Weekly Feature

2010-07-14 / Letters to the Editor

Firefighting system should get remodel

A number of my fellow elected officials are claiming that volunteer fire companies were a “taxpayer bargain” because they spend far less money than their paid urban colleagues “per square mile.” I had to laugh. Have they ever heard of population demographics and building density? And guess who did the study?

In urban areas, the majority of houses and commercial buildings were constructed using older materials and wiring and generally lack the alarms and overall fireproofing required by current building codes. The cities are full of such aging fire hazards.

Conversely, there are no three-alarm fires in Eden corn fields. Arson, a rarity in the ‘burbs, is more frequent in poverty-stricken urban areas. Abandoned homes in Buffalo, a common arson target, number close to 14,000. How many in Clarence, Elma, Alden? Yet our politicos compare Lackawanna to Amherst.

Granted, paid firefighter companies present challenges. Salaries run high because former politicians granted wages and pensions that far exceed those in the private sector. But with smart planning and good management, a remodeled system using a combination of paid tem using a combination of paid firefighters and volunteer members could be markedly more efficient and cost effective.

The idea that the all-volunteer force is a financial bargain is simply an illusion — the smoke and mirrors, a combination of defective logic and obfuscation. The truth is that a number of first ring suburban firefighter crews are vastly over-equipped. The truth is that more than 95 percent of the action is emergency medical calls, where metro ambulance companies are a viable option. Some would prefer that you believe differently. A number of them see it as an easy way for votes this November, and political suicide to question the status quo. I beg to differ.

Joe Weiss Clarence councilman

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