to the tightening of budget belts. I have studied this year’s debate over finances involving the Fort Wayne Fire Department, and I am very concerned over your decisions.
I can’t blame Mayor Henry and the career politicians working for him for the mistakes being made by council. Though they do deserve considerable guilt for misguidance, council people, the buck ultimately and always ends with you. You are the watchdogs and the voice for the taxpayer. The waters have been muddied by misguidance and confusing statistics by the administration. The bottom line of the proposed manpower issue for 2014 is simply that the department is going to operate with four fewer combat firefighters on duty every day next year compared to this year. These four fewer combat firefighters will probably mean that the squad will be shut down. Why?
The fire department doesn’t dare shut down neighborhood equipment because of the backlash. Every taxpayer wants what they are paying for. There used to be two squads. A fire department squad is the equivalent of a police SWAT team. They run the city and are in on every fire and normally are the most aggressive and well-trained firefighters simply because they make more runs. We have had a squad for 50 years for a reason. We were awarded 96 combat firefighters daily in the past for a reason.
Since that time we have gained population, area and tax dollars. We need more combat firefighters, not less. Is it logical now to lower the manpower and weaken the department? Before you do this, I suggest each council person talk to your neighbors and ask them what they want. I know that when the only thing separating a child from being saved or perishing in a house fire is their weak whimper from a closet being heard by a firefighter willing to give up his or her life for that child. The firefighter who has been cut from the daily manpower could just be that firefighter. We need all of the experience and firefighters we can get on the fire scene.
Why is it that it takes a tragedy for leaders to understand the importance of combat staffing? What kind of a fire department do you want? How safe do you want to keep the people of our city? Please allow your conscience to be your guide.
Thomas McComb, FWFD No. 310, retired 1995