Saving America – Page 7

(cont. from Page 6)

of West Virginia. Uninspected, unsafe water is a problem that affects all of us. Most of us would rate it as a top priority of government. We’d put it right up there with safe bridges. Simply
put, our government is not getting it done.


Let’s say that because of old, leaking municipal water pipes under-ground, a sinkhole suddenly appeared in your backyard. Or let’s say there was an accident at a nearby industrial facility
that hadn’t been inspected in ten years. Or let’s say your kitchen stove just happened to catch on fire. Would help arrive in time? In Westfield, New Jersey, in 2012 a retired widower named Roy Rentrop was knocked unconscious by a blast in his second- floor apartment and suffered severe injuries from smoke inhalation in the ensuing blaze. Firefighters from twelve nearby towns fought the fire all night, but a lack of personnel in the Westfield department meant that a crucial piece of equipment had to be left at the fire station. Rentrop almost died and spent the next six weeks in the hospital recovering. Westfield had seen a 25 percent reduction in its fire-fighting force over the previous two years.

A month later, while Rentrop was still in the hospital recovering, a beloved Westfield restaurant called Ferraro’s caught fire. This time, six fire departments from the surrounding area and more than one hundred firefighters struggled all night to extinguish the blaze. But the first ladder truck on the scene did not come from Westfield; it came from the town of Cranford— after an agonizing twelve minutes. Westfield’s ladder truck, a hundred yards away, never left the station. Because of budget cuts and a hiring freeze, Westfield’s fire department didn’t have enough personnel on duty at the time to man the laddertruck.

The same year, Westfield resident Ellen Dilorio lost her house in a fire. She and her husband survived; they were rescued from the bed-room on the second floor. But the hardest thing to accept was this: Westfield’s firefighters waited fifteen minutes for Plainfield’s fire department to arrive before they began their work. Again, manpower was the issue: according to state law, when two firefighters enter a building,