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Pizza Man Fire Fallout Proves Walker Wrong

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on January 31, 2010

From Milwaukee County First:

For the past few years, Scott Walker has been touting the idea of abolishing county government.  His solution is to push off his responsibilities onto the state and the municipalities, especially the City of Milwaukee.

I argued against them a year ago on my personal blog.  Those reasons still hold valid, even in light of the recent PPF report regarding this issue.

The fallout from the recent tragic fire that destroyed Pizza Man and a number of other businesses, as well as displaced several people from their homes goes to fortify this position.

While some people have tried to make political hay from fanning the flames of this tragedy, there are still some deep embers burning in the community:

Debate over whether Milwaukee is playing with fire by cutting Fire Department staff has led to criticism of suburban departments such as West Allis, which has decided to fire back with words of its own.

The back-and-forth started with a leading Milwaukee firefighter who suggested that suburban fire departments aren’t capable of fighting urban fires, according to an open letter written by the West Allis Police and Fire Commission.

The letter quotes comments made by David Seager, president of the Milwaukee firefighters union. He spoke Jan. 20 on Jeff Wagner’s radop show on WTMJ-AM, according to the letter.

Seager is quoted saying a number of suburban fire departments, including West Allis’, don’t have the ability to conduct “urban firefighting.”

“It’s blatantly clear that these communities, if called upon, to respond to a working structure fire of any nature within the City of Milwaukee, they would have extreme difficulty . . .  not to mention the fact that the City of Milwaukee conducts aggressive, offensive firefighting tactics, which means that we actually go into the building and fight the fire to reduce any further damage.”

In the letter, West Allis Police and Fire Commission President Joseph Kempen says he is “deeply disappointed” by the comments.

“I am confident that West Allis firefighters are as well trained and proficient as any of the area’s top performing departments,” the letter says.

When one would expect Milwaukee’s finest to be appreciative of the help received by the neighboring fire departments, like officials in Cudahy were after the Patrick Cudahy fire last summer, we instead find this territorial sniping.

I, for one, if in need of emergency services, would rather have either cooperation between the various departments, or have one countywide fire department that would serve the entire county.  Not several smaller departments getting into turf wars.  Not to mention that one department would have less administrative costs and better response times than several departments unwilling to cross city lines.

Walker and the supporters of Walker’s idea of abolishing county government have it  completely backwards, as this unfortunate situation demonstrates.


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