Rethinking The Role of Firefighters

It’s a common cliche that firefighters are the friendly community members that help get your cat down from a tall tree. Recently, people have began to take advantage of this reputation. The role of firefighters has become more customer-oriented as they find themselves responding to more medical emergencies than they do actual fires.

Nowadays, buildings are constructed better with sturdy materials and special consideration to electrical wiring and other hazards. Fires just don’t happen as much as they used to. According to the National Fire Protection Association, firefighters are getting called out on about 40% less fires than they did 30 years ago. This isn’t to say that the department is becoming obsolete, however. Now, almost half of the calls firefighters are responding to are due to medical emergencies.

Still, fire departments are still set up the same way they always have been. A single call will send out several large trucks loaded with expensive equipment and packed with qualified firefighters. This, for obvious reasons, is quite expensive, pushing the department into some financial trouble.

The fire department is funded by property taxes. After the crash in 2008/09, there was no longer the same funding available to the department. The department turned to the taxpayers for help. They argued that as their service is insurance, everyone needed to pitch in a little bit now in order to cover the large cost of a disaster later. In a time of such economic distress, taxpayers weren’t willing to give up their money to fund this.

After all, If everything is changing for the fire department, then why are we paying for it in the same way as before? The solution here doesn’t seem to be in tax increases but rather rethinking the role of a firefighter. I know the task is easier said than done but the fire department has no choice but to look at other options. There simply isn’t the same need for classic fire stations as there once was.

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