Firefighters already working to save money
To the editor:
I write in response to The Eagle's Feb. 19 editorial concerning shared resources in town government. I am concerned with the tone of the editorial and its lack of understanding of how small-town fire departments operate. There are only three full-time paid permanent fire departments in Berkshire County the rest are pay on call volunteer or volunteer. I write as a 40-year volunteer and the present chief of the Becket Fire Dept.
The Eagle's tone in its editorial is condescending and somewhat tutorial in nature. We as volunteers know all about saving money in town government — that is one of the reasons why we serve to save money for our towns. We all have volunteer associations which conduct fund-raisers to buy additional equipment for our departments to serve our towns.
The volunteers in each town work closely with their chiefs to operate as an effective department. We can do that because we know and live next to each other and more often than not the chief came up through the ranks and I hope has earned the respect of his members.
The volunteer fire departments of Berkshire County do not need a lecture from The Berkshire Eagle on how to save money in town government. As to saving money in town government try consolidating at a much higher level such as administration or education, or any of the other many full-time paid positions in town government. You won't save much money consolidating fire chiefs from small-town departments. Most of them make less than $5,000 per year.
The fire departments of Berkshire County, all of them permanent and volunteer, have long practiced shared resources. For decades we have operated under a mutual aid agreement where any department in any emergency can call for any resource it needs. That request will be honored no questions asked, no negotiations, no score is kept, no bills are sent. That's how we operate. Collectively, the fire departments of Berkshire County are a fantastic group which operate with one goal in mind — to serve. That's all we are about. Please allow us the latitude and grace to do it in the best manner we know. That's all we ask.
In closing, I know Capt. Jimmy Hunt. He is my friend. He served on the Becket Dept. I consider him my brother firefighter. To lecture him editorially was disrespectful, uncalled for and unneeded.
Mark Hanford, Becket The writer is chief of the Becket Fire Dept.