EDITORIAL: Thank you, firefighters

York Dispatch
  • Members of the York Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 627 took a pension cut.
  • Retired members agreed to lower their benefits by $300 to $500 a year.

It's something that can't be said too often.

Thank you, York City firefighters.

York City's firefighters routinely rush to a scene, not certain if they will see a smoking toaster or an entire block spouting flames.

A firefighter surveys the damage at the rear of a West Princess St. home after fire broke out there early Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015. (Bill Kalina - The York Dispatch)

They don heavy uniforms and equipment no matter how high the heat index is. They come out of smoking buildings carrying people, pets and precious memories for residents who might have lost everything without their help.

Fire union president: 'We get a raw deal'

So when those same firefighters recently agreed to change the terms of the contract signed with the city in 2014 to cut back pension payments for retired union members, they deserved a public thanks.

The union agreed to the cuts to save the city $2.4 million, according to the Facebook page of the York Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 627. Union president Fred DeSantis says each retired firefighter will take a cut of $300 to $500 a year.

The union's pension now matches that of the police union, but firefighters didn't receive the public thanks that the police got when they made the change in 2015, DeSantis said.

York City Firefighter Kevin Holtzapple makes one last pass with the hose before wrapping up at a fire on E. Philadelphia St.that displaced five people, Tuesday, March 29, 2016. John A. Pavoncello photo

We know hearing this from a local newspaper isn't quite the same as hearing it from the mayor, but we'll say it anyway:

On behalf of York City taxpayers, thank you for saving the city money.

York City Fire Dept. names firefighters of the year

While we're at it, a special thanks to those firefighters, whether union or volunteer, honored by Chief David Michaels last week: Firefighters of the Year Matt Hoblitzell and Arthur Harman, and Bill Ruby, Randy Rauhauser, Keith Ramsay, Brandon Hyder and Kevin Holtzapple, recognized for their work.

Michaels said at the recognition ceremony that Hoblitzell and Harman were both great to work with every day.

"It's good to see their enthusiasm," he said.

Deputy Chief Chad A. Deardorff, left, and Firefighter of the Year Matt Hoblitzell look over as Chief David P. Michaels (not pictured) reads a recognition certificate during the 2016 York City Fire Department award ceremony at City Hall Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. Amanda J. Cain photo

That enthusiasm is surely a great help when the department is dealing with downsizing from the city administration.

DeSantis said the city budgeted for 69 firefighters in 2010, when Bracey took office. This year, the budget allows for 53. Plus there was the weirdness in 2015, when four recently hired firefighters were laid off, then called back when a grant to pay them came through.

There have been cutbacks everywhere in the city: The overall city government workforce has dropped from 427 to 358, and the police department has gone from 152 employees to 119.

Still, when firefighters, whose very job it is to save lives, voluntarily take cuts in benefits, they deserve recognition.

The city administration should take a moment and voice appreciation for their work and the sacrifice.