The county has decided to fold control of the various volunteer firemen under a “superchief”, essentially placing control of the volunteers directly under control of the county. From a casual reader of the newspaper coverage on this (which has not been complete or comprehensive), the initiative seems to be promoted by the county executive, the paid county firemen, and the union that represents them. The initiative is being fought by the volunteers, and some community associations. I’ve heard very little discussion on the issue in casual conversations during my daily travels, and not much printed as editorials or letters to the editor.
I don’t have the experience to really comment on whether this is a good thing or not, since I’m not a fireman (volunteer or career) and have no particular understanding of how they are managed. However, here are some thoughts…
First, this seems to be the natural evolution of fire protection. People move to unpopulated areas and fend for themselves. As it gets more crowded communities decide on their own to set up volunteer companies. As things become suburban it becomes a mix of volunteer and paid firefighters. As it becomes urban, they all become paid firefighters. I think we’re just at the point where the transition is starting to eliminate the volunteer concept. In some parts of the county (and there are still parts of the county that are not urban, or even very sub-urban) making this change doesn’t seem to make sense, as the volunteer program still serves them well.
Another thought is that if you think about serving your community or have some desire to help others, its hard to think of a more noble way of doing this than volunteering to protect property and lives by being a volunteer fireman. This is incredibly dangerous stuff, and done for no compensation other than the joy of helping others or the adrenaline rush of doing something dangerous, or getting to ride on a fire truck. Admittedly very cool compensation but not something that is going to pay the mortgage. This is a calling some people have, like being a policeman or a teacher, and is a fairly selfless way to give back to the community.
- Benjamin Franklin and the Formation of Volunteer Fire Companies. An ounce of prevention … a pound of cure.
- Washington Post May 4, 2004 Montgomery Decides To Centralize Control Over Fire Service With One Chief
- Site set up by the volunteers, who are against the move.
- Resolution by Montgomery County Civic Federation, who were solidly against the bill.