THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIRE FIGHTERS.
Former Chief George C. Hale, as president of the National Firemen’s Association of the United States, in a paper read at the organization’s fifth annual convention held last year in Detroit, Michigan, impresses on firefighters of all ranks the need to join forces to have “respectability, power, efficiency and protection”. In his “in-depth observations of the beautifully equipped firefighters associations of the old world”, he admits to being “humiliated” by the contrast between theirs and those of this country. He found there “every nation with a perfectly federated fire service, [and] the main men of the country in the organization; even royalty, in many cases participating in the services. He found these men “eminent in government councils, [and that] it was an honor to be a fire officer. I have found (he adds) a complete absence of this barbaric principle in the spoils system so prevalent in our country, which uses our offices as a convenience to reward or avenge the henchmen in this country. In our country, instead of a union of organizations, as our national federation proposes, we have sixty or seventy state and district associations that do not know each other, isolated from each other, without the shadow of a union ground with some organization of firefighters, barely a rung above chaos and falling into decadence, instead of breathing the air of life and inspiration that union would give. I know our state associations, many of them, do a good job locally; but how infinitely greater would their field of activity be if they could avail themselves of the inspiration, power and utility that flow from union – by union, without restricting or abbreviating a single rule or goal of their local law, right or privilege. On the other hand, a huge gain for their fund of knowledge, power and respectability which would come from mutual knowledge, mutual consent, mutual cooperation and mutual protection, which almost all orders of lower men have always. Indifference to union, organization and study, he emphasizes. constitute the main obstacles to remedy the ills afflicting firefighters. “The American people are generous and ready to honor the firefighter; but he persists in not putting himself by organization in a position to receive and use spontaneous help from the public. The National Association of Fire Fighters claims to have “one of the most splendid codes that can be designed for its current purposes.” There is room for improvement, when improvement is needed. Work is slow, as in all European countries; but it does not recognize any branch discrimination in the fire service. Paid volunteer firefighters must unite to form the federation in this, our country. There is a harmless illusion in some neighborhoods that the men who fight fires in thirty-three story buildings are the only ones who represent America’s fire department. This must be treated without mercy, as the seven tenths of the firefighters in this country are volunteers, constituting the essential, the business, the life and the energy of the members of the state association. Paid and volunteer must be one in the organization. Chief Hale would bring all the different associations together and send delegates to the annual convention, as well as town and village fire departments, and individual firefighters if they feel up to it. “In this way, the National Federation will achieve service representation in all states. The American Federation. like those in the old world, should “enrich themselves with technology from within and not wait for the underwriter’s whip to develop service efficiency”. It should “educate and equip” its members, “produce the exercises by counseling and study, and even demand and obtain the passage of salutary laws.” The organization should encourage the circulation of literature on fires, because (says the author of the article), “there is a shameful lack of patronage towards our tire magazines. They would be of the most precious help in this essential work of organizing our associations into a national organization. They are already the only way to reveal the existence of even neighboring associations to firefighters. The National Legislature could then be joined, whereas today none of the associations would feel authorized to send a lobbyist or even to commemorate the Congress. The Federation, in turn, would have the combined knowledge of dealing with fire problems offered by the experience of different states. The finis fire federation belongs to different associations, and if it fails all service in the United States should immediately stop complaining, for there is no cure for evil except by following the spirit of the times and it is an age of organizations and unions, and I am quite ready to say without fear of being contradicted, that the [members of the] firefighters do not need or deserve sympathy as long as they are indifferent to the indicated need to unite as other unions do. The document ends with a sincere appeal to all who participate in this service to join the organization and to as many people as possible to attend the next convention, to be held in Chicago on October 28, 29, 30 and 1. the goals of the association will be one of the main topics. Another will be to arrange the acceptance of the offer from the directors of the Louisiana State Purchase Show to hold a firefighters convention in St. Louis next year. Secretary Gillen, 175 Monroe Street, Chicago, will give full information on the next convention. The association’s convention is part of Chicago’s centennial celebration, which will provide great attractions for visitors, many of whom will be firefighters from all states in the Union. One of the most interesting and at the same time the most touching shows will be the parade of the city’s veteran volunteer firefighters, who came to the front as firefighters until 1849 and 1850, of which about 100 out of 500 remain. will drag behind them their old hand motor as they did fifty years ago. The contrast between yesterday and today will be an education in itself. Under no circumstances will the attention of convention delegates be devoted solely to pleasure. During its sessions, interesting papers will be read and important discussions on topics relating to the fire service, with an emphasis on the divorce policies of that service, the merit system and the benefit or the the reverse of the current civil service system, as far as fire services are concerned. Another topic of discussion will be the property of choosing a day of the year as the National Fiermen Memorial Day, and how it is to be observed. It is hoped that many firefighters from the East will be present and help on the good work as proposed by the association, and thus make it a force for good among the firefighters of the country. This requires the cooperation of all firefighters in the United States.