Tan ShirtThe volunteer fire service began on the principle of neighbors helping neighbors. There was a time when the firehouse was the heartbeat of a community. People would gather to discuss the local news and issues. Many a chicken barbecue or pancake breakfast has been shared in local firehouses.
Most often considered city or village property, the firehouse is managed by the Fire Chief. The fire department provides a service to the community and the firehouse should be open to those they serve. I am not advocating that the doors be left open for anyone to roam in and out of at their own free will, but at first glance it would appear that the Mayor of Hustonville, Kentucky has perhaps overreacted to the public’s use of the firehouse.
In the following article http://www.firehouse.com/news/top-headlines/half-kentucky-fire-department-quits  it is reported that 12 to 13 members, including the Fire Chief quit the department after a meeting with the Mayor regarding concerns over the Fire Chief allowing some actors for a local haunted house get into costume at the firehouse.
In the report, the Mayor states liability concerns and a failure to receive prior approval as his reason for meeting with the Fire Chief. The Fire Chief says that he quit because the language that was being used by the Mayor in this meeting had led him to believe he was going to be fired and he “wanted to beat him to the punch.”
The report does not say how far away the haunted house was, how long the actors were in the firehouse, how many actors used the firehouse, or who let the actors into the firehouse. The report is only a few paragraphs long so I am sure there is more to the story. However, at face value it seems rather petty.
Requiring the Fire Chief to get approval from the Mayor’s office to let someone use the firehouse paints the Mayor as a dictator. Hiding behind liability concerns as a reason for not wanting the actors to dress at the firehouse is a lame excuse at best. This are citizens, using a public building to change into costume for what is most likely a community event held once a year. Changing into a costume can hardly be considered a high-risk event. It is not as if they asked to repel off the roof.
Laying your radio on the table and quitting is not a sign of leadership. A Fire Chief should set a better example. “Wanting to beat him to the punch” is a poor reason for walking off the job. A significant number of firefighters walked off the job because that is what they saw their leader do. This is not any different from the 8 year old at the playground that is not happy with the score so he/she takes their ball and goes home.
Cooler heads must prevail, the Mayor and the Fire Chief need to put their big boy pants on, discuss the issue like adults, and find a compromise that protects the city/village and serves the public.

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