Political Staff Take Steps in Firefighters' Shoes

By: Rachel Thomas Email
By: Rachel Thomas Email

A handful of staff from state legislative offices strapped on helmets and tried wearing the shoes of a firefighter for a day.

"It's definately different than being at the office. I'm sweating," said Andy Forbes who works for Rep. Tom Hooker, (R) Byron Center.

"I'm tired, it's exhausting. It's very loud in there, you can't see anything," said Melissa Weipert, who works for Rep. Mark Meadows, (D) East Lansing.

The first exercise was to rescue a 180 lbs. dummy from a smoke filled room.

"We had to call back up. They were able to finish the job and pull the dummy all the way out," said Weipert.

Within a matter of minutes, they realized the point of the exercise---the importance of funding a full team.

"We have the same job to do no matter how many people. We'll do the job either way. The less people we have the higher risk it places on us whether we get injured or killed in the line of duty," said President Mark Docherty of the Michigan Professional Firefighters' Union.

Through four exercises, political representatives wore more than 50 lbs. of gear between a full suit and breathing apparatus. Fire officials say the reliability of their equipment is directly affected by budget cuts.

"With budget cuts and all the constraints we have, we are looking at longer times to get our job done because of our aging equipment. It's about safety," said Steve Mazurek of the Lansing Fire Department.

The political staff say when dicussing revenue-sharing cuts in the office, they won't forget their time as firefighters.

"I'll take back this first-hand knowledge of the reasons why we need as many people for our public safety," said Lonnie Scott, who works for Rep. Jeff Irwin, (D) Ann Arbor.

They say their experience pairs faces to the cuts.


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