‘Out Of Service’ Engine Co. Assists In Baptism
Questions are being asked after a South Philadelphia fire engine company was ordered out of service to be part of a baptismal service Sunday morning.
According to a memorandum obtained by the Eyewitness News I-Team, the deputy fire commissioner ordered Engine Company 24 out of service from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., when the baptism was completed, to spray water over the heads of the baptismal candidates.
When asked what it meant in terms of the firefighters being able to go to a fire or attend a medical call, Bill Gault, President of Local 22, the firefighters’ union said: “They’re not available for anything for that hour and a half.”
Gault said at the same time Engine 24 was providing a charged hose line at the baptismal service, another South Philadelphia fire unit, Engine 3, was “browned out” due to the city’s budget crisis. And Engine 1, which would have covered in the past, was placed out of service back in 2009.
Since the Nutter administration has embarked on a policy of wholesale decimation of the Philadelphia Fire Department, we have suffered the permanent loss of seven fire companies taken off the line. In addition to that we are also temporarily losing two companies a shift to “Rolling Brownouts” a practice where randomly selected companies are arbitrarily closed on a rotating basin. It’s a policy not entirely unlike the game of Russian Roulette where one bullet is placed into the chamber of a revolver. Every time you pull the trigger with the barrel against your temple you hope the bullet isn’t in there. In truth your odds are one in six depending on the gun used. One in six. In the fire service, every time an alarm comes in we worry if the first in company is browned out or not.
Those odds weren’t good enough for the twelve-year-old boy killed last week in a house fire when Engine 57, a block away was browned out. Ironically Engine 68, the company who raced to the scene from a dozen blocks away was browned out one shift this week. Can you imagine if there was a fire death in Engine 68’s local and Engine 57 ended up first in? That’s the fundamental insanity of this policy. We can’t do more with less, we can only do less.
That being said the fire department, ever the trooper, never adjusts its policies to face reality. Even though we have lost so many companies, they still try to continue with business as usual. That means in this case accommodating every service request no matter how inappropriate. This week firefighters from Engine 24 in South Philly were forced to attend and assist a religious ceremony, a Baptism, while on duty, at a time when there were other companies browned out and previous closures already impacted the area. More Russian Roulette. One in six.
Forget for a second the firefighting side of this story (although incredibly significant). Imagine being forced to participate in a religious ceremony while you are at work. Imagine GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES being FORCED to engage in this kind of behavior. In my opinion this CLEARLY crosses the line with government ENDORSING AN ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION.
The inappropriate use of government / fire department resources at such a critical point is unbelievable. It says a lot about our leadership and I’ll let you draw your own conclusions there. I have tremendous anxiety about this coming winter a few short months away. The true impact of these cuts combined with our leadership has yet to be felt. The boy who was killed may just be the tip of the iceberg. Say a prayer that it isn’t so.
PS: If anyone can find the code to make this video work in WordPress and can send it to me I would appreciate it. Thanks, C/A