Defending the FirefightersWas the mulch fire attacked...


December 20, 1992

Defending the Firefighters

Was the mulch fire attacked properly? Yes. The "unprofessional" question asked by Mike Burns (Dec. 13) is the big "What If." Mr. Burns is a professional writer. However, I do not believe he is a professional firefighter.

Mr. Burns . . . has attacked the Harford County Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Service and directly the Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company. Did Mr. Burns bother to check with our elected county officials or the citizens of Harford County about their thoughts of our volunteer system?

The editorial comment in essence said that the Joppa-Magnolia VFC was negligent in its duties and responsibilities. Not true. The Joppa-Magnolia VFC had responded to Fireside Tom's on more than one occasion. The owners, sure that the mulch pile was only smoldering at the time, informed the fire company that they would extinguish the fire. We loaned them hoses and nozzles and they used their own pumps.

The fire erupted that Saturday night and the owners' employees decided to call for additional help. The decision to totally extinguish the fire was made by state officials, so another stump dump fire would not exist.

To state that their call "finally" got fire companies to fight the fire is erroneous. To pick a night of fog and rain to extinguish this mulch fire, if we had a choice, would not make sense. . . .

If you think a career department would have handled this "better," well for many reasons, we disagree with you. Why not ask the state fire marshal's office about our account ability? To state that we fought this fire that night because we had more volunteers available is ridiculous. . . .

Your statements that we are not professional in our operation; that we lack strong central command; that the volunteer fire companies act independently under a loose structure of cooperation are unfounded and off the wall. . . .

The many, many hours of training, which are continual throughout one's career as a volunteer, are taught by the University of Maryland. To be professional does not mean you must be paid. To suggest a professional, paid firefighting system would have handled this differently is conjecture on your part.

. . . If you really want to learn about the volunteer system in our county, why don't you spend some time with us? I think one week, 24 hours a day would let you see and hear what takes place in our volunteer fire and ambulance system.

I have opted not to respond to the balance of your comments, because it has been discussed enough.

Edwin C. Sokel Jr.


The writer is vice president and board chairman of the Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company.

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