By BILLY GOLDFEDER
FirefighterCloseCalls.com

The Randolph (MASS) Board of Selectmen suspended their Fire Chief Monday evening for telling the truth...following comments he made at a fire in May that trapped and killed two boys.

Randolph Fire Chief Charles Foley truthfully said his staffing was short-handed, which didn't help their ability to effectively do search and rescue that night. He said if they had not been understaffed due to budget cuts, in part, they would have had more firefighters and the tragic outcome may have been prevented. "I can't promise you that there would have been a different outcome," Foley honestly said. "All I can tell you is the operation would have been more enhanced by additional staffing."

The Board's "investigation" determined Chief Foley's comments were inappropriate, misleading and unprofessional. "These remarks were intentional and motivated to bring his staffing and budgetary issues to the public forefront through the media," said a selectman. We would bet the outcome and fate of Chief Foley was decided before the investigation was started...but that's just our opinion.

In March, residents rejected additional funding for the RFD. The executive secretary of the town's board of selectmen defended the current FD staffing, saying it is adequate. And of course, that depends.

As readers of The Secret List know, many communities have rejected tax increases designed to support the FD and increase staffing. Fire Chiefs who say their services will be affected, and that public safety could be compromised, are being honest and have an obligation to provide the facts.

It might be something like: with this much staffing we can do this, with that much staffing we can do that. Simple, plain and understandable language (and numbers) so everyone knows the truth. Forget the drama of what they see on TV....fire operations require specific numbers of firefighters for predictable success. Not always-but almost always.

Our hats go off to Chief Foley for letting the public know the true fact. Like it or not-adequate and well trained STAFFING arriving quickly with qualified bosses CAN and HAS proven to make a big difference to those who call 9-1-1....and directly impacts Firefighters ability to survive.

When a community does NOT support the funding needed, then the FD simply cannot provide that un-supported but usually-still anticipated high levels of service. But yet when so many FD's do suffer staffing cuts...the FD goes on acting as if they CAN do the same job with less Firefighters....which isn't the case. When we act as if "we can still do it all, even though they cut us" ...we are fooling the public and we are fooling ourselves. Eventually the numbers catchup when we aren't truthful.

For example: If you have a 1 story, w/f, SF dwelling fire that requires the proven and measurable services of 20 Firefighters...it CANNOT be done with less. Something has to suffer...either a little...or a lot....be it:
  • Water Supply.
  • Pump Operations.
  • Line Stretching.
  • Command and Control.
  • Venting.
  • Forcible Entry.
  • Search.
  • Rescue.
  • Patient Care.
  • Safety.

These basic "house fire tasks" CANNOT be done as quick, as safely or as
effectively when we do not have enough Firefighters responding to match the required tasks. Forget the emotions...this is all about numbers and these numbers are easily measured, proven and demonstrated.

But just like when FD's and Chiefs, such as Chief Foley, are told by budget cutting non-supporters and city hall dwellers that "it's just a matter of numbers" when those folks are talking to us about cutting budgets and funding....the same exact response applies back to them from those charged with trying to rescue kids out of a house: It's just a matter of true numbers. Numbers of Firefighters.

WE DO understand that not everything can be funded the way we would like. That's understandable. And sometimes there are other solutions such as true "mutual" aid, automatic aid and other supplements to staffing. Sometimes that will work-but sometimes it will not. So then, when budgets and funding are cut that directly and honestly relate to staffing and the FD's ability to deliver fire and life saving services, SOMEONE has to stand up. Someone must let the elected officials and those who elected them know what the FD CAN do...and what the FD simply CANNOT do, based upon the type of emergency reported. Someone must tell the truth.

Firefighters cannot "do it all" when the community and elected officials are not willing to support Firefighters "doing it all"....without the needed support and funding. And sometimes that truth hurts.

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Comment by Shawn Reid on September 28, 2007 at 12:29pm
Web Chief -
I'm a member of the online team at FireChief.com. We'd like to talk to you about some cross linking. Please send me an email at shawn.reid@penton.com for more info.

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