Thursday, November 27, 2008

Insurance Companies Hiring “Private Fire Companies”?

I am posting this as a blog, because I am limited to 1500 characters if I reply to the article. I feel that it is important to get this discussion on The Kitchen Table.

Here is the link:

This raises a lot of questions in my mind.

For instance:

Where are these firefighters coming from?

With communities suffering to keep their rosters full of capable people, how is that we have enough to populate “private fire companies”? Could these people be “two hatting”? Are communities being left under manned while these privateers earn money from the insurance companies?

What qualifications do these private fire companies possess? Do they have any type of recognizable or certifiable skills?

What standards are they being held to? Are they similar in type to industrial fire brigades, for instance?

What AHJ has been empowered to over see the activities of these insurance company employees? NFPA? NIOSH? DOL?

What about the equipment that is being used? Again; is this equipment that will pass muster if inspected? From apparatus to PPE; who is insuring that what is being used is acceptable and safe?

Are these insurance company fire brigades making it better or worse for agencies such as the US Forest Service? Are they in a position that may require another agency to risk their resources and lives to get them out, should they need assistance? What has been gained?

It is an interesting concept, but how did it sort of “sneak” up on us? I don’t remember seeing the memo or even discussion on this new phenomenon. I feel that, before this cottage industry is allowed to deploy on a larger scale, we need to make certain that it is an industry that will be tightly regulated. Otherwise; we will be dealing with more deaths, all in the names of saving some rich guy’s property.

We need to make certain that risk vs. gain has been properly implemented and one justifies the other.


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  1. Yeah, in reading the article, I got the idea that these crews were ex-firefighters, etc (I think the one guy even gave his credentials as being an ex-fire chief). I'd say that if they stay away from actual supression duties and did things like help clear away timber and brush in advance, no standard would be applicable. But if they actually engage in fire supression activities, that's where the line gets blurred. It's definitely an interesting arguement...

  2. maybe this is the move to privatization. we talk about how ineffecient governments are and if insurance companies are willing to fill the bill with better coverage... just need a way to share the risk so rich people aren't the only ones covered.

  3. When times are economically tough all options are on the table. There is no doubt in my mind a few elected officials and appointed leaders have taken note of this and will look into it. We all need to realize that this can happen to us. Anyone remember Rural Metro? They are still out there and could be poised for a comeback!

  4. My impression is these private "Fire" companies aren't out there to fight the fires. Prevention is their main goal. But they do show up during fires to spray retardent on brush to slow or stop the fire's advance. Those mini-pumpers aren't for fighting the fires. They are for spraying the retardent. I don't know about them being ex-firefighters. They at least have the firefighter academy. If they are ex-firefighters so what. At least they are trained. I think if they were at the scene and sprayed down retardent to protect homes and engine crews then great.

    The fire service as usual is resistant to change if they feel threatened. Instead of looking down their nose at these guys they should look for ways to work with them. Demand they at least have a Red Card and then you have something to work with.

    Many communities have their firefighters train with the private ambulance and paramedics that work on them for rescues and other "events". What would be different about this? Do the same thing here. If we all stop looking down at them they won't look up at us and see a bunch of buggars trying to be snobby!

    medic dude

  5. Art "ChiefReason" GoodrichDecember 3, 2008 at 9:50 AM

    If these private fire companies are performing services that could be done by the homeowner, then the insurance company should offer discounts and have the homeowner do it.
    I don't think anyone is "looking down their noses" at these people. My point is that there needs to be clear expectations of what they do vs. what the fire service does.
    That's looking OUT; not "down".

  6. If I'm not mistaken most of the private contractors will be a member/affiliated with NWSA.
    Even the USFS uses contractors to help out with supression. This isn't new, some of these companies have been in business for many years. Homeowners are able to hire contractors so why can't insurance companies.
    If the contractor is a member/affliate of NWSA I think they can interface with public/municiple departments. In the end the goal is the same.

  7. the recent loss in the california wild fires of a private fire crew points to the debate on private vs public is my understanding that the people who were on contract to the us forrest dept were not covered for insurance l.o.d. as they were deemed privately contracted. So...did they were they firefighters who were lod? Seems the government felt they had no obligation to make any insurance payements to the family members. In any case dead is dead...typically it becomes politics when families suffer while the neoros in washington pov...


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