By Peter Sells
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Feb. 1, 2008
Life is full of choices. We all have to work for money, except for the privileged few whose money works for them. The choices we make about what type of work we do for our money, full time or part time, are indicative of our character. I don’t think that firefighters or others who serve the public are necessarily “better” than merchants or lawyers but I do think that there is in the heart of every firefighter a higher moral character that leads them to their courageous and generous calling. Just as I could have spent my career in private business or academia, my fellow firefighters could have chosen other paths. And although we are well paid, many of these paths could have been much more lucrative.
By Peter Sells
Likewise, most, if not all of us have activities away from work. Again, we have choices on what we do with our time, whether it be leisure activity or additional employment. If I choose to, I could start up a small business, volunteer as a marshal or starter at a municipal golf course or work part time for an hourly wage.
In an earlier article, I praised two hatters for the noble donation of their time to their communities. I believe unreservedly that community service is a noble calling. This is as true of part-time or on-call firefighters as it is for those of us who have chosen a firefighting career. If you question the motivation or character of a two-hatter on the basis that they are paid for their duty time, haven’t you also done the same of all career firefighters? Money is money; we need it and use it and it isn’t inherently dirty or immoral. However, firefighting is inherently noble.
Feb. 1, 2008
Coming up in my February column in Fire Fighting in Canada are my thoughts on residential sprinklers. A lot has happened in the last few weeks on this important issue. A public demonstration of the effectiveness of sprinklers by the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs is described elsewhere on this site. It is too early to tell if the snowball has enough momentum yet but it appears that the Catastrophic Theory of Reform is in action once again. The theory holds that significant positive changes in code reform are enacted in the shadow of catastrophic loss. The “great fires” of London, Chicago and Toronto each resulted in changes in municipal planning to reduce the probability and severity of conflagration. If the firefighters reading this blog do not know the historical significance of the fires in the Iroquois Theater, the Triangle Shirtwaist Company or the Cocoanut Grove nightclub, they should. I’ll leave it to you each to look them up if you need to.
Similarly, on a local but no less tragic scale, some recent fire deaths in Ontario have brought residential sprinklers into the mainstream news.
Let’s face it, the general public pays less attention to fire safety than they do to the latest celebrity in rehab. That isn’t going to change anytime soon, so we have to grab the opportunity for attention when it presents itself.
Keep your messages consistent. Your public education, fire prevention and operations personnel from the top of the organization to the street level have all got to be as knowledgeable and current on residential sprinklers as they are on smoke alarms. What a waste it would be if a member of the community stopped into their local firehall for information after seeing the sprinkler demo mentioned earlier and no information was available.
That would be an opportunity lost, a snowball left to melt. And in the case of the families devastated by the recent losses, it would be a catastrophe without resolution.