Ed Driscoll

WHITHER FIREMEN? Eli Lehrer in

WHITHER FIREMEN? Eli Lehrer in National Review Online says:

Although few Americans needed reminding, last week’s gripping television images of men rushing into the hellish infernos of the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11 brought home the incredible workaday bravery firefighters must demonstrate. According to the United States Fire Administration, firefighters fall victim to two thirds of all fire-related injuries: Police officers, on the other hand, suffer only about three percent of all crime-related injuries.

Firefighters have done their job so well they may become obsolete in the near future. Modern buildings resist fires, technology useful against fires has improved, and as a result, fire-related deaths, injuries, and damages have entered a period of permanent decline.

Besides modern building technology, Lehrer says that other technologies and education have also helped to protect Americans from fire.

Mobile phones allow citizens to report puffs of smoke as soon as they appear while smoke detectors warn sleeping families to evacuate before smoke and flames threatens lives. Cheaper and easier-to-maintain helicopters, likewise, allow quicker responses to fires in distant rural areas while computers have simplified and improved dispatch for urban agencies. Fire-safety efforts in schools have played a role in a near-50-percent reduction in the number of fires started during children’s play.

P.J. O’Rourke once said that whenever anybody pines for the “good old days” he has two words: modern dentistry. (I can heartily agree to that). And while many people probably loathe the manners (and often morals) of today’s society, it’s hard to argue with many of the advances of modern technology–especially when it comes to reducing fire.

As to how all of this will transform the profession of firemen (it is safe to call them that again after 9/11, right?), Lehrer has some excellent ideas in his article.