At least during the April 2014 PBFD board meeting, Alan Ackley remained calm, although the absurdity continued when the Deputy Chief Curt Floyd confronted the board with the reality that PBFD apparatus is wearing out. Engine 33, the pumper that also serves as a rescue rig (usually called a squad in the big city) for I-95 and elsewhere has 109,000 miles on the odometer and 10,000 service hours on it. It needs to be replaced; it is overdue for replacement. And, the Deputy told Ackley and the Do Nothings, that the only option would be to take Engine 33 out of service when the department leadership could no longer assure safe operation.
The Deputy was ignored when he mentioned the offer still on the table to buy the ladder truck that’s been out of service for two years, the ladder truck that remains parked outside at the dump losing value each day. The Deputy was ignored when he mentioned that it was time to think about buying a combination pumper/ladder of some type since the ladder was out of service, given that the district currently has nothing but ground ladders that reach 24 feet, or two stories, in a district with apartment buildings and a major hotel with three or four or more stories. At the February 16 third floor kitchen fire at The Ledges apartments, the first due PBFD apparatus was the pickup truck that happened to be out on a medical call.
Even when the Deputy gave ballpark figures for purchasing either a quint* at $800,000 or a $600,000 pumper, the Ackley slugs just sat there. The only response was the usual. Do research over the next two months and get back to us. I believe Ron Yuhas, the board’s intellectual, offered that gem. The Deputy asked for some general guidelines from the board before he conducted the research. Quint or pumper or pumper with a ladder that could at least reach three floors? This is not like shopping for a new Volvo. The Chief reminded the board that a tech committee had to be formed to spec the apparatus, and then they’d get back to the board, but it was not possible to get the committee together because of the mess the board had created with the union contract. Hell, the fire district could no longer even afford training and would have limited participation at the airport drill scheduled at the end of April. The airport firefighters would be there, the state police would be there, the National Guard would be there, but not PBFD, which is first due when the airport firefighters go home for the night, and second due at all other times.
But the Do Nothings who like being Know Nothings just did not get it. That conversation ended when Ackley’s brother spoke up and lectured the Chief and the Deputy on democracy, the comic relief of the night. A board elected by manipulating rules and rigging a vote lectures two responsible fire officials, experts in their field, on democracy rather than making the decisions the board needs to make to meet its responsibility to the public, including the few who elected them. Besides, it is not direct democracy. A special district board is run by representative democracy. Those on the board represent the voters and their interests in things such as fire prevention and fire protection. The board is still quibbling over the union contract, wasting taxpayer money on legal fees that could be used to replace equipment. Rather than allow a grade school digression on democracy, the chair of the board needed to keep the discussion focused on the pragmatic matter of having reliable equipment operating in the district. But he said nothing. The taxpayers elect the board, the board governs, or in the case of PBFD, a few taxpayers elect a packed board in a rigged vote, and then the board obstructs.
If you plan to live in a Groton apartment complex on Drozdyk Drive or elsewhere in PBFD, be sure to look for a first floor apartment with a door that opens outside, meaning out of the building. If you are looking for a nursing home or assisted living or a senior apartment for grandma, the last place to look would be the PBFD fire district in Groton, Connecticut. Evacuation is paramount in any fire, but even more so in buildings that house non-ambulatory residents, meaning people in wheelchairs or people with dementia or people who shuffle along with a walker. See this 2012 NFPA report on fires in health care facilities, including nursing homes and hospices. Or read all about the fire at 12:35 a.m. January 23, 2014 at the Résidence du Havre nursing home in L’Isle-Verte, Quebec, Canada, that killed an estimated 32 people and injured 15 others. Estimated because some bodies were burned beyond recognition.
Or how about that March 27, 2014, New Jersey nursing home fire that killed one and displaced 100. Or how about the truck that exploded right next to a Washington state nursing home on April 7, 2014. Nope. Not to worry. Let’s talk about democracy.
Or ask Greer. The first 24 hours after his 6-hour 1982 cancer surgery he lay completely helpless, in and out of consciousness in intensive care, kept under by morphine until the pain spasms from the incision that ran from sternum to crotch settled down enough to move him from ICU to a ward bed. The only way to evacuate him or any other ICU non-ambulatory patient would be to roll the bed out of the hospital. On the ward, fully conscious, he remained connected to a feeding tube, a drain tube, a catheter, an IV, and oxygen, so you can understand why Greer, a former firefighter, hit the nurse call button when the moron in the next bed lit up. As in lit a cigarette. Those were the good old days of personal freedom before the nanny state told people they couldn’t smoke in hospital rooms, especially hospital rooms with oxygen flowing.
The Ackley do nothings are playing with lives. They’re doing everything but acting responsibility to protect the lives and property of residents and business owners in the Poquonnock Bridge Fire District.
—Barry Roberts Greer, BA, MA, MPA, former firefighter, author of “Pipe Nozzle,” “Seven Two,” and “Of Cowards and Firefighters.” His new book, “Engine 10,” based on the PBFD political lunacy, is scheduled for publication in May 2014 and includes a definition of the term *quint.