As you all know Colorado Springs burned up this past summer, we suffered great loss in lives and property because of the Waldo Canyon fire. Now that some time has passed the inevitable is occurring, the search for blame, who was at fault, what went wrong, how did this happen and so on?
I’ll tell you how it happened; a freaking fire broke out under the very worst conditions imaginable and this event was an act of God, no human power could have stopped it. Yet some in the media in an effort to drum up business have decided now is the time to find fault and to stir up the population, time to gather up the torches and pitchforks and head for the castle.
A local newspaper has decided to dig up the dirt on not only the City of Colorado Springs but on the Fire Department as well, here is a link to the story if you care to read it and below is my response to the reporter Pam Zubik.
Very interesting article Pam. I am a retired veteran of the CSFD with 25 years on the job I can see how the strategy of using “No comment” by the top brass can be frustrating for you and we all wonder about that. Why not just answer some questions? I think the issue of liability is probably the biggest hindrance to the cooperation of any elected or appointed official.
After all Colorado Springs is self insured, so having to cover the huge cost of just fighting the fire were big enough, adding the possibility of a very expensive legal judgment or multiple judgments causes silence. An outside agency could possibly place “blame” on the city or on the FD, so why risk it? That would not only lead to huge costs to the city and vis-à-vis the taxpayers, but could jeopardize the careers of some highly placed people. That exposure is just too great plain and simple.
As to the actions of the firefighters themselves I feel as if you want to play it both ways. You indentify the heroics of the men and women that fought this fire to the point of exhaustion and collapse, yet you still pick around the edges of incompetence, in dare I say a snarly way. There is a touch of contempt in your wording and the way you select the quotes you use.
I know the vast majority of those men and women, hell I went through the recruit academy with Steve Riker in 1984 and let me tell you about those people. Even you noticed in your piece that when left in a void of leadership these people made decisive calls under enormous stress knowing that they were placing not only their colleagues at risk, but the population as well. I am sure you have put in hundreds of hours to research this story, to write, rewrite, edit, coalesce and massage it into shape.
But these men and women had seconds to react and did so with courage and sacrifice. The good old fallback position of Monday morning quarterbacking exercised by outside observers always seems to find much fault and a sparseness in the form of compliments. You haven’t even touched on the emotional damage these fine people suffered during the course of this event. Has it ever crossed your fact finding journalistic mind that what you do can be damaging to these people? Dredging it up, tearing at those scabs and pointing that finger, can reinjure people, so maybe consider that. Why would they talk to you when they can see the knife you hold behind your back?
You may have cause to judge the administration of the fire department or that of the city, but think of the line firefighter standing in that inferno risking their lives and know they did their best, they laid it out their lives that night just like their hoses, so I would ask, that you poke away at those in charge if you need to, but by God leave out the firefighters, they couldn’t have given any more.