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The Death of Leather in the Fire Service

CLIFFWOOD, NJ – In an announcement made today by the U.S. Supreme Court, leather will no longer utilized in the production of firefighter ensemble or accessories, unless lawfully approved by a Board of Trustees that is comprised of members throughout the country that are trained and authorized to employ such use in a manner that would prove to be uninvolved with fire suppression activities.

 

The New York Times revealed several studies and interviews made by the founding members of Cairns & Brothers, a company that designed leather helmets has been named as one of the leading proponents of it’s product’s usage. “Leather is made more durable and outlasting today than ever before. If it weren’t for it’s usage in the fire service, we would be out of a job.” Cairns & Brothers have been the leaders in “lids” since the early 1850’s and have kept the design similar to that of it’s inventor, Henry J. Gratacap. Recent studies by consulting firms have revealed that leather helmets are being referred to as “top-heavy and unsafe.” Click here for current lawsuit information.

Other leather accessories such as front pieces, belts, and radio straps are also being included as a way to completely rid the profession of all types of leather, due to it’s apparent risk. Different types of leather are currently being tested in burn rooms for endurance, sensitivity, moisture release, conductivity to electrical hazards, and melt factor.

What could be done to prove the regulations are working? For years, safety stickers have been found inside the impact cap that indicate the date of manufacture, type of testing, inspector test code, and light refractivity rating. Over time, these stickers have stood up against the elements of the atmosphere most commonly found in fires. Manufacturers have become less strict on their placement/type of material used and it has been apparent in recent tests. “It is important for all manufacturers to comply with labeling requirements,” says Justin Paddock, Chief of Sciences at the Bureau of Exposure and Atmospheric Reactions to Headgear Factors under Thermal Insult (BEARHFTI). “These labels ensure consumers know if the products they are purchasing are new or used, contain added chemicals, may pose a risk to family members with allergies, and that products meet basic flammability requirements. In short, these labels protect the health and welfare of households.” For years these labels have stayed inside helmets, however it is becoming evident they are being removed, or more importantly, becoming less legible. Just so you know, some people probably didn’t make it this far. If you did, I would like to formally thank you very much for staying true to our page and following us. Without loyal viewers like you, we wouldn’t be what we are today. Since you are here, please be sure to bash the hell out of all the haters of this article in public forums and don’t let them talk too much trash about us. We appreciate your support and thank you very much. Now back to the end of the article, to “make it look good. “Labels have been required to assist in warranty and claim information, but have recently been of little help. Helmet labeling requirements in California began in 1911, in response to the fires following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. At that time, there were no set standards for letting consumers know what materials were used in the making of their leather products, allowing unscrupulous manufacturers to use unsafe materials.

Furthermore, due to a national shortage of cowhide, there has been an incline in supply, which has caused an all-time low in “economical relative susceptibility to purity,” according to Paddock. Consequently, leather products and their by-products have been on the decline in recent months. For these reasons and more, leather has become a past-time in our great profession, and we all need to go out and rid ourselves of it’s usage. We at Station-Pride highly recommend putting it to good use and put some salt on it as quickly as possible…because it sounds like it won’t be around for much longer. Visit our friends over at Leatherhead Mafia for more details and literature on how YOU can prevent this from happening.

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IAFF begins Unionizing Volunteer Firefighters

In an incredible policy reversal, the International Association of Fire Fighters(IAFF) has called a truce on a decades-long feud with the volunteer fire service. It’s widely known that 70% of the American fire service is comprised of unpaid or barely compensated volunteers, while the remaining 30% are career staff. The large majority of firefighters in the United States are volunteers.

It’s been a long-held position of the IAFF that volunteer firefighters take jobs away from career firefighters, thus threatening the sanctity and long-term viability of the union. The IAFF’s continued mission to grow the union has been happening at a slower pace than planned. Due to the financial crisis, department consolidation, and budget cuts, small career departments have been dissolving back into volunteer
stations.

IAFF President Christopher Montgomery stated that it was time to rethink the 100-year-old IAFF platform. During a brainstorming session with the executive board of directors, the idea of unionizing volunteer stations was presented. It was a game-changing Eureka moment, Montgomery said. After very little discussion it was clear the decision was pivotal and necessary for the health of the union.

