The past few weeks there have been a lot written about the fire fighters of Wheeling. I would like to address some of the comments that were made.
The reason the retirement system is set so fire fighters may be able to retire after 20 years of service and collect benefits at the age of 50 is because the fire service, like the military, realized that this is a young person's career and that it is unrealistic to expect personal in their late 50s or 60s to be able to have the speed, strength, and stamina needed to do the job especially when lives are at risk. I would also like to point out that most of Wheeling fire fighters do stay on past the required minimum 20 years of service and the age of 50 as long as they are able to do the job.
While the life expectancy has increased for the average American, the same cannot be said for the professional fire fighter. A study done by the University of Cincinnati has shown that fire fighters are many more times likely to develop cancer than workers in other fields. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, fire fighters are three more likely to die on the job. (Web sites heathnews.uc.edu.inews/?/3750,www.bls.gov/iif/oshmcJcfar0029. txt)
Fire fighters through the union have attempted to address the pension-funding shortfall by lobbying and getting passed the coin drop bill. Unfortunately they were unable to get language in the bill to make it mandatory for the funds to go into the pensions. Also few years ago, all new hires now contribute a higher percentage into the pension fund.
The fire fighters work a 24-hour shift, which averages to a 56-hour week for the base wages from $10.23 to $13.50 an hour. What does the federal government want to raise the minimum wage to?
It's because fire fighter lives shorter lives, work long hours, and are likely to suffer poor health later in life. The pension is one tool used to attract new and younger personal. With the job growth in the energy sector it is harder to find qualified individuals. In 1999 the fire fighter eligibility list had over 100 persons; the most recent list has only 13 names on it.
I would also like to address the comments made by "James Dillon" about the North Wheeling Fire Station, AKA Station 2. I would like for him to explain to the residents of North Wheeling on why they would have to wait an additional three to five minutes for help the next time some one has a cardiac arrest, nearly drowns, or is stuck in a burning building. I wonder if Mr. Dillon realizes that by closing Station 2, the ambulance would have to be moved, creating a longer response time for advance life support (paramedics) for the residents in the Warwood area. I would have to assume that Mr. Dillon believes the residents of North Wheeling and Warwood don't deserve the protection the rest of the city receives. In this line of work, when seconds count, minutes won't do! Other unintended consequences of closing any fire station could result in less coverage that equals to higher risk, resulting in higher insurance premiums. Now, that gives the phrase "more for less" a different perspective.