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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Vacationing firefighters, stranger things may happen

As hard to believe as this concept is, one wonders what will come next with no end in sight to city financial woes

By Adam K. Thiel

Editor's note: Chief Adam K. Thiel ponders just how bad things can get given the revelation that Detroit is considering allowing vacationing firefighters to fight fire in its city — for a fee.

To be completely honest, when I first read this story I had to double-check the date and make sure I didn't miss the months between September and April; and that's not a criticism.

Needless to say, it's inspired a lot of FireRescue1 reader comments and discussion about the relative merits of the proposal.

Beyond the pros and cons of potentially allowing tourists to ride-along and help fight fires (at some level) for a fee, what really strikes me is that — given the current fiscal environment in Detroit (and elsewhere in the United States) — we're in a place today where it's not beyond the realm of possibility!

Could you ever have imagined that, 11 years after the 9/11 tragedy, we'd be seriously debating this concept?

To some it may seem like a far-fetched notion, but what are local fire departments supposed to do when their budgets have been cut, firefighters laid-off, the fires keep happening, and there's no end in sight?

Any other ideas?

Stay safe!

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel FireRescue1's editorial advisor is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Jeremy Morgan Jeremy Morgan Monday, September 10, 2012 3:39:45 PM I'm no expert but it seems to me that the risk associated would not be worth the monetary gain. Insurance costs for firefighters is high enough and there are constant measures taken to reduce those costs ( getting in better shape, more training, better safety practices etc ). I couldn't imagine what it would cost to insure a citizen tourist. That's just my first thought about the idea. Is it a good idea? Well I think anything that can help out the cash strapped departments is a good thing, as long as the "tourist" stayed out of the way and didn't hurt themselves or others being on scene.
Debra Saracione- Wasserman Debra Saracione- Wasserman Monday, September 10, 2012 7:13:42 PM exactly what my yearly 9-11 rant is about this year!
Mark Hersch Mark Hersch Tuesday, September 11, 2012 9:53:09 AM I was allowed in 1975 and 1976 to ride along with several Detroit engine and truck companies. I used the knowledge I gained there to help design a then state of the art engine for my then home fire department. The engine garnered several regional awards in the late 70s. I stood the full 24-hour watch at the station, responded to all calls, ate with the crew, slept upstairs, slid the pole and learned a lot. I used PPE issued by my home department. I was not allowed to wear SCBA and was not allowed to enter a still burning structure (that restriction was treated sometimes with a wink and nod by the Detroit firefighters but I was never inside with something really dangerous). Now that I am much older, I would not mind a few shifts as a fire tourist but with the same restrictions as back then, exterior firefighting only. I also would not mind some time with their hydraulics now that I have had a career of vehicle rescue training and experience.
Steve DeCeuster Steve DeCeuster Wednesday, September 12, 2012 6:51:52 AM Is there a full moon outside? As a professional firefighter/Captain/BC. for 28 years, in a busy NE city. And since that stupid video on youtube about this in Detroit. For anybody to consider this is sheer stupidity. Maybe at Disney World. When were trying to save firefighter jobs, and riding shorthanded. To even think of this is nutty I'm holding back on some better words to use. I never had a problem with buffs riding in our city. To even entertain this idea, or write about it, is crazy.
Ed Caufield Ed Caufield Wednesday, September 12, 2012 7:50:19 AM Why don't we just take 50 of your tourists, give 25 of them guns and stick them in squad cars and the other 25 turnout gear for fighting fires. Sound like a joke? The joke is whomever would seriously consider this boneheaded idea thus disregarding the personal commitment and hundreds if not thousands of hours in training and drilling it takes to be a firefighter. Obviously someone with insignificant cranial content has not much regard nor respect for firefighters in Detroit.
Theresa DeTroia Vandewater Theresa DeTroia Vandewater Wednesday, September 12, 2012 8:14:18 AM Just read the article. Utterly amazing how ignorant some people are, I think are Dads are up in heaven just shaking their heads in disbelief...
Steve DeCeuster Steve DeCeuster Wednesday, September 12, 2012 10:02:06 AM Hey Eddie, What's up cuz! I think I'm speaking for all the men who work in my dept and for me. " From my cold dead hands, you'll have to pry that hand-line or hook, to take it from me".
