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Firefighters shouldn’t shop on our time
by Larry Wilson
Jun 20, 2011 | 2273 views | 7 7 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Americans want heroes we can look up to for their strength, preparedness and organization in the face of any difficult task. Whether it’s Superman, Batman, Spider-Man or a fireman, our heroes have a can-do mentality. Lately, though, the “H” in “hero” seems to be slipping, at least for firemen.

The instance I’m going to speak of might seem petty to some, but in these tight budget times it is a costly perk of the job that really adds up. The situation I am referring to is firemen going to the grocery store to buy food for their meals using not only the city’s fire truck to get there, but also doing it while on paid duty working for the city.

Let’s look at the possible average cost of this activity to the city over a year: A crew of three firemen, each a different rank and pay level, go to the store for groceries. Furthermore, let us surmise that this errand takes 45 minutes from the time they leave the station until they return. For the three-person crew, this equates to 2 hours and 15 minutes of working hours to go grocery shopping daily.

If this is done 365 days a year it would equate to our heroic firemen spending 820 cumulative man hours annually going to the grocery store for their food for their shift. Even though we don’t know for sure what their hourly compensation is, let us say $10 an hour per person, for argument’s sake. If that is the case, then just for the man hours spent grocery shopping it would cost the city $24,600 annually for grocery shopping for one fire station. Multiply that figure by the number of fire stations in the city and you will find that grocery shopping alone costs a pretty hefty sum.

The other part of this equation is that they are taking the company car — their fire truck — to the grocery shopping spree. What does that cost the city? I’ve learned that a fire truck is usually replaced after about 90,000 miles of usage. If the trip to the grocery is a round trip of, say, three miles, then over the course of a year the firemen would drive 1,095 miles for grocery trips alone. In 10 years, it would equate to 10 percent of the cost of a new fire truck.

Granted, the firemen are on call while they are on their grocery trip and actually I have seen them literally drop their cart and run off to respond to a fire. Well, bravo! What a bunch of heroes. Aren’t they swell? I’m sorry to see them have to forgo their grocery trip for a fire call.

All of us have needed to eat during our work day. Few of us have been on the job for a full day at a time, but for those long days on the job we worked out who would bring what for our meals and we got by just fine. We did it just fine in the Boy Scouts just for openers.

Firemen are supposedly noted for their organization and preparedness, so why can’t they organize their meals better and not have to use the city’s nickel to prepare their food? Real heroes can do it.

Larry Wilson is a 50-year resident of Sparks and a retired elementary school teacher. He can be reached at

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December 05, 2013
I'm sorry. I'm so amazed at some people. This article is based on the City wasting money by Firefighters grocery shopping while on duty. They are paid the same whether they are shopping for groceries or sitting on their hind end in the station. There is no cost to the city. None. Other than the cost of a bit of Diesel fuel which has to be used anyway getting to and from incidents. The City doesn't pay for our meals, the Firefighters do. I don't know how many thousands of meals that have been thrown away because a call comes in just as dinner is hitting the table. Find something real to gripe about.
August 28, 2013
The only time firefighter really earn their pay is when they are responding to a fire or emergency, them they really earn it! 48 hr. shift, they cannot be setting in the truck 2X 24-7. Even firefighters have to sleep, go potty and yes eat. The reason they take their truck with them is so they can respond directly to the emergency, not have to go back to the station to get their truck and equipment. It is also good to drive the truck regularly to keep the battery up and make sure it is OK to go. I am normally very critical of government employees as they are frequently people who can't hold a real job, are lazy and pretty useless(there are exceptions). But this time the reason you are going after them is not valid (PS; with benefits they make a lot more than $10 and hour. I do not know, but more likely something like $50./hr?
June 23, 2011
Just ignorance!

I myself am a teacher and my husband is a firefighter. We are both salary. This guy needs to get his facts straight!
June 22, 2011
Excuse me sir, but you seem to have your facts wrong. As stated above, firefighters are sometimes required to eat and sleep during their 48 hour shift. You know what, soetimes they even get calls while trying to take a shower or use the facilities. That does not mean that they are not at the emergency within minutes. They also have to shop for sustenance. This shopping is done within their designated district, so as to not be too far away from any call for service. And wheras you apparently grew up in a completely different era,my Heroes have always been those that choose to do for others... Police officers, Paramedics, Firefighters, each and every branch of our Armed Forces, Nurses, Doctors, and yes even Teachers. I think maybe you spent too much time reading comic books. I spent my time reading the newspapers. Real heroes are around you every day. Maybe a little less finger pointing, and a little more common sense.... Shame on You!
August 28, 2013
Couldn't have said it better myself, Strandog. What this person fails to realize is that these firefighters are shopping for the crew that is on duty at the time. Many crews eat and sleep at the station, as they are typically on duty for 24 - 48 hours (or more). They must buy groceries so that they can make meals. Or, I suppose they could just all go home, sleep in their own beds, near their own families, turn off their phones, and ignore his call for help when he needs them the most. I for one am happy to see them shopping at local businesses. And as to why they drive the fire truck to the store to do the shopping? Ummm...I guess he'd rather they have to jump back in their personal vehicles and race half way across town to get back to the station before they can respond to his emergency. Yeah. Because THAT would get them there wayyy faster. The most appalling part of this non-story is that the author is over 10 years old. Geesh.
June 21, 2011
First of all, I would like to thank you for being a retired school teacher as I am glad my children will never be taught by someone so ill informed and ignorant.

Their is not an added cost to the city when fireman are shopping for their dinners while on duty. This is what us educated folk call a 'sunk cost'. They are salaried employees and are paid for that time no matter where they are, whether it be at the store, on a fire or at the station. I would like to know what you would prefer them to be doing during that time.

As a elementary school teacher, weren't you paid a salary by taxpayers year round to get summers off. I applaud school teachers in the same way I applaud our public service employees. But you have no right to speak as we paid your summer salary not to work at all and you probably continue to receive a pension paid by the taxpayers to be retired.

Shame on you for posting this article. I suggest you get to know your local fireman and become a value-add member of our community by supporting those that you may need to save your life one day. Thank you to all of our public service employees and I sorry that you deal with people like this.
June 21, 2011
For starters this "retired elementary school teacher" is grossly misleading everyone with his incorrect math. I am not sure which would be worse, if he is trying to trick everybody or if he is just bad at math.

If 3 firefighters take 45 min to buy groceries, and they are getting paid $10/hour. How much money in wages do they make per year while buying groceries?

The correct answer would be that this uses 821.25 man hours/year, which equals $8212.50 per year. $2737.50/firefighter annually. Not the $24,600.00 that the "teacher" suggests.

Secondly it's suggested that firefighters meals shouldn't be "prepared on the city's nickel"? Really? They are on duty ready to respond for any emergency 24 hrs/day. So I guess they shouldn't eat or sleep, and by no means go to the bathroom. I wouldn't want anybody to get paid my tax dollars to poop(let's see if Larry can figure out how much they get paid for that).

I'm sorry but they are heroes and people. They spend more hours a week at work (and away from their families) than 9-5ers and they still need to do the neccessities besides save lives and train.

Interestingly enough Larry was appaled in an earlier article that a military personel had to pay $100 out of his own pocket to check his bag on an airline, that this hero should be covered by the government. But firefighters apparently shouldn't.

Oh yeah Larry, you must not go by Super Burrito ever. Because then you wouldv'e included the police officers in this article too.

I would like to thank all the first responders and military for everything they do!
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