Tuesday, July 7, 2009

FIRE Act; Time to Cut and Run?

After reading Mike Ward’s latest blog and an article that he highlighted (http://www.heritage.org/Research/Economy/upload/wm_2499.pdf), the little guy in my head got busy.

First of all, I am one of those who have felt strongly that fire departments should be a local issue. I have never held that local fire departments should be subsidized by the federal government because as we have seen with the “stimulus” money, the money comes with strings attached.

But, like so many others, I feel that, if my tax dollars are going to pay for someone else’s fire department, then I might as well be one of those other fire departments.

When FIRE Act first hit the scene in 2001, I honestly thought that our most destitute departments would be getting money.

Then, when I read down the names of successful fire departments, it read like a “who’s who”. Many names did not strike me as “destitute”.

I inquired and was told that it was a “competitive” grant. Oh, so if I can find the winning combination of data and blah-blah, I could ‘win’ a grant?

So far, we have only been successful in 2007. The funny thing is that we were awarded a grant for (12) SCBAs. Last year, we applied for the air compressor to fill them and were rejected. It doesn’t make any sense, but I digress.

Again, though I feel that funding should be a local issue, I have to take exception to Muhlhausen’s reasoning for discontinuing the program.

It is his contention that the program be ended because it has not reduced civilian and firefighter injuries or deaths. That isn’t exactly true and it would depend on whose data you use.
I found a study at the FEMA website that captures this information. NFPA and NIOSH are slightly different with their totals.

Muhlhausen might have a valid point were it not for the fact that heart attacks have been and continues to be the #1 killer of firefighters. From 2001 – 2007, heart attacks accounted for 48% of all firefighter fatalities.

Let’s compare 2001-the first year of the Act-to 2007.

In 2001, there were 1,734,500 fires; 3,745 civilian deaths; 20,300 civilian injuries; $10.5 billion in property losses; 105 firefighter deaths and 41,395 firefighter injuries. Note that 2001 doesn’t reflect the events of the 9/11 attacks.

In 2007, there were 1,557,500 fires; 3,430 civilian deaths; 17,675 civilian injuries; $14.6 billion in property losses; 118 firefighter deaths and 38,340 firefighter injuries.

If you average the years (2001 – 2006), you would see that: prior to 2007, we averaged 1,633,583 fires; 3,645 civilian deaths; 18,175 civilian injuries; $10.8 billion in property losses; 110 firefighter deaths and 40,057 firefighter injuries.

In 2007, by category, there was a 5% decrease in the number of fires; 6% decrease in civilian deaths; 3% decrease in civilian injuries; 26% increase in property losses; 7% increase in firefighter deaths and 4% decrease in firefighter injuries.

So, Muhlhausen’s conclusion that the FIRE Act program has not reduced fire casualties is not accurate and is not consistent with the program’s original, stated purpose.

In addition, Muhlhausen’s conclusion that the FIRE Act program is ineffective is flawed, because, clearly, he hasn’t spoken to the departments who have gotten the grant.

Though I don’t believe that the program is ineffective, it is certainly somewhat frustrating because you are not provided with an explanation as to why your grant application was denied. Were we to know that, it would enhance our chances of writing a more compelling grant and improve our chances of being successful.

What is clear after you read Muhlhausen’s article is that you cannot rest a decision to discontinue the program upon numbers alone.

How is it that you can look at FIRE Act and see the difference that it has made to local fire departments and believe that the money given to banks, insurance companies and car companies will make them more “effective”?

Don’t be ridiculous!



The article as submitted is published under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella and is the intellectual property of Art Goodrich a.k.a. xchief22 and ChiefReason. It is protected by federal copyright laws and cannot be re-printed in any form without expressed permission from the author. You may read other works by the author at www.chiefreasonart.com
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