Privatization

At What Price Is Saving a House, When the Savior Might Break the No-Siren Rule?

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The L.A. Times has a story out about fire prevention and firefighting efforts paid for by private insurance plan, with the following subhead:

Some residents whose homes were saved in the recent blazes thank response teams dispatched by their insurers. But public firefighters express uncertainty about the private sector.

Juicy conflict! Let's hear why firefighters paid by the state feel uncertain about those paid by insurance companies and homeowners who live in fire zones:

Santa Barbara County Fire Capt. Eli Iskow said the companies can be a valuable resource, but they tend to exaggerate the number of homes they save and sometimes get in the way.

On a more philosophical level, he questions the social benefit of for-profit firms providing services only for some.

"When firefighters battle flames," he said of public crews, "they don't make a distinction between a $50-million Oprah mansion and a tract home."

Ventura County Fire Chief Bob Roper, who is vice chairman of Firescope, a statewide panel that makes recommendations on firefighting policy, believes there is a place for private contractors. But their best use, he said, is early in the fire season when they visit homes and suggest ways to reduce fire risks.

"We have found some very reputable contractors and others that are less than reputable," Roper said. "It's a hazard if they block an access point or if we end up having to rescue them."

Roper said he's seen private trucks using flashing red lights and sirens, violating laws that allow such devices only on public emergency response vehicles.

The problem with private crews, Roper said, is that they are largely unregulated.

To briefly sum up: Private firefighters….
1) "tend to exaggerate"
2) "sometimes get in the way" (no examples cited)
3) work first to protect homes that pay for their services
4) are sometimes "less than reputable" (no examples cited)
5) could conceivably "block an access point" or require rescue (no examples cited because it's a hypothetical)
6) sometimes break the no-siren/lights rule, with adverse consquences we can only guess at
7) are "largely unregulated"

Which is not exactly the level of hysteria brought to the subject during the last fire season by liberal stalwarts Rick Perlstein, Naomi Klein, and Chris Hayes…but it's a pretty thin complaint nonetheless, considering that California has, and always will have, more fire than firefighters each and every October and November.

What's great, too, is that the lead anecdote in the story doesn't actually talk about private firefighters at all, but rather how one house was saved because the owner's $10,000-plus premium coverage included squirting the perimeter of his compound with (commercially available!) fire retardant.

My reason rant against the burn-the-rich set is here.