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Should Fire Training Be Banned? a commentary

FireHat Finds a Stinker

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The State Firemen's and Fire Marshal's Association of Texas is the first major fire service organization I am aware of to come out in favor of a ban on mandatory training. Yes. The largest fire service group in Texas (I'll confide to you that this is a volunteer firefighters' group, at least unofficially). They are pushing SB 766, the so-called Volunteer Firefighters Protection Bill. It would explicitly bar any state agency from requiring training of volunteer firefighters. In the SFFMA's words, "it has become increasingly difficult to recruit people to volunteer to protect their communities and those who do should not have to ask Austin bureaucrats for permission first!" Well then.

The SFFMA's efforts to promote SB 766 are the most shameful thing I have ever heard of a fire service organization doing. As a longtime volunteer and former member of the SFFMA I am appalled at their actions. As a professional firefighter I am scared by their myopia. As a resident and citizen of Texas I am outraged by their advocacy of incompetence. This move is in direct opposition to Life Safety Initiative 5 of the Everyone Goes Home program and would forever put the lie to any claims of "professional volunteers." It's disgusting.

Texas has a mixed reputation around the United States, to say nothing of the world. As a proud Texan I can't dispute this, even if I'd like to argue that it's unfounded. When it comes to the fire service I'd be really hard-pressed to argue for our system. Here, paid firefighters have to have Firefighter I, Firefighter II, HazMat Awareness and Ops, and, in effect, EMT-Basic to even get in the door and on a truck. Volunteer firefighters, on the other hand, are required to obtain exactly no training.

Yes, you read that right. Texas, a titan of size and economy, has no training requirements for most of its fire protection personnel. I've never heard anyone try to reconcile this with any reasoning except economic. You know, training is too expensive and time-consuming; volunteers just can't do it. That sort of thing. If I were still a volunteer I'd be insulted in the extreme. Nevermind that a great many states and other countries do require training for volunteers. Nevermind that this job is more dangerous and complicated than ever. And nevermind that the people of this state are being protected at wildly varying standards. Above all, this is dangerous and it likely deceives the public.

While NFPA 1001 and a whole slew of other standards recommend certain training for operating in hazard zones and the Everyone Goes Home program, through Life Safety Initiative 5 has taken the position that training should be mandated by law, the State Firemen's and Fire Marshal's Association of Texas has struck a bold path of its own. They don't see it yet, judging by the obfuscations of their executive director on Facebook, but it is a path to the past ending in irrelevance.

Thank you.  Patrick S. Mahoney

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