Our Fire Companies Should Not be Political Pawns

Working together, the volunteer firefighters of Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor fire companies serve  Tredyffrin Township.  Many of our residents and their families are involved in the volunteer firefighting effort and proudly serve our community.  Firefighting is demanding. There are hours of training involved, requirements to be met, standards to uphold, and volunteer firefighters are not compensated in the traditional way. There is no big paycheck or large monetary bonus to work harder.

John DiBuonaventuro has served as a volunteer firefigher for the Paoli Fire Company for many years and is passionate in his support.  In his position as a member of the Board of Supervisors, Supervisor DiBuonaventuro also serves as the fire company liaison.  As an audience member in this week’s Board of Supervisors meeting,  I witnessed an uncomfortable exchange between Supervisors DiBuonaventuro and Warren Kampf in regards to the fire companies and their funding.  Understanding DiBuonaventuro’s long-standing support of the  fire companies vs. Kampf’s vote against full-funding of the fire companies in the township’s 2010 budget . . . one might question Supervisor Kampf’s sudden interest in our local fire companies and their funding. 

Our volunteer firefighters deserve our community’s support . . .  but I think we would all agree they should not be used as pawns in a political campaign. Today’s Main Line Suburban newspaper includes the following As I See It opinion article, The continual politicization of our fire services, which speaks directly to this topic.

    As I See It: The continual politicization of our fire services

By John V. Petersen

As if the big cardboard-check moment during the Dec. 12, 2009 Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors meeting wasn’t enough, we had another play at Monday night’s BOS meeting involving the fire service as a political football. As we all know, Warren Kampf, current Tredyffrin BOS member and previous chairman, is seeking to challenge Rep. Paul Drucker for the State Representative seat for the 157th Legislative District. At Monday night’s BOS meeting, Mr. Kampf stated that he met with members of the Berwyn Fire Company and the topic of a stable long-term firefighter-funding source was discussed. What Mr. Kampf failed to tell the public was his visit to Berwyn was in connection with his 157th candidacy, not in his capacity as a Tredyffrin supervisor. For the record Supervisor and Paoli firefighter John “J.D.” DiBuonaventuro serves as the fire liaison.

 In that capacity, Supervisor DiBuonaventuro has had such meetings concerning the fire task force and funding with Berwyn and Paoli FDs and updates on that progress have been shared with the public, most recently at the March 1, 2010 meeting. On that same day Mr. Kampf sought the Montgomery County endorsement for the 157th and therefore did not attend the March 1 meeting and clearly was not aware that the matter was already discussed during the previous meeting.

What I find disingenuous is Mr. Kampf on one hand stating the importance of finding a stable long-term funding source for the fire companies and on the other hand, most previously in his role as BOS Chairman, supporting cuts to the fire service and at the same time retaining funding for the annual July 4 fireworks display. These two viewpoints are completely irreconcilable. It should also be noted that earlier in his tenure on the BOS, Mr. Kampf served on fire task force. Accordingly Mr. Kampf has already had an opportunity to address the issues that are currently being addressed by Supervisor DiBuonaventuro. It is clear that the only motivation here is Mr. Kampf’s pursuit of higher political office. And to that end he is seeking to use the fire service as a pawn in his political chess game. Between the big cardboard-check event and last night’s meeting, it is clear Mr. Kampf is using a public forum dedicated to township business for his own political purposes. In a word it is inappropriate.

When the firefighters and EMTs perform their heroic work, they don’t ask about party registration. To be used as a political football of sorts is to denigrate that heroic work. Ultimately Mr. Kampf is free to run his campaign as he sees fit. As citizens we have forums like this to hold candidates and office-holders accountable. All I would ask is that Mr. Kampf campaign on his own time, not during the time when the business of Tredyffrin Township is to be addressed. Further, I would ask that all candidates leave the fire service out of their political calculus. There are plenty of other matters ripe for politics. The fire service is not one of them.

