I was just thumbing through a brand new blog I found called WorkingTheJob.com (thanks Average Jake). First of all, I couldn’t believe that I had not come across this blog before now. The blog is run by Jason Jefferies, and according to the disclaimer he might be a firefighter in a large City in North Carolina.
He wrote an article back in September about fires being down 50% from 1970. That statistic was the lead in for his topic and you can find his full article here.
The reason why I am writing is because I am not so sure I believe that statistic.
Actual quote from his article:
Here is a link to the report. Please read this, it may shock you!
http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/pdf/FFFStructure.PDFIn the late 1970′s there were roughly 1.1 million structure fires that occurred within the US. In 2008, there were roughly 515,000
To be clear, I don’t think that his article is wrong. I also don’t think his message is wrong. He is right on every count.
What I don’t agree with is the statistics he uses. Again, not his fault. Those statistics are what we have to go by. The statistics are available after being documented by fire departments across the Country…over 30 years.
You cannot tell me that not one criteria or the amount of fire departments reporting has changed.
Do you mean to tell me that in 30 years, the NFPA, NFIRS, and whoever else is recording these statistics haven’t change one single thing about what is and what isn’t a “structure fire”?
I don’t believe it.
Hell, in my department we run something like 60-80 fires a year…<cough>BULLSHIT<cough>…That is not the REALITY, that is the number that our system kicks out under the criteria we use…on paper, we only have that number of fires each year.
That number is so low, maybe because over time we have altered the criteria of what a “structure fire” actually is. In a sense, we have done a great job with fire prevention via the old No.2 pencil!
Sure, structure fires are down over the past 30 years…I am certain of it. With the advent of fire prevention and education, stricter building codes, fire codes, inspections, etc…we have done a bang up job in decreasing fires.
However, we have done a huge diservice in altering criteria and then using it against ourselves to justify staffing reductions, station closures, and company disbanding.
That is what they wanted though…if you change the statistics to show less fires you don’t need as many firefighters, firehouses, fire engines, ladder trucks, equipment, and on and on and on…
What happens when the fires stop dropping…or maybe go up.
What happens when this web starts unraveling?
Who the hell do we call then?
Who wins and who loses?
…I cannot say that NFPA/NFIRS or whoever else that records these stats have or have not changed criteria over 30 years…I know that some departments have…and I find it hard to believe that we are comparing these stats to stats now with different recording criteria!