To the editor:
I felt the need to respond to all the negative comments and opinions of the Haverhill Fire Department and the fire/EMS service in general.
Standard staffing of fire apparatus is three or four per the National Fire Protection Agency. Some communities go as low as two, which is dangerous itself. One is totally an injury to a firefighter or civilian waiting to happen.
Just driving a truck with one guy does not mean it's in service per se. Each company and riding position has a predetermined task on the fire, ground, or emergency scene. The driver of the engine runs the pump and establishes a water supply. The man in back is the nozzle man, and the officer backs up the nozzle man and supervises.
Per NFPA, when two firefighters enter the building, two should be standing by outside just in case they need rescue, become trapped or lost. This is what's referred to as a FAST (Firefighter Assist Team) or RIT (Rapid Intervention Team). They are responsible for the interior firefighters' safety. Everyone has a job or task to do. If you freelanced and did whatever you wanted with no accountability, more people would die. Fact. There is no worst feeling than watching someone die. It's horrible.
Yes. I signed up for this — as many readers with no feelings like to write back — but we are human beings. We get frustrated. And when it's your job to save someone, and you're not given the proper manpower or equipment to do the job you've sworn and paid to do, and someone dies, you will question and "what if" yourself until the day you die.
These people that we watch die or are unable to save — whether it's a medical call, car crash or fire — live inside us forever. We don't ask or want any extra pay for seeing someone die. We want the proper equipment and manpower to help us carry out the job we were sworn to do. We don't want to die either. We will if it saves someone's life. Yes, I signed up for that too but you can't put a price tag or balance a budget on that. The cities and towns have an obligation to give the fire department the services and equipment they need to protect the citizens and firefighters themselves.
We are human. We make mistakes. Please don't be so critical of the Haverhill firefighters. They are grieving the loss of this woman, too. They have apologized for comments made due to frustration and "what ifs." When you watch someone die or are unable to save them, you are not thinking about a raise or if I only made more money. You are thinking "what if we had more help" or what if we had this piece of equipment."
We will be there 24/7 for you and do the best we can with what we have. But remember, we are humans, we are parents, sons, daughters and residents, too. And we hurt like everyone else. Remember that when you need us.
Proud to be a Massachusetts firefighter/paramedic.