Advertisement

Editorial - Firefighters deserve better

April 03, 1998

New regulations developed by the U.S. Labor Department could cripple local departments that depend on volunteers to fight fires. Unless Congress can roll back these rules, volunteer operations and the citizens who support them may have to look at a full-time paid fire service.

Local fire/rescue members tell us that training requirements have already been increased to such an extent that it's difficult to recruit new volunteer members. Now the Occupational Safety and Health Administration wants to require additional firefighters on the scene and dictate their physical condition and the type of breathing apparatus they must use - and all by Oct. 8.

Additional firefighters would be required under the "two in/two out" rule, which states that when two firefighters go into a burning building, two more must be outside to provide assistance or to rescue those inside, if necessary. Other rules would mandate yearly medical evaluations, including stress tests, for firefighters and a major change in the type of breathing apparatus used.

Advertisement

Under two in/two out rule, if only three firefighters showed up, none of them could enter the burning building to fight the fire from inside unless they had some clear evidence - someone screaming and hanging out a window, for example - that someone's life was in danger. If three firefighters show up and there's no one screaming for help, OSHA rules would restrict them to fighting the fire from outside.

The annual medical evaluation might knock out about 25 percent of the county's existing volunteers, according to Joseph Kroboth III, Halfway fire chief and president of the fire chiefs' committee of the local fire/rescue association. And then there's the cost; the xeams run about $500 to $600 per person.

These two changes would raise each company's costs, but more important, would diminish the number of volunteers available to fight fires. They're not bad rules, but there must be more phase-in time, to give companies time to work new costs into their budget and to replace those who can't pass the physical. The volunteers who regularly risk death for their fellow citizens deserve better than being shoved out in this way.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|