“GOVERNMENT’S FIRST DUTY IS TO PROTECT THE PEOPLE,
NOT RUN THEIR LIVES.”
The old saying that “I’m from the Government and I am here to help you” is a classic saying about the fact that the government very seldom actually helps you. However, you have to stop for a moment and consider what the government is intended to be. It is you. As the Representative Republic, you vote for people who are supposed to do your will or what is best for you. And of course, you know how that generally ends up. But rather than this being a rant about politics I want to point out a few things to you. Like RESPONSIBILITY.
We are once again in the middle of a drought and the RED FLAG WARNINGS are becoming a daily occurrence again. When there is no smoke on the horizon most people go about their lives without even thinking much about how fast things can change. When that smoke over the hill or fire occurs you expect a fast response from your local fire department. And you should
BUT, have you really done your part and fulfilled your responsibility to make sure that the fire department is really fully capable of coming and saving your life and property? It just does not happen by itself. The first component is you.
Too many people just want their taxes to be low and never consider what the result is if the fire and rescue services are not fully funded. I do not know any fire or EMS department that actually can say “we have plenty of money for everything we want and need”.
I have known fire board members who would rather cut the budget of the fire department to save a few dollars of their own taxes. This is when there needs to be a change of that person that you elect. To make sure that when your place is on fire that they are coming with the best that can be obtained.
But what is your personal responsibility? Do you do your part to make sure that the fire department has a fighting chance to save your place in the first place? Do you clean your yard of overgrown plants and keep wood piles and debris away from your buildings? Do you clean your gutters so that sparks falling will not ignite them and set your buildings on fire? Do you have roof material that is fire resistant? Do you keep gas cans and tanks away from buildings? Do you have any kind of sprinkler system or set up that you can leave running as you leave for safety?
There are as many things you can do to help yourself as there is to help the fire department. There is a tendency for many governing bodies to just build their own equipment rather than purchase professionally built fire equipment. This is mostly for cost reasons. There are a lot of departments that do a really good job of building a fire truck that is custom designed to fit their circumstances. But there is a fine line between being creative and being cheap.
There is at least three companies that build fire equipment in Kansas. Most of what I have seen is that the quality is really good. All three companies are owned and run by people who are actually firefighters and bring their experiences to their products. But a district that will not fund itself properly cannot take advantage of this.
Kansas State Forestry provides surplus government vehicles for use as fire equipment. However, there are a lot of military vehicles that are not on the list that should be. I know one fire chief that was the first on the list for a Humvee to be sent to his department. That was at least 20 years ago, he has not received it yet. Yet an online company has Humvees, mid-range military trucks, and heavy-duty trucks, as well as actual fire trucks available for purchase directly.
When the big fire happens, and we know it will because of the last 2 years experience, the cost is borne by the county directly. You may see Federal and State assistance but this is all directly paid out of the county treasury. The only hope is that FEMA will decide that your burden qualifies for some reimbursement. It takes a year to get those Federal Funds if you qualify.
In many areas, government is simply a part of the problem. But fire is one part of our government of “We the People” that actually is for our benefit. But it takes everyone to take responsibility to lessen the losses.
Did you know that when a major incident takes place like Anderson Creek or the Starbuck fire, that there is an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) opened? And it is staffed by mostly local people. Yes, there are people from state and federal agencies that come and do many of the major roles, but it is up to the local area to provide a lot of the people that are vital to operating it. Do you have any skills that you can step in and be of assistance? If you have some skills it would be good to talk to the county Emergency Management Director and have your skill and contact information be put on the list.
Are you doing your part? Are you requiring those who represent you to do theirs? Do you make your support known?
Just as I finish this story the Red Horse Fire erupted in Woods County Oklahoma near Freedom. Barber County sent several units down to assist their state task force in stopping the fire from reaching Kansas and repeating what we have been through before. Our boys came home but even though they were released, to protect their own jurisdiction’ the Red Horse was 10% contained and had 150 firefighters still working on it.
The reality of the day was when responding to assist Oklahoma Fire one unit had to stop near Hardtner and put out a fire in the ditch before moving on. It can and will happen again. We can only be prepared to respond with everything we can.
Look out your window. Are you really comfortable that everything has been done to save your place or your neighbors?