February 5, 2013

Another View: Size alone does not tell the whole fire department story

The unique features and responsibilities of the Portland department make comparisons hard.

By JOHN MARTELL

There is one thing in the recent editorial (

"Our View: City is right to question fire department's size,"

Jan. 29) and the so-called investigation (

"Is the Portland Fire Department overstaffed?"

Jan. 27) by your paper of the Portland Fire Department that I find myself agreeing with: "It's a complicated question."

Unfortunately, in my opinion, your reporter and editors failed to look at the staffing of the PFD in an objective light when comparing it with other departments in the Northeast. The end result: easy answers to hard questions.

The PFD staffs four ambulances, federally mandated protection at the Portland Jetport and a Marine Division (yes, that includes the fireboat we have read so much about).

When you take Portland's workload into account, subtracting these positions from the total staffing number you use (which, again, is not accurate), you find that we are in line or below the other departments.

Your reporter was cautioned to compare apples to apples, but it is obvious the decision by him, or his editors, was to ignore the facts. How can you honestly ask us to accept the premise of your article and editorial when you use the data in such a self-serving way?

As professional journalists, perhaps it is time for you to look and see if your reporting is fitting the needs and demands of our community. But perhaps that is too sensitive a political issue that has been avoided too long.

John Martell of Harpswell is president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Maine, International Association of Fire Fighters, and a member of the Portland Fire Department.

 

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