John V. Petersen lives in Paoli.

Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor Volunteer Firefighters . . . Our Hometown Heroes!

Strafford Station Apartment fire, photo by Berwyn Fire Company photographer, Jim DeStefano, Sr

Saturday morning, with frigid temperatures in the teens, a fire broke out at the Strafford Station Apartments, which is close to the Strafford train station. The initial 9-1-1 call came in to the Berwyn Fire Company at 9:25 AM. Berwyn’s Engine 2-3 raced to the fire, arriving at 9:31 AM, reporting that fire was coming from the 3rd floor. Also rushing to the initial first alarm call were firefighters from Paoli and Radnor fire companies. The Tredyffrin Police assisted with the evacuation of the first and second floors of the apartment building, as the blaze quickly went through the 40-unit building. A ‘working fire’ was dispatched at 9:28 AM . . . A second alarm was requested at 9:35 AM . . . and at 10:02 AM a third alarm was requested for the Strafford fire.

As dark billowing smoke shot into the morning air, residents had very little time to get out, grabbing what they could as they raced from their apartments. Thrust in to the cold, the residents were grateful for their lives but were left trying to cope with their sudden loss.

Local firefighters battling Strafford Station Apartment Fire, photo by Berwyn Fire Company photographer Jim DeStefano, Sr

The landlord and the Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania are coordinating help for the victims. The Red Cross assisted 60 people who were forced out of their homes by the fire. They distributed money and food to anyone who was in need, and their medical personnel refilled lifesaving prescriptions for several tenants on the scene. The landlord aided the displaced tenants with temporary relocation to local hotels.

By the time the third alarm was requested for the Strafford Station Apartment fire, Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor fire companies were joined by volunteers from an additional thirteen fire companies*. Fire company apparatus responded from Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties. The fire extended into the roof and then traveled the roofline horizontally from one end of the building to another, gutting 24 apartment units in its wake.

Interior photo of gutted Strafford Station Apartment, which displaced 60 residents. Photo by Berwyn Fire Company photographer Jim DeStefano, Sr.

 At the height of the fire, over 100 volunteer fire/emergency service personnel were on the scene. The fire brought under control around 11 AM and the final fire units cleared the scene just after 3 PM. The Strafford Station Apartment fire is under investigation by the Chester County and Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshals. Early comment is that the accidental fire may be the result of a second floor heating unit. Damage is estimated at $1.25 million.

It was a stroke of fortune that no one was killed or injured as a result of yesterday’s three-alarm fire. Please join me in saluting our local volunteer firefighters from Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor fire companies . . . thank you for your quick response and for protecting our residents.

____________________________

*In addition to Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor fire companies, the following compaies also responded to the Strafford Station Apartment fire: Malvern Fire Company
East Whiteland Volunteer Fire Association, Newtown Square Fire Company, Valley Forge Volunteer Fire Company, King of Prussia Volunteer Fire Company, Goshen Fire Company, Bryn Mawr Fire Company, Gladwyne Fire Company, Lionville Fire Company, Narberth Ambulance, Lafeyette Ambulance (Upper Merion), Good Fellowship Ambulance (West Chester), and Phoenixville Fire Department Ambulance.

 

Fire Company ePetition Administrator Speaks Out

I am hoping that this will be the last entry on the firefighter’s ePetition.  Last week, I posted TTRC Chair CT Alexander’s Letter to the Editor in which he stated that he signed the firefighter’s ePetition.  Research on the ePetition showed that his name was not on the list which caused a major debate about whether or not Mr. Alexanders’ name was simply removed.  Only one person who could answer those accusations – Laurie Elliot, the firefighter’s ePetition administrator.  It only seems fair that I post her response on the subject – a Letter to the Editor which is in this week’s Main Line Suburban Life.

Included in her statement, Laurie includes a link to the ePetition if anyone wants to check the signatures.  Laurie created the ePetition as a vehicle for residents (like herself) to show their support of the fire companies and to encourage the supervisors to reinstate the fire companies budget cut.

