Fire Chief Resigns Over Municipality’s Failure to Replace Unsafe Apparatus
As a company that has relationships with volunteer firefighters in various rural communities that always seem strapped for cash, we at BME found this story of particular interest. Many volunteer departments rely on annual funding drives to help supplement local funding, but that typically still only covers the more routine operational costs such as training, maintenance, and upkeep of the fire station. Anyone who has served, especially in fire districts with high call volume, knows that the day will come when you will need to make that appeal to your municipality — or even to the citizens you’re protecting — for extra money.
In this particular instance, a local fire chief named Jon Buckingham out of Medway, Maine, resigned over his municipality’s refusal to replace a pumper-tanker engine that he felt was no longer safe. Before his resignation, the chief claimed that the 1988 Pierce had to have repairs made to the electrical and steering systems, had body rust and lost its transmission during pump tests. While the chief felt that this warranted investment in a new or used piece of apparatus, Chief Buckingham was unable to get the funding he needed. Rather than the minimum $100,000 that would be necessary to purchase a used replacement for the vehicle, $20,000 was allotted to repair it yet again.
LIMITED FUNDING: A COMMON ISSUE FIRE CHIEFS DEAL WITH
This story sheds light on a common issue many volunteer fire departments face. Although local governments and citizens may appreciate the service that volunteer firefighters provide to the community, often times there just isn’t enough funding to go around to meet the needs of volunteer departments.
It’s necessary for any agency, regardless of their function in the community, to request funds for whatever it is they believe they need. They must plead their case as effectively as possible to justify the expense. However, if a request for funds is deemed unnecessary, fiscally impossible, or downright extravagant (which is not what we’re implying in this instance), then the agency must find other alternatives. For Chief Buckingham, the only alternative was to resign. Some believed it was an extreme choice, but others within the community praised him for taking a stand for firefighter safety.
Regardless, funding is a common issue within the firefighting industry, even among federally funded fire departments. All too often, extra funding is deemed unneccessary until tragedy strikes; much like the recent wildfires that have caused devastating destruction throughout the Western United States.
HOW TO CIRCUMVENT A LIMITED BUDGET WHEN PURCHASING FIRE TRUCKS
Fire chiefs are left with the task of determining where to allocate the financial resources provided to them, no matter how limited their budget may be. At BME, we recognize these limitations and provide alternatives for fire chiefs to acquire the fire trucks they need to get the job done. To help fire departments circumvent budget limitations, BME has existing fire apparatus contracts with the Houston-Galveston Area Council and the General Services Administration. The significance of these contracts is that fire departments and other agencies have the ability to “tag-on” to these contracts, giving them access to competitively low pricing and the ability to avoid long bidding processes when purchasing fire apparatuses. “Tagging-on” means to add your purchase order for a fire apparatus to an existing purchase order related to a pre-existing contract.
If your department is interested in tagging-on to either of these contracts, contact BME today.