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February 2, 2013

2010 File Photo/Jack Milton

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.

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.

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

Windham

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.

We take our chosen profession to heart, and from our end I think that is why these negative remarks turn personal. Nobody wants too much help until it is their emergency.

Christopher Vail

Portland firefighter

Portland

Lawmakers should take back 'gift' to biotechnology giant

At the last minute in a secret deal, a paragraph was inserted into the "fiscal cliff" bill that awarded Amgen what amounts to a $500 million taxpayer gift.

Haven't heard about this? Go to the Internet and check out the Jan. 19 New York Times article about how the world's largest biotech firm bought itself a piece of legislation.

Last month, Amgen pleaded guilty to illegally marketing one of its drugs and agreed to pay $762 million in penalties. Basically, the taxpayers are reimbursing Amgen about two-thirds of its penalties.

This is particularly hypocritical, not to mention shameful, when the very senators behind this deal are those who make the most noise about bringing down the deficit.

This is ugly -- with a capital "U" -- on many levels, not the least being the ever-present cronyism that thrives in Washington. Can ordinary Americans ever get a fair shake?

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., is attempting to bring a bipartisan bill to the floor that will repeal this back-room giveaway. Please contact U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud, and U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, too, in support of Rep. Welch's bill. Enough is enough.

Tracy Panzani

Bath

No such thing as a safe gun around children, teenagers

Recently, a teenage boy in New Mexico allegedly shot and killed five family members ("N.M. teen accused of killing his parents, three siblings," Portland Press Herald, Jan. 21).

Possible shared psychological characteristics aside, he and all young school shooters from Columbine to Newtown had one thing in common -- they had access to guns and knew how to use them.

Parents and close family members should get the guns out of their homes.

All the reasons for thinking your child or children may be safe around guns in the home cannot possibly trump the moment when a young person decides to play with a gun, show it off to a friend or, in one unfathomable moment, head to a local school bent on destruction.

In addition, many young teenagers do not have the cognitive development to know the devastating effects that accidental or intentional shootings can have on families, communities and their own futures.

Please rid your homes of guns if young people reside or visit there. Let's end school shootings, not by arming the teachers, but by disarming the kids.

Carol Eddy

Springvale





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