On the same subject, it has been a month since the unveiling of the cardboard check at the December 21 Board of Supervisor Meeting.  To bring you up-to-date on the promised contributions, yesterday I emailed Supervisors Lamina, Kampf and Olson for an update on money collected.  My latest information is that the supervisors have collected $8,950. I am hopeful that more money has been turned over to the Berwyn Fire Company for distribution, but as of today I have no further updates.  On the $5K in matching funds from the Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee, Mr. Alexander’s last correspondence indicated that just about all that money has been delivered to the fire company.  In my last phone call from Supervisor Olson, he stated that the $23,200 total would be delivered to the fire company by March 31st. 

This is all about making sure that the volunteer firefighters receive their promised money — nothing more, no political agenda on my part.  Since the township’s 2010 budget was passed with the fire department cut, I take it seriously to make sure that these volunteers receive the total contribution as promised by Supervisors Kampf, Lamina and Olson.

Fire companies need support

To the Editor:

This is in response to a letter in last week’s paper by Tredyffrin Republican Party chair John C.T. Alexander. In it he claims to have signed the “Internet petition in favor of reinstatement of the Berwyn Fire Company’s budget cut from the [Tredyffrin] township’s 2010 budget.”

As the administrator of that e-petition, I monitored it during its 10-day online life and closed it on Dec. 21 when I presented a copy of it to the Board of Supervisors at their meeting that evening. The petition and all those who signed it can still be viewed at tredto.epetitions.net.

In total, 534 people found their way to the Web site and signed the petition. But John C.T. Alexander’s name is not among them.

Further, it is difficult to understand why Mr. Alexander would claim he signed it. His very public position that the long-term needs of our volunteer fire companies can be met through ad-hoc private donations misses the whole point of the petition and clings to a Band-Aid approach.

The fire companies not only needed their 2010 funding restored, but they need a comprehensive, long-term solution that provides support for their operating and capital expenditures in the future. And not until such a plan is in place can the community “move on” as some are suggesting.

Sincerely,

Laurie Elliott, Wayne

Does Age and Respect Guide Our Decisions?

There have been many comments posted over the last few days in regards to TTRC Chair CT Alexander’s Letter to the Editor in this week’s local newspaper.  The letter, its words and Mr. Alexander’s behavior over the last few weeks have caused much discussion.  At times, Mr. Alexander seemingly acts on behalf of the organization he heads but at other times, much to the chagrin of some of his members, he acts on his own (but under the umbrella of the local Republican Committee). 

I found the following comment from someone close to Mr. Alexander very interesting and it got me thinking.  I grew up in an era that expected (and demanded) respect from any of those who were older.  I never called my parents’ friends by their first name, but instead they all became ‘Aunt’ or ’Uncle’ (I was probably at least 12 before I realized that these people were not actually blood relatives!)  Growing up, there was unquestioning respect for police officers, teachers, and clergy.  In fact, when my brothers and I started school, my folks never questioned the decisions of the teacher or principal . . . the school was always right, and us kids were wrong, no matter what.  Although times have certainly changed, I do think your childhood very much determines who you are and how you live your life.  For me, that surfaces in the respect that I still have for those who are older. I often make excuses for their behavior, at times much more forgiving of attitudes and remarks than I would ever be from my peers. 

Do you agree with Anonymous remarks concerning Mr. Alexander’s behavior?  Should someone that is close to him just step in and take over?  Or did they grow up in a world that demanded respect for their elders and therefore, there can be no intervention?
Do you filter your own criticisms if the person is older? 
 Does it make a difference if the older person represents a group?  

Anonymous, on January 17th, 2010

Jim and John
I have known John Alexander probably longer then both of you. In watching his behavoir lately, I hope you never get old. It is clear he is losing his faculties and out of respect no one around him is doing anything about it. As a life long republican I think that it may be time to let him go enjoy retirement and let someone else lead the charge before he totally ruins the reputation of the committee. He’s a good guy at heart but he is doing the party damage.

