The City of Fall River, Massachusetts’s economy has been slow since the demise of the textile industry. With limited available revenue, local government leaders are always looking for ways to delay or cut spending, often meaning Fall River Local 1314 members would have to wait yet another year for safety equipment updates and other resources. That changed after Local 1314 hosted its first FIRE OPS 101 two years ago.
Local 1314 President Jason Burns and fellow Local 1314 member C.J. Ponte had attended the Affiliate Leadership Training Summit (ALTS) in January 2015 where they attended a FIRE OPS 101 Train-the-Trainer workshop.
“We soon found out that we needed to use what we learned in the class right away,” says Burns.
When the City of Fall River leaders announced the details of the next fiscal year budget, the plan called for a significant number of Local 1314 members to be laid off. President Burns and his members organized a FIRE OPS 101 in May 2015 to educate city leaders about the need to maintain staffing levels to provide adequate public safety services to the community.
“The participating local leaders and media learned that fire fighting is harder than they thought,” says Burns. As a result, local leaders made public safety resources a priority, so the Fall River Department did not lose positions.
Within the following year, after changeover within the city government and local media, Local 1314 held another FIRE OPS 101. Neighboring IAFFaffiliate, New Bedford Local 841, co-organized the April 2016 event.
The event left an impression. Within a few months, the City began using other available funding resources, including FIRE Act grants, to purchase equipment and other resources.
Local 1314 members also received new SCBAs. Many had been responding to emergencies with gear more than 20 years old.
“Organizing FIRE OPS takes a lot of preparation and is not guaranteed to get the desired results, but it does help the decision makers better understand the job,” says Burns. “That is very helpful when you are trying to explain why fire fighters need the resources they need.”