Tuesday, January 17, 2012
As a 40-year resident and the proud mother of a Steamboat Springs firefighter/EMT, I must applaud those City Council members who were the voice of reason at the Jan. 3 meeting. They realized that the study done to determine where the budget could be cut was incomplete and needed further study and that salaries were not even considered.
We are blessed to have a wonderful group of dedicated and professional men and women protecting our community, a community in which many of them were born and raised. Our firefighters are highly trained and continue training on a regular basis. They have learned through all that training how to fight fires as an effective team. All members operate independently but also as part of a cohesive unit. Having a full team at the ready 24/7 provides a faster response time, and therefore the success of fire mitigation is more effective. Also, property owners in communities with professional fire departments have lower property insurance rates, which is good for everyone.
How fortunate we are that all our first responders are cross-trained as either EMTs or paramedics, particularly because the majority of the calls they respond to are medical in nature. This system has to be more cost-effective than outsourcing EMS services, not to mention the personal connection Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue members have with their neighbors in the community they call home.
Also served are visitors to our area. This was indicated in the recent letter to the editor written by the grateful mother of a visiting child who suffered a life-threatening event and was spared harm because of the quick and capable treatment provided by our first responders.
My son and his co-workers have chosen their career path not for personal gain but to serve others in the highest degree, saving the lives we cherish and the property we all work so hard to attain. That being said, their courage and devotion needs to be adequately compensated for them to enjoy the decent lifestyle they deserve. And yes, most of them work other jobs and still struggle to provide for their families.
Because our firefighters are not paid commensurate with our high cost of living, we have lost four highly trained and qualified people in the past year. It is costly and labor intensive to train a department and get them to a level that provides competence, as well the ability to function as an effective team. Losing firefighters is counterproductive.
I would appeal to all citizens to ask our city fathers to look elsewhere for cost reductions, not with our most important and basic needs — the health and safety of our loved ones and our property.