Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Where's the Fire Wardens?

When we had fire drills, both in school and working for the federal government, we had fire wardens whose job was to go to all the rooms and see that everyone was out. Such officials were notably lacking in New Orleans.

My impression is that both the USSR and China had the equivalent--in USSR each apartment building had one or more designated watchers, at least according to Le Carre, who could have served a fire warden function. In China, society was divided into "tens" and "hundreds", again providing the government with control down to the last individual.

I doubt the U.S. would ever have such a network, even though it would save work and lives. The Brits did have fire wardens during the London air raids in WWII. But absent such a repetitive threat, we just don't trust the government enough to let it create such a network. Socially, we opt for freedom and death rather than life.

2 comments:

Bill Rathburn said...

In response to: - we had fire wardens whose job was to go to all the rooms and see that everyone was out. Such officials were notably lacking in New Orleans.- - - I doubt the U.S. would ever have such a network, even though it would save work and lives.

In much of the U.S., especially the West, fire districts are a basic component of govenment; and, volunteer firefighters ensure public safety in everything from flood to wildfire to medical emergency -- and they, along with our Sheriff's Officers, do go door to door to ensure everyone is out when we're forced by to evacuate a community. Bill Rathburn, former Defense Dept. bureaucrat, Captain on a Volunteer Fire Dept. and Resource Unit Leader on a Type 3 Incident Management Team

Bill Harshaw said...

Thank you. New generality, never generalize about the U.S.--there's more variety than you can imagine.

I believe it's true in Virginia and New York that volunteer firefighters are being replaced by professionals. Perhaps "supplemented" is a better term.

Are "fire districts" as described more prevalent in areas liable to wildfire and with relatively sparse population? What happens in Idaho when the rich come in to buy ranchettes--do they join the volunteer fire companies or do they free ride on the protection provided?

If I'm correct in my assumption that fire districts grew from the ground up, rather than being imposed from the State level, then the West can retain its notorious distrust of "big" government even while relying on "small" government.