6-23-2004 Centigrade 911

Kudos to Cinemark in Moosic for not censoring and giving the people of Wyoming Valley an opportunity to see the truth. I will be there on opening night.--Joan Marie Garlan, Harveys Lake, a Michael Moore devotee

How f**king typical is that?. Even the opening of some nonsensical movie that no one wants to see is a possible conspiracy theory. Every rock and every tree is hiding yet another conspiracy so long as a Republican calls the oval office home. Neurotic f**kers, these Democrats. I heard Dick Cheney and Ken Lay delayed the construction of our downtown Filmplex so that Moore's bilge couldn't be seen in this town. I'm tellin' ya! I also heard that if Cinemark actually shows Moore's garbage, three black helos are standing by at the Avoca airport. Those folks at Cinemark are true, patriotic Americans for standing up to Bush's heavy-handed tactics. F**king lunatics!!!

I spied a SAYSO last week that took Sue Henry of WILK fame to task for talking about only Republican stuff. (?) There is no way to verify what municipality that the call was generated from, but needless to say, Q-Tips are going to go over real big when they finally go on sale there.

Sue is on vacation this week, so others are manning the zircon-encrusted WILK microphone during her absense. Somebody called her show while she was away and referred to her as a "Republican apologist" which is not even remotely accurate, or fair.

I got up today and ran across a letter to the editors of the Voice from some woman that thinks Michael Moore's hit-piece passing as film is some sort of life-altering experience. Pray for her. Anyway, this obviously easily-manipulated woman referred to Sue as "an apologist for the Bush administration," before going on to call Moore's latest bilge "the truth." Pray for her kids too. She even offered up that one line from the Fox News review that Ethel glommed onto. Cut us a major break with that rabbit dropping already. One guy employed by Fox and the druggies, wife-swappers, wife-beaters, and AIDS patients that attended the Cannes Film Festival do not a worldwide consensus make, and I seriously doubt they'll be invited to join any major think-tanks anytime soon. Should I really be impressed by what Brad Pitt, Whoopie Goldberg, or Barbara Streisand think of the latest geopolitics? Christ! If it were up to Brad Pitt, we would have invaded Nepal.

If they wanna beat on Sue, so be it. She's a big girl. She owns a wiffle ball bat-She can defend herself nicely. What I do take issue with is the very sly use of the word "apologist." By using that word, the most recent graduates of MoveOn.org are implying that anyone that does not believe that Bush has a 666 X 10 birthmark behind his ear is an obviously tainted "apologist." They have accused him of everything short of sinking the Titanic with his trusty slingshot, offered zero proof in the process, and not one of their counterproductive, bordering on hateful accusations have come even close to sticking. Despite evidence to the contrary, they'll probably charge that he once rode his tricycle into a table in an upstairs hallway and sent Lee Remick hurtling to her death.

And if by rote, the deluded myrmidon that wrote that letter to the Voice is offering us nothing more than Michael Moore's less than threadbare accusations as the proof, "the truth." That's all that the gonzo folks on the other side of the political aisle have these days. Accusations posing as proof. That's exactly why we don't know exactly who the hell John Kerry is, or what he'd do if elected to the big dance. He and his ilk repeat the latest accusations, but they rarely tell us what they'd do differently other than "doing it smarter," or "doing it better," as Kerry was quoted as saying way too many times to ever feel comfortable with.

The woman with the clouded vision tells us that "'Fahrenheit 9/11' should open the eyes of those who support the war." Yeah, and baseless accusations are now offered as proof of wrongdoing. And those of us not mentally dense enough to fall for that ages-old Madison Avenue advertising trick, "repetition is reputation," is labeled as an unknowing apologist. The latest in a very long line of off-base and dimwitted accusations.

Oh, I forgot. Our overzealous author was "sickened" by the "torture of innocent Iraqi citizens." You know, the ones that were forced to play a few rounds of naked Twister.

If you repeat a lie often enough...

This is gonna be a short one tonight. I'm fairly certain I didn't do anything mean to her, but I think the girl that schedules my work is trying to freaking kill me. I'm four days past a week off and I'm so completely beat, I'm beginning to understand how it feels to be human.

Let's do a few e-mails. It's easier than trying to think.

*******Hi Mark,

I finally read your response to my disgust with the city only being worried about the bottom line. Although you had some interesting points to toss out there, I wonder if you once questioned what has been mentioned on the forum. Were all areas looked at for budget cuts? You and I are paying more taxes for less services.

Our mayor has made some changes to the fire department. There was some published quotes from the mayor and the union president. The following is what the membership was told by the union: The union attempted to get the mayor to agree to the 16 number with no engines going out of service. The union membership was told that the mayor wouldn't put it in writing. So when the actual contract was signed we knew at least one engine would be put out of service. This could be a fair trade off considering that each engine would have three people on it. Any fire calls would only require a two engine response, leaving two remaining engines to cover the city. Considering the drastic cut by the administration, the membership felt betrayed. The union thought process shifted from helping the city to protecting the resident's and membership's safety. You see, as long as the city refuses to contractually agree to a number, it's in the best interest to stick with the three on an engine. The membership could agree to go with two people on a piece, but there would be nothing stopping the mayor from further closing an engine or two if the budget remains in the red. So it would be in the member's best interest to keep three people on each engine until the mayor enters into a signed agreement. The current approach is reminiscent of doing more with less.

