In the April 20 "Chair's 3 Minutes" column, it was suggested that the county could save money by using volunteer firefighters instead of hiring trained firefighting personnel.
Volunteering is admirable and appreciated, however when it comes to replacing qualified personnel for a dangerous profession, there are number of things to be considered. In a high cost-of-living community like ours, are there enough people who have the time to work for free and handle the physical demands which include exposure to intense heat, smoke and toxic chemicals? Will volunteers be held to the same standard as a paid employee if they choose not to be on call or show up for an emergency? What about liability issues that must be addressed and county expenses for training, equipment, uniforms and medical treatment for volunteers injured on duty? If there really is a savings to the county, what are we sacrificing in return?
Fully qualified firefighters' responsibilities include extinguishing fires, cleaning up toxic waste spills, rescuing stranded people and providing critical assistance at crash scenes. Hiring a trained first responder gives the community back accountability and a guaranteed response time, which is money well-spent. The next life saved could be that of a friend, loved one or even yours. Please think of this before considering unrealistic cost-cutting suggestions that could drastically impact the effectiveness of one of our most important emergency services.