Editor’s Note: Numerous readers responded to Bill Samson’s “Gardening Firefighters” letter in last week’s Sentinel.
Readers share perspectives of gardening firefighters
I worked for the Ramona Fire Department from February 1991 to December 2007. I came in as a clerk and left as the fire inspector.
I saw this fire department go through a lot of changes. When Chief M. Neill petitioned to the water board in, as I recall, 1993, to contract with CDF in order to save the community further fees which were mounting, the board decided it was to the best of the community.
CDF at that time gave their stations a food stipend. We did, too, at the beginning of the contract. This did not pan out for very long and our firefighters had to start paying for their own food.
The article states that they often eat on their own, out of their own pockets. This is true, I worked at the station on 10th Street and know this firsthand. Everyone tries to pitch in, but without a food budget that is not so easy.
As for “sitting around waiting for a call,” that is not true They are training, working out, cleaning, teaching fire prevention—need I go on? I was there. There is no “sitting around.”
Negativity toward the people who may have to help you is not productive, especially in a public forum such as this editorial page.
Stacey Riordan, Retired Fire Inspector, Ramona Fire/Cal Fire Mr. Samson overlooks the fact that, in the midst of grocery shopping on the clock, the Fire Department dispatcher can send those firefighters to a home fully involved in flames where the on-site chief can direct them to grab a 5-inch line, enter a structure, climb a burning stairway, and drench the second floor hallway so their fellow heroes can save family pets and trapped children cowering beneath their beds. He doesn’t acknowledge the “gardeners” doing their daily runs, working out to stay fit, and ignores the required in-service training necessary to recognize and deal with the latest precursors used in rural meth labs they encounter while deployed in the backcountry during wildfire season. Our nearby Cal Fire crew is constantly maintaining their equipment, as well as doing upkeep on fire station facilities. They “turn out” in 90-degree weather wearing 65 to 80 pounds of gear, and drag heavy lines into areas with poor visibility, so, yeah, they need to be in top physical shape. Nobody wants another $150 fire tax (Ooops: fee) but look to the usual suspects who love found money they can funnel to favorite projects. (Bet they don’t buy a DC-10 aerial tanker with it.) Perfect example: Parks Department “finding” huge amount of money right after Gov. Moonbeam ordered closure of numerous state parks due to lack of funds. Thirty dollars per hour is not huge money, when the goal is saving lives and property. Firefighters are heroes.
Gerald L “Jerry” Chadd, Ramona You’ve got to be kidding me! I cannot express the expletives that came out of my mouth after reading Mr. Samson’s letter. Mr. Samson, you perhaps are unaware that these firefighters/paramedics “live” at the fire station for days at a time, being on call for when we need them. Away from their families. Perhaps you have never had to call on them to put out the fire at your house or to take you or someone you love to the hospital during an emergency. This is 24 hours a day, even at 2 a.m. when you are snug in your bed. By the way, have you ever seen someone with a burn injury, especially a chid? This is what the “fill the boot: campaign serves. All I can say is shame on you.