Some of these statements are only my opinion, so please refrain from blasting me in any of your next posts.


Al Walker*******

Blast you? Me? You need to consider that when people read text, they have no tone of voice, or facial expressions by which to gauge the real emotion, or lack thereof, of the person that sent that text.

Say we were debating the merit of imprisoning our council and at some point I looked at you and said, "Funk off! You Barney Rubble clone," delivered with a wide grin? You'd know I was merely busting your ya-ya's a bit while not buying whatever it was that you were trying to sell me. Now suppose I sent those very same words your way on the forum page? Fightin' words, or no? Sometimes what we type on these gizmos comes off as blasting when it's original intent was not meant to sound so severe. YOU F**KER!

Back to your original question: Were all areas looked at for budget cuts? It sure seems like it. I know some of ya'll want to see council pony up some savings and quite frankly, some of them are right on target. A few others are short-sighted as they pertain to attracting quality individuals to our city government, but I'm too tired to explore them again tonight. You tell me. Were all areas looked at for budget cuts? Is there something you want to get off of your chest? By all means, do it.

Should any future mayor's salary be cut to next to nothing as Walter Griffith has proposed? Some have said that council positions should be paid a mere pittance of what they draw now, while still others believe they should be unpaid positions. That's fine if we want Jasbo the Clown and his inbred sidekicks running the city someday, but I'd prefer to attract some folks with some usable skills.

I totally understand why you guys would want to stick with three on an engine from a safety standpoint. That was never an issue with me. Would I rather respond to a working structure fire with one, or two of my brothers in tow? Hmmm. Do I look stupid? Don't answer that. A while back I sought to have this latest impasse clarified for me and the more opinions I listened to only seemed to further cloud the issue. And then some folks, unbeknownst to us, started freaking out on the forum calling for council's heads and such.

And still, it depends on who you talk to as to who exactly is at fault. All I know is we've got two engines out of service and no matter which way it's sliced, it's a bad thing for the City of Wilkes-Barre. Last night, I was wondering aloud about how we might fix that. Tonight, I'm wondering if we even can.

Another one:

******* Mark,

I just want to thank you about your comments regarding the BLOG. Mr. Walker's comments are the answer. I have been saying that for quite some time now.

As for the situation, and getting those engines in service.....honestly.....I don't expect that to happen. The politicians have made their decisions, and I am convinced that the politics involved here has overshadowed common sense and reason. The appearance of an open firehouse is all they are concerned with. There is no logical answer other than politics when it comes to the decision to put Engine #5 out of service when staffing levels drop below 17.

Anyway, as I have stated before, we need to focus on the future. We need to decide the next course of action. I believe that the people in the neighborhoods directly affected by changes in the service still need to be informed. From there we need to offer our thoughts on the new system they have imposed on us and though I feel it is less than ideal, or even really something that will run without major consequences, offer up some changes to at least address the most serious operational concerns.

In the end I'm sure that a couple of things will happen. People of the community will be affected. My job will be changed in some respects for the better and in some respects for the worse. Through it all I have to remind myself over and over that I don't run the fire department and that I will only offer suggestions that benefit the safety of those I am sworn to represent both in the community and in the union. To heed those suggestions is for the city to decide. We have a contract that is signed and in place. Repeat after me.....they are management and I am the employee. Though it may stink, it could be worse. I know that some don't like to hear that, but it's the truth. Look outside of the box and see what others in the private sector are facing. Like it or not this is the way things are. We as firefighters will continue to do what we do to the best of our ability. We will strive to make this city as safe as it can be considering the changes for both the taxpayer and firefighter while on duty no matter what the number working.


We will strive to make this city as safe as it can be considering the changes for both the taxpayer and firefighter while on duty no matter what the number working.

Despite all of this internet back and forth, I never doubted the commitment of those involved for even a fleeting nanosecond. As the Stomper and I were wandering home today, I ran across that kid that got nailed by a car on North Street. Chief Jake and I arrived at the same time right after Engine 5 and Medic 5 were toned. I didn't time it, but the response time was as quick as could be hoped for. There'a an argument for Northeast Station needing to be staffed 24/7, heyna?

Anyway, this was your typical kid meets car program. His friends looked on in abject horror while the cops rushed to quell the flow of traffic. One of his bros held some sort of cloth to his head wound. The crowd grew and wondered aloud who he was while he stared back at them in obvious pain. His mom came scampering down the street leaving a trail of tears behind her. Some girl that looked like a younger version of his mom threw her head into some kid's chest and balled like a baby. His friends and relatives hovered over him until he could no longer be seen from my vantage point. One of the cops I rode with a while back pulled a witness aside for a statement, while another copper dude made chalk marks and took pictures. Emotions were running high for those directly involved and then Engine 5 arrived, quickly followed by Medic 5 and bing, bang, boom...the kid was braced, put in the ambulance, and was off to CMC. I saddled up and made my way over to Turkey Hill for a pack of Newports.

