Glendale Fire Department critic Bruce Philpott has lost his battle to reduce the number of firefighters on each engine from four to three â€” and rightly so.
The three City Council members â€” Ara Najarian, Frank Quintero and Dave Weaver â€” who rejected the proposal on Tuesday were 100% right in their assessment that this is not the place to save money.
There are much better places to make cuts and save money than on services that hold human life in the balance.
Philpott argued that the city's projected $9.9-million budget gap should take precedence over the status quo at the Fire Department. One of his main points was that the Fire Department could still function effectively, and would save the city money, if it reduced the number of firefighters staffed on engines and trucks.
Even without the many studies that defend how a four-person company is more efficient than one staffed with three people, the issue seems pretty cut and dry.
The residents of this city deserve to know that when they or their family members and friends are at their most dire point, they will receive the best care. This top-notch service will come from a fully staffed fire engine.
Fire Chief Harold Scoggins â€” and former Chief Chris Gray before him â€” work every day to ensure the safety of Glendale residents. They have devoted their lives to it â€” it is not just lip service.
So at some point we have to trust in their judgment of how best to run a fire department. It is what they are paid for.
Philpott, on the other hand, who says he took up this charge because of past experiences with emergency services taking too long too arrive, seems to have conflicting points. He wants firefighters to stay close to base and be ready for those calls, but also says that the extra minute or two a three-man team would have to wait for a second fire truck to arrive at a blaze is acceptable.
When response times are already in the single digits how can a minute or two not make a difference? If you or your loved one were trapped in a burning house, would a minute or two more of being trapped make a difference to you? Of course it would. It could mean the difference between life or death.
Philpott also preyed on many residents distrust of city government and fed them his skewed facts. Sadly, many bought into it.
Those supporters criticized council members who opposed the reduction and said that they plan to push the proposal as a major campaign issue in the April election.
The city's firefighters should not be made into a campaign issue, and especially in a way that diminishes their efforts.
But if Philpott's supporters want to do so, they should take a trip to a city fire station and see the work being done there.
Maybe then, they will realize the full range of responsibilities taken on by firefighters and their contributions that far too often go unnoticed.
Unfortunately for many of us, knowledge of a typical firefighter's day is molded after multiple viewings of television shows or movies. Typical scenes include firefighters sitting around, sharing a few laughs and eating large quantities of food. And they do have some down time, but a visit to the Glendale Fire Department's website will quickly make it clear that firefighters aren't just lounging their days away.
Their responsibilities include emergency medical care, hazardous materials management, swift water rescue as well as urban search and rescue. They also oversee fire equipment maintenance, conduct business and residential fire prevention inspections and provide public education.
They are not above reproach and should be looked at critically, like any other city department. But there are far better places to trim the budget.