Matty Cordasco Matty Cordasco Wednesday, September 12, 2012 10:08:02 AM Hey Mark! Are U kidding me-Brother Firefighters have lost their JOBS and you want to BUFF to cover their shotages! If you did that in my city-GOD help you! I got a GREAT IDEA-Give me YOUR PAYCHECK and I will do YOUR JOB! Eddie and Steve-ON POINT my Brothers! @Jeremy-NOT A GOOD IDEA AT ALL!
Ed Caufield Ed Caufield Wednesday, September 12, 2012 11:40:39 AM I think you're right about the moon, Steve!
Anthony Francavilla Anthony Francavilla Wednesday, September 12, 2012 11:59:28 AM Hey Steve are meals included?????
Steve DeCeuster Steve DeCeuster Wednesday, September 12, 2012 12:18:18 PM Yea Tony, All the chicken murphy and Chumbot you can eat.
Ed Caufield Ed Caufield Wednesday, September 12, 2012 5:10:04 PM By the way,Steve, it''s not ''' my dept ''' it's still OUR DEPT!
Mark Hersch Mark Hersch Thursday, September 13, 2012 6:34:13 AM Matty, I propose the following: We will exchange each others jobs for a shift. We both need the permission of our supervisors to do this. When you come here to Des Moines, you will work with me at my work station and I will pay you one day of my pay. In turn, you will have one day working with one of the nation's foremost HVAC and BAS automation engineers. You will learn a lot and I will honestly try to convey to you the principals of my job, especially the part that deals with firefighter protection and smoke control systems. When I come to your city, I will work with you at your station, standing one shift. As I said before, I will perform only exterior firefighting tasks so as not to expose your city to excessive liability and your crew to the risk of an unknown firefighter in their midst. Game on?
Matty Cordasco Matty Cordasco Thursday, September 13, 2012 6:44:30 AM Mark, You are indeed CLUELESS! You want to PAY to BUFF to REPLACE THE JOBS of PROFESSIONAL FIREFIGHTERS who have been LAID-OFF!!!! They can no longer provide for the families and you want to replace them so you can get a THRILL!! As for HVAC Systems, firefighter protection and smoke control systems-I'm GOOD!!!! I KNOW how they work. Here's a better IDEA-I have your company LAY U OFF and we will have other ENGINEERS come in to do your job! GAME ON??????????????
Matt Propp Matt Propp Wednesday, September 19, 2012 1:54:26 PM So I have read this article 3 or 4 times already, and I can not come up with 1 positive thing to say for this notion. This is obviously a political driven idea, and hopefully, there was no input given from the Detroit Fire Department. My hope is that their IAFF local has put a quick stop to this idea, and that there is no encouragement to outsource union jobs to showboating tourists. Second to that, I don't think they realized the tremendous liability they are taking on, which I'm sure will end up costing 10 times more than what hiring firefighters would cost. I would also hope that no firefighter out there would participate should this idea come to fruition (which I do not believe it will). Stay safe out there brothers.
Robert Fitzpatrick Robert Fitzpatrick Wednesday, September 19, 2012 3:00:51 PM A. It has to be a certified firefighter w/ recommendation fro chief. B. The money earned goes to dfd only bring staff back... and fix trucks/equipment
Andrew Stevens Andrew Stevens Wednesday, September 19, 2012 3:02:42 PM First of all, why do so many people commenting feel obligated to say their rank and how many years they have on the job? Of course there may be liability but we are talking about a city with no money, whatsoever. If they get 500 structure fires a month on mostly abandoned single family dwellings then that is a lot of training potential. Of course the city crews would need to perform search and rescue and offensive initial attack on any structure. The city constantly returns to repeat arsons on the same structure. Why cant a training team providing revenue to the city and in turn, possibly hire laid off guys back, conduct supervised operations training on these buildings that should be burned to the ground or demolished anyway. With any live fire training, people would need to sign the proper documentation that would not allow anyone to sue the city. Train at your own risk, and in turn maybe provide revenue to re-open some badly needed fire houses. I could see this working if training crews worked as a team after the Detroit crews performed offensive operations on a building that no one wants anymore. So much potential for things like, indirect attack, fire behavior, ventilation, and on and on that training crews could do with the right supervision and safety protocals in place like any training program should have. Just a thought.
Jason Martin Jason Martin Wednesday, September 19, 2012 3:46:43 PM Move the national fire academy to Detroit ..plenty of live fire training and you get extra people on apparatus

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