While I do my best not to push my political beliefs on you with this website, I do share my beliefs about politics and firefighters. I’m a big proponent of holding politicians accountable when they fail to support things that are important to firefighters.
In recent weeks, I’ve seen firefighters go after at least two presidential candidates. In New Jersey, career firefighters are doing their best to let New Hampshire voters know that Governor Chris Christie did not support them on state pension issues. For Senator Ted Cruz from Texas the battle is over his failure to support the Zadroga Act.
As the late Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill famously said, “All politics is local” and it’s a local political battle that caught my attention today.
On January 4, at a meeting of the Beaufort County (NC) Board of Commissioners, Commissioner Hood Richardson referred to volunteer firefighters in his county as “Bubbas.” It came up as Commissioner Richardson expressed skepticism over the need for fire departments to use surplus sheriff’s cars as quick response vehicles for EMS calls. The exact quote from the Commissioner was, “Is Bubba gonna’ get in this thing with no training ’cause he happens to be on duty that night?” (See video above.)
That did not go over well with many of the firefighters in Beaufort County. In a January 18 Beaufort Observer column titled “Bubba and I know the drill. Do you?”, Commissioner Richardson went further in making his case against QRVs saying, “Giving surplus cars to first responders is not what they need.” The commissioner then doubled down on his “Bubba” comment:
Some have taken issue with me calling firemen “Bubbas.” Bubbas in this case are those who are not properly trained to provide medical services but who think they are. Used as such, Bubba does not refer to all first responders. I happen to know a few volunteer firemen. All have good judgement but are not medically trained. Most of them do not want to provide medical services other than to be able to do CPR if necessary. Most firemen are trained to do CPR. If they wanted to do other medical things they would have joined the EMS.
In reaction to all of this, the Bubbahood united. First came a Facebook group called BOCO VFD Bubbas Unite set up by Capt. Ray Harris with the Bunyan VFD. On Monday, the united Bubbas paid a visit to Commissioner Richardson and the rest of the commissioners, packing a courtroom at the Beaufort County Courthouse. Capt. Harris spoke for the group in an attempt to provide an education on exactly what firefighters in Beaufort County do.
(In looking for articles about Hood Richardson, I found this story from 2012 where he made news for the way he treated a 911 call taker and told here she needed to “get off her butt and do her job.” The recording of the call can be found here.)
“There were several comments that led us to believe that you, as county commissioners, and also some of the citizens of Beaufort County, may not know what we do,” Harris told commissioners before his presentation.
Harris said one of the more important aspects of what volunteers currently do is participate in pit crew CPR, in which multiple people keep up continuous compressions on a cardiac arrest victim. Pit crew CPR was introduced in Beaufort County in 2014, and all county firefighters have been trained to assist EMTs and paramedics in the method.
“I assure you that there have been a number of people in and around Beaufort County that have been saved by this CPR,” Harris said.