A recent column published in the Washington Post suggested that because overall losses from fires have gone down in recent years, career firefighters are therefore largely irrelevant and their ranks could be diminished or replaced by part-time or volunteer workers.
The column went on to describe firefighting as mostly about "eating and sleeping, mopping floors, lifting weights, grocery shopping...." You get the idea.
The online reaction was immediate and predictable. The author didn't know what he was talking about. His statistics were skewed. He had a long history of anti-union bias. He was clueless about the reality of trying to recruit good volunteers in 2015. But only a couple of the comments echoed my first reaction to this column.
Why is it when crime rates fall, law enforcement is thought to be doing a wonderful job, but if fire losses fall, firefighters are seen as a bunch of lazy bums?
The problem is in perception and how the message is presented and understood. A number of cities have taken an approach to law enforcement that addresses smaller incidents as a precursor to larger ones, and focuses on education and community policing.