Don't let the fire truck door hit you on the way out
I got a call from a concerned citizen on Friday morning telling me about the news with the town's fire department from the previous night in which ten firefighters "walked out" over the town's plan to hire a full time fire chief and replace the volunteer chief, Joe Price. I also confirmed the story on The Selma News web site.
I want to preface what I am about to write with some qualifications to be able to speak on this topic. I got involved with my local fire department throughout my teen years into and into college. Before I could legally drive a car, I became the youngest certified firefighter in the State of New Hampshire. I put in more hours of training than every firefighter who was in the call ranks.
I earned a degree in Fire Protection from New Hampshire Vocational Technical College. With that degree, I was hired by North Carolina State University to work as a life safety inspector. My duties included fire and rescue, fire inspections, code enforcement, public fire education, incident command, and a host of other duties. For the sake of brevity, I will stop there.
The Town of Selma has had a problem with its fire department for a long time. They were run as an autonomous group for years. Then we were told that they were a town department but not run like one. They also handled most of their own finances in several bank accounts over which the town had no oversight. The town was dumping money into the fire department but there was no accountability to the town. One thing that is for certain is that the fire department was and still is a political organization, a social club for "good ol' boys", and a very closed system.
The fire chief, Joe Price, is also the head of the town's water department. I don't have a problem with the concept that the town's water department manager is also the volunteer fire chief. I do, however, have a problem with the idea that the fire chief is 1. elected from amongst the ranks of the department by its members, and 2. lives 10 miles outside the town's fire district. Since I have not been a member of the fire department personally, I can not attest to Mr. Price's abilities as a chief one way or the other.
What I will say is that the head of a life safety organization such as the local fire department should never be selected by the membership of the department. The fire department is a town department, and is to be run by the town. That means that the fire service should report to the town manager just like the police chief, and should be beholden to the town council's oversight. It is, after all, town business and tax money.
It takes a special type of person to be a public servant that is willing to drop everything in order to rush to an emergency with the added possibility of risking live and limb for the benefit of others. It takes an even more special breed of person to do this as a volunteer. I know that type of person, have been around that sort of people, and have been that sort of person myself.
I want to make this point loud and clear. If ten men are willing to walk out on the fire department because they don't like the idea of the town attempting to make the fire department into a better organization and better serve the populace of Selma, then they are not that sort of people I just mentioned. To quit over a political issue rather than look out for the best interest of the town, then there is no dedication to protecting life and property; but rather an anachronistic loyalty to their interest is in the "good ol' boy system" that they feed off from.
The latest word is that the men did not have the decency to formally resign from the department. They had total disregard for expensive town property by abandoning it on the mayor's driveway. Separation papers are in the works, but on hold if necessary.
Personally, I say good riddance to the ten so called firefighters who are willing to be so petty and protest over such a thing as actually looking at a progressive approach to enhancing town services. I don't personally know the men. What I do know is that their actions do not reflect those of dedicated public servants that care about saving lives and property in their community.