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Dousing budgetary fires
by Larry Wilson
Jan 18, 2010 | 922 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In an effort to balance the budget, Reno’s city fathers have seen fit to lay off dozens of city workers. Among the newly unemployed are upwards of 20 firefighters. We all hate to see anyone laid off from their job but firefighters and police represent safety in our cities and we don’t like to compromise our joint safety when it comes to our cities.

Cutting firefighters’ jobs will mean that firehouses will be unmanned. It could also mean that equipment will be staffed, but not with as many workers on each piece of equipment as before.

The firefighters saw fit to canvass the neighborhoods in Reno that would experience the closed fire stations. Closures would result in increased response times to the affected areas. The firefighters passed out leaflets, saying residents would be scared into thinking their neighborhood would be short-changed when it came to fire protection.

If the firefighters are such a brotherhood as they are always bragging about, then why did they allow any of their fellows to be laid off? Why didn’t they all take an equal cut in pay, thus allowing their colleagues to maintain their jobs and station manpower would not have been affected in certain areas? Aren’t they a brotherhood? One for all and all for one and all that pip-pip stuff?

It has been proven that Reno firefighters are among some of the best paid in the country. A rookie firefighter makes more in their year than I made after 30 years as a classroom teacher. In fact, my first year teaching, I earned less than half as much as I earned when I was in the U.S. Army. I survived. It wasn’t easy, but I had a job and I brought home a paycheck and we made do.

I can’t get too worked up over the laid-off firefighters inasmuch as they didn’t even seem to want to protect their colleagues’ livelihoods when jobs were at stake. They all seemingly band together when one of their own dies but apparently money is thicker than blood when it comes to the almighty paycheck. The layoffs followed the time-honored method of letting go those who were last in and now they become the first out when there is a reduction in force in the Reno city government.

It seems to me that the employees are expressing a degree of hypocrisy when it comes to these budgetary hard times. The leaflet effort, to me, was an effort to back-door the city fathers into reinstating those were cut by using public opinion to further their gains. I always thought that firefighters had a backbone and confronted adversity head on regardless of the threat but apparently that doesn’t fly when reductions are made at the firehouse. The leaflet effort was a cheap trick and firefighters are way better than stooping to that kind of tactic, or at least I’d like to think they are.

Firefighters have always been a sort of perennial hero to citizens of various areas around the country. But the true colors of the Reno firefighters seemingly have tarnished that shiny silver fireman’s badge by the tactics they have employed in this time of budgetary shortfalls in their fair city. Hopefully, if Sparks has to undergo the same kind of layoffs, its firefighters will step up to the plate with better resolve when it comes to any reduction in force and show a little gumption by maintaining its numbers by everyone taking a hit pay-wise, rather than letting a few swing in the breeze as Reno’s firefighters have done.

Larry Wilson is a 50-year resident of Sparks and a retired elementary school teacher. You can contact him at
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