Fire Watches Unproductive

October 2, 2018

Editor: It was with much surprise and dismay when I read that City Hall had once again ordered the Wilkes-Barre Fire Department to resume the unproved practice of daily fire watches. I had hoped this unproductive and inconsequential procedure had faded into the unfortunate past with several other self-proclaimed “expert” policies of former mayor Tom McGroarty. In January 2004, I was appointed Fire Chief by Mayor Tom Leighton. My very first order was to cancel the fire watch program. In all the hundreds of mandatory fire watch trips not a single working fire was ever discovered. In addition to the needless wear and tear on the apparatus, a reasonable leader must consider the incredible amount of money wasted on very expensive fuel at less than 10 miles per gallon. The fire watch debate misses the real problem. I respectfully request that someone at Fire Headquarters call Scranton, Allentown, Reading Harrisburg, York and perhaps, Philadelphia and ask two questions: Do their fire departments commit their manpower to a fire watch and how many firefighters respond to a house and/or a high rise fire? When the mayor and city council learn that no one, except Wilkes-Barre, carries out a fire watch policy, and that every other city responds more on-duty firefighters to a structure fire, they can address the real problem. The fire department is woefully understaffed. When I was hired in 1975, the city staffed nine engines, five aerial trucks and eight firehouses. I completely understand that finances are a real concern; however, at some point all elected officials must ask, “When do reductions in fire safety become unconscionable?” I cringe when I think about the fact that only two engines and one aerial truck are staffed for the entire city; I fear that a terrible disaster awaits the residents. Jacob Lisman WILKES-BARRE

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