Letters to the Editor

Pinocchio vs. the fire department | Federal Way letters

Boy oh boy. If it isn’t the fear tactics of “charging for services...or a new tax...and what a tax they’re claiming...a whopping 66 percent...Pinocchio, your nose is getting longer!

What I find even scarier is these naysayers are trying to get the Des Moines and Federal Way citizens to believe that the fire department operations are outdated and ineffective.

I’ve had the opportunity to get to know and work with Chief Al Church, and I can tell you he is one of the most driven, determined and dedicated leaders I’ve ever met. He and his chief officers are active and involved in this community; they’ve got their “fingers on the pulse.” And they should — after all, a leader’s primary responsibility is to help individuals, teams and the organization become and remain vital and vibrant. That’s the essence of leadership and that’s what Chief Church is doing.

Now, leaders at every level are finding their leadership skills challenged, particularly by the often-competing demands placed on them by budget cuts, decreases in revenues, customers, employees, and a host of other issues and concerns. Chief Church is a head of the game. He’s been working insistently on ways to maintain our level of service while stabilizing the department’s revenue source. Today, leading is like juggling chain saws: One wrong toss, or one wrong catch, and the consequences are serious. That’s why the Board of Commissioners we’ve elected have worked hard with Chief Church to cut the budget, delay replacing equipment and reduce non-emergency staff to save money. They’re now using cash reserves to make up the difference, but that won’t last. The next step would be to reduce programs and lay off firefighters/EMTs, and that would certainly increase response times, not to mention the loss of effectiveness, which could put us the potential users in jeopardy.

Take a look at South King Fire and Rescue. They cover 42 square miles with seven fire stations serving approximately 154,000 people. They responded this past year to almost 16,000 calls. Think of it: That’s a 911 call for service every 31 minutes a day, 24 hours a day, for 365 days a year within arriving within four to six minutes. They’re providing exceptional emergency services to people who never in their wildest imagination thought that they would be calling 911.

So, when someone says that the fire department is spending wasted money on beds and exercise equipment, it makes me wonder about the health and physical well being of the firefighters. Wouldn’t you rather have a strong physically fit person lifting you? Running up stairs to save you? And when they work, they do a 24-hour shift. They better have a good bed to sleep on.

What makes SKFR one of the premier fire departments in the Northwest? They train and they drill over and over so that when they are called into action, their performance is flawless, they have unity with purpose, because you only get one chance to do it right.

That’s why I’m voting for Proposition One so South King Fire and Rescue can continue to make every effort to maximize resources, create efficiencies, all while providing the highest level of emergency service to the citizens during their times of crisis. Your support ensures that firefighters/EMTs can respond to emergencies in an average of four to six minutes for emergency calls. Tax increase? Watch out Pinocchio.

Remember, when people are running out of burning buildings, it’s the courageous firefighters (most are married with children) who are running into the fire to save lives. That’s what they do, and that’s why it is essential we continue to support them.

Before you vote you might want to check out SKFR website and look at the 2010 budget, the fire service benefit charge and explanations Chief Church provides. The website is www.southkingfire.org.

David Myers Sr., Federal Way

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