This is my response to a stinging series of features recently published in the Wilmington, DE News-Journal regarding the failure of the volunteer system in the state. The News Journal writers printed a great many inaccuracies, manipulated response times and, in general, skewed their stories to place the volunteer fire service in as bad a light as possible.
Here is letter to the editor -- published as the series was being presented.
"America’s volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians are extraordinary people. Why? That’s simple – they work at this nation’s most dangerous profession for free. And you will likely never meet a group of individuals more consumed by an avocation, because theirs is a mission of supreme importance – to save lives and limit damage to property. They are dedicated to the core and prove it day-in and day-out by placing their own lives on the line to protect those of others.
The controversial decision as to what level of protection a volunteer fire department provides is not one that firefighters make, but a choice that falls smack dab on the laps of the citizens that they serve. Without the level of dedication provided by local community volunteers, fire rescue services in Delaware would be forced back upon local, state and possibly federal government,
And the thought of inviting federal emergency management at the local level would be disastrous.
We must take stock and the populace must make up its mind of which way they want to turn. If the community wants a higher level of fire protection, they’ll have to pay for it one way or another. Money makes the system work, and that is the bottom line. In a very real sense, the antagonist in this story is not the stubborn volunteer or the head-strong career advocate – it is public apathy."