February 2, 2013

Letters to the editor: Burning over fire department coverage

In the Jan. 27 edition of the Maine Sunday Telegram, under the headline "Is the Portland Fire Department overstaffed?," was an imitation news article with a biased title.

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Portland personnel fight a blaze at the Jordan’s Meats plant on Middle Street in 2010. The lives of firefighters and community members are threatened because the city fire department isn’t able to staff fire trucks at levels established under the national fire safety code, a reader says.

2010 File Photo/Jack Milton

There was one gaping hole in the information: Why it is so vital for the Portland Fire Department to have these resources to fulfill their duty of saving lives.

To protect the lives of firefighters as they complete this duty, the National Fire Protection Act outlines staffing requirements to ensure the safety of firefighters. They call for four firefighters per fire truck, and up to six in high-hazard or incident areas.

They also maintain a "two in, two out" rule, meaning two firefighters must remain outside a fire call in case a rescue is needed. And that's within the first four minutes of a 911 call. Within eight minutes, they require 15 to 17 firefighters to be on scene.

However, according to the Portland Professional Firefighters Local 740 union October 2012 newsletter, the Portland Fire Department currently has only three firefighters per truck. With this lower number, the lives of firefighters and those they strive to rescue are endangered.

Also, factors like increased staff members and adequate response time reduce the Insurance Service Office Public Protection Rating.

This rating is used by 97 percent of insurance companies when determining premiums for both residential and commercial properties. So a sufficient staff not only increases the safety of the community, it can also decrease the cost of insurance for Portland residents.

None of these factors was included in the Maine Sunday Telegram article. The reasons justifying Portland Fire Department resources go on and on, and they need to be recognized because the lives of firefighters and community members are at stake.

Kirstin Cook


I need to voice my disappointment with the direction, tone and implications that have been reported through this paper in particular ("Is the Portland Fire Department overstaffed?" Jan. 27).

First and foremost, I want to say we are a department of the city of Portland trying to provide service and safety to all of its citizens, guests and communities beyond. To be labeled and criticized in political forums and degraded in the city's largest publication is nothing short of deplorable.

I believe all departments should be acting in constant review and re-examination to provide the highest level of service in the most cost-effective manner under the safest conditions to the city's people and employees. Somehow I feel this has turned personal.

The notion of "this is just business" somehow has provided an allowance to ridicule the Portland Fire Department and all of its individuals. This is not right.

My wife and I pay property taxes in Portland and are grateful for all of the city services. Do we wish our taxes were lower? Of course, let's not be silly. That is why we should all express ourselves to our elected officials. And from our outcries, city government should react with educated common sense.

What needs to be remembered is we are individuals going to work trying to make things better for people. With pride and passion, we work to help people. I believe without question that the department's individuals come together as a group to provide this day in and day out, every hour of every day, without compromise. What I can promise you is that I/we do not look at the service we provide to Portland as just a business.

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