Open Forum

The MAIN LINE is the official publication of the San Francisco Fire Fighters’ Local 798. Opinions expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of Local 798 or the San Francisco Fire Department. Members are welcome to submit Letters or Articles for publication; however the Editorial Board reserves the right to review/edit any submitted material.

Who Is Looking out For Us?

By Jim Connors

This is being written to make everyone who is a member of the SFFD, and hopefully also a member of Local 798, aware of some very important issues that were raised in the IAFF November-December 2000 issue of the International Fire Fighter. We do not read all the mail we receive, and for those who missed some very important articles, be aware of those who are against us, those who don’t help us, and a way we can look out for ourselves.

For those who are against us, has to do with an article that was in the Sunday, San Francisco Chronicle on December 17th, 2000 in the real estate section. An article on our nations housing talked about the American Home Ownership and Economic Act of 2000. This provided funds for targeted groups throughout the United States for programs designed to help them buy homes and live in or near the communities they serve. The targeted groups ended up NOT INCLUDING hundreds of thousands of moderate-income teachers, firefighters, police officers, medical emergency personnel and other public employees across this country.

The original bill received bipartisanship support in the House, but when it reached the Senate, support evaporated. Specifically, Republicans Phil Gramm of Texas and Wayne Allard of Colorado objected to any FHA mortgage breaks for public employees or schoolteachers. Gramm was reported to have said he didn’t support “giving any person special treatment because of employment status.” Another anonymous House Republican, evidently not a friend of Gramm’s, stated Gramm’s opposition had to do with not wanting to provide special benefits to unionized public employees and teachers “who they know aren’t going to vote Republican.”

These two supposed representatives of the people refused to budge, and blocked the bill until “we” were removed from receiving benefits.

You know some that did get increases? Members of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve and the Federal Reserve Chairman. Guess they don’t need help securing a place to live.

You know who got screwed in the process? Those who teach our children and those who respond to 911 calls.

All I can say to you Republicans out there is thanks for all the help and support. Are there any Republican firefighters who are having a hard time finding an apartment or a house to buy? Why don’t you drop a line to the aforementioned Gramm and Allard?

Another article on those who don’t help us had to do with legal settlements in Seattle and two Connecticut fire departments who were fined for serious safety violations that affected firefighters in those departments. This included several instances of firefighters who died in the line of duty. The issues raised in the article dealt with lights, thermal imaging cameras, respirators, and use of the incident command system to account for personnel on the fireground.

I believe in the use of ICS at incidents. I also believe that ICS is a “management” tool, and it does not put out the fires. We still need smart, aggressive, and coordinated actions by companies at a fire, especially those first on the scene. We also need someone to keep an eye on those of us who are inside or on top of a building on fire. There are some in our department now who are in fire suppression leadership positions, and who don’t have a clue on how to account for personnel, or how to utilize personnel in a controlled and managed way. Firefighters put out fires. ICS helps ensure for the safety of those who are putting out the fires. For those of you who are inside or on top of burning buildings, sharpen your 6th sense.

And lastly, another way we can hopefully ensure our safety has to do with the proposed NFPA 1710 standard. This deals with minimum engine and truck staffing; 2 paramedics on ALS units, 2 EMT’s on BLS units; RIT teams at all incidents; having a chief’s aide position; minimum response times; establishing incident command, water supplies, attack and backup lines, search and rescue teams, and ventilation teams at structure fires; and other related health and safety issues.

With a recent audit conducted by City Hall, who knows what recommendations are going to be made? With that in mind, we need to be on the offensive, and help Local 798 get the politicians to support NFPA 1710. This will be voted on by the NFPA at its annual meeting in Anaheim on May 16th of this year. We need to have many letters of support written to the NFPA asking them to support this proposed standard. There is already opposition to it, and I am sure you can figure out quickly where that opposition is and will come from. Please write the NFPA as concerned firefighters asking for affirmative votes on 1710.

Some remarks … For the young “whiners” in the department... Ever think of what it would be like to work 5 days a week, and commute on a hot, sweaty, balky Muni bus every day? It could be worse! … As I have said many times, we in this department live in a make believe world. We have the greatest job in the world. We actually get paid to have adrenaline rushes. We don’t realize how good we have it, in spite of our internal problems. Every job has its problems … And for those of you who are using the “Watchdog” to dump your guts, remember that it is a “public” forum, and is available for many to access and read. For those who are using it as a garbage dump, and a place to sound like school kids, I hope we don’t get it back come contract time or election time.

And lastly, before I fall off this milk carton, Happy 2001, and be safe!


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