Your obvious professionalism never came into question, but I rode away wondering about what might happen to Nord End kids crunched by cars if Northeast Station ever ceased to be entirely. By the time I had arrived back here at the adobe, I had come to the conclusion that if that were my kid lying there bleeding on the tarmac, I would sure as hell want Northeast open and well-staffed.

And there is it again. Budgetary constraints versus public safety?

One more from the inbox:

*******Marc; I have been following the events around the city fire department. Having been involved with the Volunteer fire service for over twenty years I would like to offer you a view from volunteers.

The Wilkes Barre Fire Department serves the City residents and all of us that travel through out Wilkes Barre Daily. I haven't heard a single volunteer fire fighter support the actions of the administration. The current cut backs and reductions of Engine Companies is a terrible turn of events.

Volunteers are trained and operate as professionals every day, but it is getting harder to meet the demands that seem to increase every year. Look at the call volume the Fire and ambulance personnel in the city of Wilkes Barre answer every year.

Fire fighters face increased dangers every day. If you listen to your scanner you will hear more volunteer departments using RIT teams (the guys that get firemen out when they get in trouble.) But Wilkes Barre City reduces Engine companies.

Three men on an Engine. MINIMUM. Think about it An Engine arrives on scene of a house fire. The Driver/Operator gets a water supply going two men grab an attack line and enter the building to search for victims and find the fire. NFPA wants us to have a two in-two out policy. thatís not possible with two let alone three fire fighters per engine.

I have learned that the first few minutes on scene determine the outcome of the call. Big fire needs a big attack line. Sounds simple. I would encourage those that make decisions to reduce the engine companies or argue three men on an engine are not needed to try and pull a two hundred foot length of two and a half inch hose and advance it into a building up a stairway with two men let alone three. Remember someone should be operating the pump.

IF you would like to give it a try contact me.

Volunteers are proud people. we are often thought to be less trained or lack motivation. This is untrue. We attend the same training, Have to answer the same type of calls. Fire doubles in volume every minute. Think about that every minute the amount of fire doubles!! So if response time becomes longer the fire gets bigger. The bigger the fire the more likely hood of injury/death.

With all this in mind having career firefighters manning the stations is the ONLY option for Wilkes Barre City. Response time can not increase. I doubt you will find many Volunteer fire fighters that will disagree.

Should the firefighters take a step backwards and go back to two men on an Engine? No way. This is a life safety issue.

I hope all the people that are making the decisions in Wilkes Barre do some more research. The mayor has a tough job, Things are not good in the city. Fire Service is essential. We enjoy sending an Engine to Wilkes Barre for the annual parades. I hope the next time we send an Engine it wont be to honor a firefighter that has fallen in the line of duty because of inadequate staffing.

I have followed you web site since the beginning. You appear to research and do a lot of inquires. Sometimes there is more to the issue than money.

I leave you with these questions.
1. When was the last time your taxes went down?
2. What was the staffing level 5 years ago?
3. What is the staffing level now?
4. What was the call volume 5 years ago?
5 What is it now?
6. Who does the Firefighter call when he goes through a burning floor or roof?

Christopher Keats
Assistant Fire Chief
Bear Creek Township
(the mountain that gets flooded)*******

The mountain that gets flooded. I love that. You've e-mailed me before, but I think it's been a while.

Let's start with this:

IF you would like to give it a try contact me.

You really shouldn't tempt me. I am nuts, you know. I simply love new adventures. But...I've already told these city boys they can count me out. You see, when it comes to voluminous amounts of still unchecked flames, I'm much like a furry animal in the forest. I will tend to run away. I'm really smart like that. In their heart of hearts, I think most fire fighters would probably prefer to follow me, but they have decided to answer a calling that requires some big, big nuts on occasion. They run towards the flames.

For those that may not know, let's revisit your list of questions:

1. When was the last time your taxes went down? Cut me a break. I was born after the advent of electricity.

2. What was the staffing level 5 years ago? 88

3. What is the staffing level now? 81

4. What was the call volume 5 years ago? See #5

5 What is it now? A helluva lot higher than it was 5 years ago. Therein lies the trap in a city starved for revenue. We can't afford as many cops, firefighters, or paramedics as we need, but the calls just never stop coming. That's why it's a bogus argument to point to the steadily declining population as some sort of justification for cutting emergency services and such.

6. Who does the Firefighter call when he goes through a burning floor or roof?

That's a question that should be forwarded to those making the tough financial decisions. But I'm really glad you posed it because it might just cause some to take pause before making decisions that might force others to make life-and-death decisions without enough support in place.

Since you mentioned the omnipresent possibility of a firefighter falling in the line of duty, one lawsuit filed by one greiving widow could quickly wipe out any savings brought on by staffing reductions.

But what is a mayor that refuses to spend what he doesn't have at his disposal supposed to do? And there is it again. Budgetary constraints versus public safety? The question without an answer suitable to all involved.

Gotta go. I am beat.