What I can’t understand is why those close to him aren’t looking out for him and checking these confused rants of his before they get out. That I think is a worse indicator of what’s going on internally. You wouldn’t let a drunk get behind the wheel… would you?

Do CT Alexander’s “Actions Speak Louder than his Words”?

Do Actions Really Speak Louder than Words?

Maybe we can apply that phrase to  TTRC Chair CT Alexander’s Letter to the Editor in this week’s Main Line Suburban Life.  Mr. Alexander claims that  he signed the ePetition for the reinstatement of the firefighters budget cut, when we now know that his name does not appear on the list.  On one hand, Mr. Alexander publically speaks of his support for the firefighters at the December 21 Board of Supervisors meeting and in his position as Chair of the Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee he commits $5,000 in matching funds to the firefighters.  (It appears from my correspondence with Mr. Alexander, that his organization has almost completed their $5,000 committment). So, . . . do we want to believe that Mr. Alexander was not using his position as Chair of TTRC in a politicizing manner but want to believe his actions were pure and out of support for the fire department? 

Then on the other hand, in his Letter to the Editor, I quote Mr. Alexander, ” . . . From earlier shows I remember Bill’s encouragement to sign an Internet petition in favor of re-instatement of the Berwyn Fire Company’s budget cut from the [Tredyffrin] township’s 2010 budget. I signed that petition and added that I had a plan. . . “   We know now that Bill DeHaven never spoke of  the ePetition on any of his Good, Bad and Ugly shows.  But we have further learned that the Firefighter’s Support ePetition does not contain CT Alexander’s name as he claims in the Letter to the Editor.  Not to “beat an old horse” myself as Mr. Alexander suggested of Bill DeHaven, is there significance in the words that Mr. Alexander wrote? Does it matter that Mr. Alexander apparently did not speak the truth when he wrote his letter?  Or, is it just important that he made good on his promise and delivered most of the TTRC’s $5,000 donation to the firefighters? 

I am trying to understand the  motive behind Mr. Alexander’s words  but maybe the motive doesn’t matter . . . You decide.

TTRC Chair CT Alexander Updates on Contributions; Bill DeHaven Responds

As I mentioned in yesterday’s posting, I was going to contact TTRC Chair CT Alexander concerning his organization’s pledge to the firefighters.  Mr. Alexander responded to my request with the following information.  Based on his email (and my math), it would appear that the Berwyn Fire Company has received $4,325 from the TTRC, with the remaining $675 expected by the end of February.  One question I neglected to ask Mr. Alexander but I guess that it does not matter — what exactly the $5,000 in matching funds meant; matching to what?

” . . . I am posting today a letter with three more checks to Rip Tilden. Of the $5,000 pledged by individuals, so far all but $675 has been paid in, with “checks in the mail” to me of an additional $500. I have but $175 to collect. My goal is to get that amount to the Fire Company by February 28th. . . “

For those of you who did not see Bill DeHaven’s comments to Mr. Alexander’s letter to the editor, here they are.  I just love Bill’s community spirit and humor!  And it’s good to know that he has not beaten any horse, dead or alive! I have watched Bill and Dan’s Good, Bad & Ugly show in question and as far as I could tell those remarks related to the negative campaign mailers were made immediately following the election, back in November.  Also to set the record straight, Mr. Alexander’s letter to the editor stated that he personally signed the ePetition in support of the reinstatement of the firefighter’s budget cut . . . however, no one can seem to find his name on the list.  The only other loose end is an update from Supervisor Olson (on the total contributions to date) which I hope to have before Monday night’s Board of Supervisor meeting.