IAFF President Montgomery further stated that hundreds of thousands of existing firefighters are under-represented and disenfranchised by a system that doesn’t support them. Volunteers are required to complete the same training hours and respond to the same emergency calls, performing labor with ZERO compensation and in most cases ZERO ancillary medical or psychological support. Exposure to cancer-causing toxins, emotionally taxing situations, and the risk of post-traumatic stress leave an entire segment of the firefighting community in dire need of representation.

Union dues are expected to range from $10-$25 per month, per volunteer, depending on the type of department and budget. Montgomery stated that the union was committed to all firefighters everywhere willing to pay dues. Of course, the union local for a volunteer station will have limited powers at first but the action has the potential to upend the entire volunteer system as we know it, effectively
bankrupting communities, forcing consolidation, thus triggering the need and means to hire career staff.

IAFF board of trustee Mark Burke spoke out against the decision to unionize volunteers stating it was the most genius trojan horse plan the union has ever concocted to completely dismantle the American volunteer fire service, all in the pursuit of dues.

It’s nearly unbelievable that a situation like this would occur. Only time will tell whether the IAFF’s position will make a positive or negative impact on the fire service. For sure, this will benefit individual firefighters in some fashion as they will finally have professional representation.

No matter which side of the fence you reside with this topic, unions have always stood up for the American worker, protecting us from big business and government. Volunteers represent an untapped resource for the IAFF to grow in strength while building a stronger more safe fire service nationwide. The unionization of volunteers will redefine the American fire service. It’s clear the IAFF is taking a large step forward, revolutionizing the idea of a union. We applaud their efforts to protect the union and we certainly hope they are good sports.

 

 

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Town Opens Firehouse to Homeless, Solves Volunteer Shortage

The Town of Corson, SD has been struggling with an incredible homeless problem for years. One by one, businesses packed up and left, leaving the town’s residents high and dry. Through State grants and town planning, Corson part-time Mayor Delbert Dezotell spent years expanding their response to the problem. Despite his efforts, Corson was never able to get ahead of their homeless problem.

As with most volunteers fire stations in the United States, they’re consistently coming up short on staffing. Chief Chris Andrews of the Corson Volunteer Fire Department said, “The people aren’t coming out of their homes like they used to. Video games, television, and the Internet have eroded their sense of community. We used to support each other.”

This winter was particularly unbearable, and the town’s volunteer shelters had been over capacity daily, resorting to turning people away. Mayor Dezotell stated that turning people away was not an ideal situation; he had been opening his home to accommodate the over-flow.

A brutal cold snap swept through Corson in the first week of February, killing a homeless man who’d been turned away from an overcrowded shelter. The Mayor refused to accept this situation or allow this to happen again. Chief Andrews was ordered to open up the fire station as a shelter for the homeless. Reluctantly, but wishing to comply with the town managers directive, Chief Andrews opened the firehouse out of compassion for the situation.

Twenty-three homeless men and women filtered into the fire station, setting up sleeping bags, taking much-needed showers, and washing clothes. At 2:23 am on the first night of occupancy, a call came in for a structure fire at the Corson railyard repair area. The in-house alerting system woke all of the temporary residents. Chief Andrews arrived at the station from home and waited for a crew, but only 2 volunteers arrived. The next nearest mutual aid station was 30 minutes away.

In dire need for manpower, Chief Andrews asked his temporary residents for anyone willing to help put out a fire. All twenty-three homeless individuals stepped forward, grabbing turnout gear off the rack and filling all the seats on every truck leaving the station. Three fully staffed engines arrived on scene. The crews worked tirelessly to extinguish the fire.

After a few days had passed, Chief Andrews couldn’t shake the feeling about what had happened that night when the idea dawned on him. Why not offer the homeless semi-permanent residence in exchange for signing up as volunteer firefighters?

For the first time since the mid-1980’s, the town of Corson Volunteer Fire Station has been fully-staffed for an entire month. Mayor Dezotell lauded Chief Andrews for his forward out-of-the-box thinking. One U.S. town solving both its homeless problem and it’s volunteer firefighter problem in one decision. That’s a pretty incredible feat. Could this become a new trend throughout volunteer stations country-wide?