S. Maddux, Ramona Mr. Samson, your sarcastic letter is obviously in response to the article in the Aug. 23 Ramona Sentinel regarding the fire station’s vegetable garden. When I read the article, I had a totally different reaction than you did. My first thought was what a great idea.You are entitled to your opinions and so am I. What is the problem if the firemen spend some free time working in the garden? They are doing something productive and enjoy the benefits. It also cuts down on their food costs. And since the costs of planning the garden are absorbed by the firemen, there is no way this is a waste of taxpayers’ money. Gardening can be therapeutic as well as a form of recreation. I don’t know what is available at the Ramona fire stations, but lots of fire stations have other forms of recreational facilities such as basketball hoops, horseshoe pits, I’m sure some might even have a pool table. I have been told there was a fire station that had a shuffleboard game painted on the apparatus floor. All these things help them relieve stress. My late husband and his father before him were firemen and I am completely aware of the stress involved in their jobs. Ramona firefighters work a 72-hour shift, which means they spend three straight days at the fire station and it is their home away from home for those three days. If they earn $30 an hour for that time, it probably isn’t enough. Sure there are days when they don’t have a lot of fire calls, but there are many more days when things are different. One day in particular comes to mind—Oct. 21, 2007, the beginning of the Witch Creek fire. Does it really matter what they do with their free time while there? They don’t “just sit around the fire station waiting for a call.” They use the time to clean and maintain the station, clean and maintain all the fire vehicles, make sure the apparatus and equipment are in good working condition, handle walk-in medical aid, in addition to responding to fire calls, smoke checks, medical aid, traffic accidents, weed abatement inspections, and other public assistance. As far as “doing their shopping on the clock,” if they do go out for groceries it is usually just a couple of firemen, not the entire crew, and them are in total radio contact with the dispatcher and available to respond to a call. Sometimes they might stop for supplies on their way back to the station after a call. Not one dime of the proposed fire fees will be seen by the firefighters, so you don’t need to worry about them buying corn and potatoes to plant. If and when the new fire fees go into effect, some of the firemen may even have to pay the fees as well. When I see the firemen with boots in hand “stopping traffic down on 10th and Main Street,” I know they are doing it for a good cause and taking donations for a charitable organization such as Burn Center or for children with a debilitating disease. And for what it’s worth, I’m sure they will never have a need to buy a farm tractor. Plenty of people would be willing to loan them theirs. I know I would. I hope you were just having a bad day when you wrote your response or that you were just trying to be snide or funny and don’t really feel this way. My hat goes off to all the firefighters and as a taxpayer I totally appreciate their dedication and hard work.
Beverly Ditman, Ramona How could you write such a letter about firemen? Let’s start with some facts about firemen, since you wrote your letter without considering them. Every year, fires take many lives and destroy billions of dollars worth of property. Firefighters help protect people and property. Firefighters also save people who are trapped in burning buildings. They treat people who are hurt or ill, both at fires and other situations. In fact most calls that they respond to involve medical emergencies. In between alarms, firefighters must clean and repair their equipment. They practice firefighting skills and they perform fire inspections. They exercise to keep fit—a little different from your “siting around the fire station waiting for a call.” Many firefighters work more than 50 hours a week. Their hours are often longer and more varied than the hours of other workers. “Other workers” would be us. Sometimes they are on duty for 24 hours straight, especially during our fire season. So these $30 an hour guys do a lot and if it were up to me, they would get more! So maybe a little garden to them is their way of dealing with “stress” and having something to look forward to after a long day of training or fighting a fire. These men and women of Ramona are the BEST! I have seen them in action during our fires in Ramona. While we sleep, they do not. And Bill, if they were on a corner at 10th and Main with a boot asking for donations for a tractor, I would give money for that. They are a family when they are together at the station and when we need them, their family helps save other families by putting their lives in front of ours. Waste of money? I think it is not enough. Remember, and I hope this never ever happens to you or your family, but if you have a fire or medical emergency, that those “gardeners” will be your first responders. Maybe they will bring you a tomato.
Chris Bertolero, Ramona Last week’s letter to the editor in the Sentinel concerning the “Gardening firefighters” made my blood boil. The writer demonstrated his lack of knowledge about anything having to do with the fire service as he said the garden will give them ”something to do while sitting around the fire station waiting for a call.” He should know that today’s firefighters, volunteer or paid, are constantly involved with training evolutions and study during most of their on duty time (usually two or three days) while away from their own homes and families. We see them now and then in the local supermarket while they quickly shop for the food needed to prepare their meals, at their own expense, for the entire shift. They don’t go home every night for dinner. These men and women are frequently seen outside their station doing hose and ladder work The work to maintain the small garden at the fire station probably takes no more than four man-hours per week, and even during that time they are fully prepared to drop everything to answer YOUR emergency fire or medical call! I find it very difficult to find any “waste of taxpayers money.”
Charles Teichert Jr., Ramona Agrees with Patterson about tea party Kudos to David Patterson for his letter in the Aug. 30 Sentinel. I, too, find some hypocrisy in the right wing tea party members who do nothing but tear down our president and country with their constant complaining. They forget that it was a Republican president who created this mess we are currently in. Let’s be grateful to God and our country that we enjoy the standard of living we reap today. Is a multi-million-dollar man who refuses to release his tax records and avoided service to his country going to save America? I think not. Only God can help us. That is where we need to put our faith. God bless America.
Bob Murphy, Ramona