Bill, on January 14th, 2010 at 5:35 pm

  • Never have i beaten any horse, alive or dead. Can’t see the connection between the cardboard check and the stupid republican mail piece. The show on which we discussed that was taped in November. Didn’t mention the petition on the GB&U but did send an e-mail to all local addresses including Mr. Alexander with the petition address asking recipients to please read and sign.

    Local Fire Companies should be funded by tax dollars when necessary. Firefighters should not have to raise money. This is a volunteer position that requires significant training and 24hr. coverage.

  • As part of the above: Mr. Alexander was contacted before this post. He will continue to assist B.F.C. raise money and stands by his comments.

    Letter to the Editor . . . TTGOP Chair CT Alexander Takes on Retired Supervisor Bill DeHaven

    Just when I think that we are ‘moving on’ as the title of a Letter to the Editor in this week’s Main Line Suburban Life would indicate, I am immediately taken back to that December meeting when the ‘cardboard check’ to the firefighters reared its’ ugly head. Below is a letter from TTGOP Chair CT Alexander to Bill DeHaven that was listed under the category of ‘Support of Berwyn Fire Company’ in the paper’s opinion index.  The letter from Mr. Alexander  which comments on Bill’s ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ cable TV show, and the suggestion that Bill & Co. is beating an old horse certainly caused me pause this morning.

    All I can say is unbelievable to Mr. Alexander’s letter!

    OK, let’s revisit the cardboard check of 2009 and where we stand with contributions to date.  How much of the $23,200 promised money has been delivered to date?  The last time that Supervisor Olson called me, the total turned over to the Berwyn Fire Company was $8,950 (that total was several weeks ago). When we last spoke, Supervisor Olson said that he would call me when he delivered the next contribution installment to the fire company.  I have not received any further calls, so should I think that there’s been no further contributions?  I think we need an update, don’t you?

    As for Mr. Alexander, where does he stand with his $5K contribution in matching funds to the firefighters from the TTGOP?  Can I assume that since Mr. Alexander is calling Bill DeHaven out over this matter, that his organization has made their total contribution as they promised last month?  As follow-up I will email CT and let you know if I have an update on that front. I’m wondering if Bill or Dan (Bill’s sidekick as quoted from Mr. Alexander) have any response to this Letter to the Editor? Let me know if you have a comment; I’ll be glad to publish.

    Since I’m on the topic of the firefighters and the Firefighters Holiday Drive, can I ask that Berwyn give us an accounting at Monday’s Board of Supervisor Meeting on the contributions to date.  From someone who has done a bit of fundraising, getting the commitment of the gift is one thing, . . .  it’s the collection that often times proves the most challenging.  I know many of our residents were confused and thought that the presentation of the cardboard check meant that the fundraisers had that money is hand already — folks, that was a promise check . . . there’s still collection required for that $23,200.

    Here’s CT Alexander’s Letter to the Editor:

       It’s time to move on

    To the Editor:

    Watching TV Channel 2 the other night I observed Berwyn icon Bill DeHaven and his sidekick using valuable air time to excoriate a political mailer from an election that took place over a month ago, akin to “beating a dead horse.” From earlier shows I remember Bill’s encouragement to sign an Internet petition in favor of re-instatement of the Berwyn Fire Company’s budget cut from the [Tredyffrin] township’s 2010 budget. I signed that petition and added that I had a plan. Thereafter, through a timely and generous private-sector outpouring, that shortfall was eliminated and then some.

    This is a great opportunity for Bill & Co. to turn his attention to asking those same petition-signers – all 500-plus – to write a check for $10 and send it to Berwyn Fire Company to show tangible evidence of your support – “put your money where you vote was.” In no time the fire company would realize a windfall of $5,000, doubling the matching grant of the private citizens that inspired the whole public solicitation in the first place, thus funding an innovated fund-raising mailer scheduled for January 2010 piggybacking township tax notices.

    Bill, it’s time: stop beating a dead horse – start beating the drums of support for Berwyn Fire Company!

    John C.T. Alexander, Strafford

    P.S. It’s tax-deductible!