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A great message from Syracuse chief & union president at annual firefighter memorial service. But will anyone hear it?

 

The video above, by Charlie Hannagan at Syracuse.com, is from Firefighter Memorial Park in Syracuse, New York. On this day in 1939 the Collins Block building collapsed taking the lives of eight firefighters and an assistant chief who died three days later. With this memorial service, the Syracuse Fire Department each year honors all of the city’s firefighters who have died in the line of duty. Currently that number is 45.

What isn’t on the video, but is the focus of an article by Hannagan, are the speeches by Chief Mark McLees and IAFF Local 280 president James Ennis. Each man takes the opportunity to remind political leaders and the public that we are the same “hometown heroes” who were held in such high esteem after 9-11. They address the budget cuts impacting safety and the attacks on firefighter pensions. An important message that needs to be heard all across the country.

But will the citizens and the politicians listen?

It is extremely tough out there right now for firefighters. It isn’t just that you are often losing these economic battles. That’s horrible in itself and is having a devastating impact on scores of departments. It is the image and reputation of firefighters that is also taking a hit. This week alone, on opposite sides of the country, firefighters are making big news with some very unflattering stories about their work ethic (click here and here).

As I pointed out earlier in the week, I am not here to argue the facts of any of these stories. It is the bigger picture that has me worried. Chief McLees and President Ennis are on the right track, but so much more needs to be done. Make sure you read the comments already popping up about their statements to get the full picture of what’s out there.

Here are excerpts from the article:  

Today, “the economy has bottomed out. The government has bailed out Wall Street, the banks, the automobile, insurance and housing industries. Firefighters’ pensions are now being blamed for the financial woes of the state and many other states across the nation,” he (Chief McLees) said.

“Are you kidding me? Firefighters’ pensions are the cause? Seriously?” McLees said.

“The last time I checked there was no plaque with the names of bankers who died in the line of duty. There are no statues of Wall Street executives who laid down their lives for total strangers,” he said.

James Ennis, president of Syracuse Firefighters Local 280, continued on the same theme.

“In these extremely difficult economic times, when pundits and others may argue about the number of firefighters needed to safely operate at a working fire, or complain about the pensions and benefits we receive, I remind you of the 45 brave men whose memories we honor here this morning,” Ennis said.

“I ask, and implore, that you assist us from ever having to add yet another name to the wall behind me,” he said.

Ennis then reminded those present that firefighters and retirees face a shortened life expectancy, a greater risk of getting cancer and other diseases because of their continued exposure to smoke, toxins and other byproducts of combustion in the course of their careers.

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  • FMCH

    What always boggles my mind is when the teabagging nutjobs say things like “They signed up for the job” etc etc. However, using that rationale, shouldn’t we apply the same thing to our men and women in the armed forces? I mean, they signed up for it, so should they really be “entitled” to combat pay?

    I’m a veteran of both the Army and Navy, so please don’t misconstrue what I’m saying.

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  • mike NYC

    The grass always looks greener on the neighbors lawn. That is why the general public is upset with the idea civil servants get pensions. Bottom line the benefits of civil servants particularly firefighters and police officers in the State of New York appear to be generous in these bad economic times. As one of these civil servants I can understand the misguided frustration of the general public. BUT bottom line 20 years ago when I first worked for the State of New York ( my job required a Bachelor Degree ) I made 25,000 dollars less and no bonuses of any kind like the my private sector friends w/ comparable education levels.What was my reason to forgo $25,000 and bonuses, the defined pension I was to receive at 62 years old. Upon leaving that position and becoming a firefighter (NYC) I took on a much more dangerous job, my life expectancy is shorter, and I face injury and death everyday I go to work. My reward a decent pay not the best compared to neighboring municipalities and a defined pension after 20 years of service in the pension system. Why because the job of a firefighter is not a 9-5 office job ( not knocking 9-5 jobs as I had one prior to Fire Service as I explained). That is why we get paid decent and get defined pensions . To say it is a calling, yes of course you must be willing to go to work knowing you may die. But a word to the general public – because it takes a special type of individual doesn’t mean we should not be adequately paid and have a means of income after 20 years of service. This job is not for 55 year firefighters climbing a 100 aerial ladder to ventilate a roof. It is a young persons job. That is why we receive 20 year pensions in many NYS paid Dept. Jobs of the emergency service cannot be compared to the average job and that is why benefits and pensions maybe a bit better than the private sector jobs right now. Go back in time when the stock market was rolling and the private sector was getting xmas bonuses, people were buying huge houses, having boats, etc most firefighters were working a second job to make ends meet.
    Now the very same people who were living the high life lost in the big economic down turn and are astonished that the very jobs they never even considered to take have a defined pension. I applaud the Chief for his comments. I make no apologies for my defined pension I can receive right now but chose to stay working a job I truly enjoy. But, everyday I go to work is Russian roulette!!!!!!!!!!!!!