As a former firefighter and former resident of the Ohio Valley, I watch and read news reports daily.
I am ashamed and embarrassed that I have to hear and read about the replacement of the Neffs Professional Fire Fighters for the Bellaire Volunteer Fire Department. I believe this is a step back in time when the Ohio Valley needs to move forward. Simply put, the Bellaire City Council has decided to save money instead of doing the right thing and providing the service of safety at the highest level available to its citizens. There are many reasons for this that have been discussed over the months and a lot of those reasons need to be looked at as ethic issues by voters.
Let me put this in term that citizens of Ohio Valley may understand: The Bellaire City Council has replaced the Neffs Professional Fire Fighters with Bellaire Volunteer Fire Department. A professional Fire Fighter receives over 200 hours of training and makes a career and lifestyle of training daily the multiple fire service disciplines to provide the highest level of service possible for the community in an ever- growing complex profession.
One the other hand, a volunteer has a job outside the fire service and can in no way dedicate the amount of time possible to achieve the skill level in these same disciplines. This is not the volunteer’s fault because he has a career or job outside of the fire department.
If the volunteer firefighter was an iron worker by trade, he would be better trained to build bridges than a professional firefighter, so let’s leave the bridge building to the iron workers and the firefighting to the trained firefighters.
Now to put this change from professional to volunteer work in perspective, I would like to use baseball. Let us say the Neffs Professional Fire Fighters are the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Bellaire Volunteer Fire Department is the Washington Wild Things simply based on the training of the fire service disciplines. What Bellaire City Council has done is replaced the Pittsburgh Pirates with the Washington Wild Things, and they have done this to save money and attempt to do what they believe is providing a better service. Do you think this would work in baseball? No. Then why would it work in public safety?
You may possibly – and I say possibly – save money, but in fact you will reduce the product you’re putting in the street every day putting my family and friends’ lives at risk to save money! Bellaire City Council, what price tag are you putting on your citizens’ lives? I can sit here and give you standards and facts all day to prove my points. We can look at recent fire service studies and comparisons on issues like response time mentioned in articles.
The fact is that Bellaire City Council is neglecting a service that can be provided as proven in the past on the safety of it citizens to possibly save money, and that is not fair and not progressive for a village once known as The All American Town. I want to state this is not a knock on volunteers but simply a comparison of two services that are available to a community, and I understand that these services are not available to every community in Ohio Valley. Communities should be working toward providing some type of professional fire service with a respect for the past just based on the growth and complexity of the profession and safety of the citizens. It is a fact the fire service of today is not the fire service of yesterday and it will only grow more complex.
I leave you with this, what is next for the public safety of Bellaire citizens – a volunteer police force to save money?
Seth T. Holzopfel