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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Get involved: It's the only way to limit bad decisions

It is every firefighter's responsibility to the fire service to be engaged in the decisions our elected officials make

By Adam K. Thiel

Editor's note: Chief Adam K. Thiel urges us not to let election fatigue get the better of us and to stay involved with elected officials.

We typically think of salaries and pensions as issues primarily affecting career, or mostly career, fire departments in the United States.

As this story demonstrates, however, the continued economic situation, the upcoming (potential) "fiscal cliff," and resulting attention to government employees' (career and volunteer) compensation and benefit packages promise to keep firefighters in the news in communities across the United States.

Given the constant challenge of recruiting and retaining volunteers in every organization I know, it's surprising to see a statewide limit on membership — or at least membership in the pension plan — in local volunteer fire departments. At the same time, there are many states where such benefits are not even offered as incentives to volunteer.

So, regardless of your state's specific policies, what can you do to gain, enhance or protect firefighters' benefits, safety and resources?

In a couple of words: get involved.

During my tenure as Virginia's state fire programs director, I was always surprised by how little participation there was, in a relative sense, from local fire departments in the state's overall governance process.

I know we're all suffering from election fatigue. But state legislatures will soon be in session again, and we owe it to ourselves, our departments and our service to become educated about the issues and weigh-in with our elected representatives.

You see, voting is just the first step.

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.

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