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Bilingual fire boss rule stirs controversy

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Jigsaw John

Joined: 26 May 2006
Posts: 25

PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2006 11:40 pm    Post subject: Bilingual fire boss rule stirs controversy Reply with quote

This story below was from KATU.com.


I feel this is a local story as it *directly* affects the Bend and Central Oregon area as well.

My comments are below the story.


SALEM, Ore. - Some English-speaking firefighters are losing their jobs because of an Oregon state law that requires them to be bilingual.

The Department of Forestry enacted a law three years ago that requires them to be bilingual, but this year they're actually enforcing it.

2002 was such a devastating wildfire season, contractors were scrambling to find firefighters.

Hispanics often filled their needs on the fire lines.

Jim Walker of the Department of Forestry said "what we do know is 85 percent of the crew make-up is of Hispanic decent."

But many of the Hispanic fire fighters do not speak English. Walker says the language barrier is a concern.

Those concerns led the state to draft a new rule that all firefighting bosses speak English, and the languages of crew members who don't speak English.

Jaime Pickering, a squad boss overseeing 20 firefighters, says the rule means "job losses for Americans. The white people."

Because of the state's language requirement, Pickering can no longer work as a crew boss and supervise 20 firefighters, he can only manage a squad of four.

Pickering says that "if you have one Spanish guy on the crew, as an English crew boss, you can no longer be a crew boss, you have to step back to a squad boss, which is a demotion."

While the state made the rule change in 2003, it decided to strictly monitor the law this year as Hispanics continue to fill fire lines.

Jim Walker says "our main concern is that they are safe, and they are in a safe environment, and a lot of that deals with communication."

Manuel Franco is a Hispanic contractor for fire crews. He says he thinks the state's rule is necessary for worker safety.

"I think that's good, because that's for safety purpose," Franco says. "If there's a rock rolling down, everybody should understand that."

However, Manuel did say he felt the situation would improve if everyone spoke English. "We're living here. We should speak the language."

Jim Walker ponders the possibility that all fire crew members should be required to speak English, instead of having bilingual crew leaders.

"If it comes down to a safety issue, and it's determined that's the only way we can have people safely on an incident, then yes," Walker said.

Both Oregon state officials and those in the firefighting business say they do not think there are 'that many' illegal immigrant workers in the fire crews.

They say it is more a case of legal workers who do not speak English.


Are we now suppose to believe that firefighting is a job Americans won't do?

What are they doing hiring workers that only speak Spanish, if communication is so important?

How are the non-English speaking fire fighters able to communicate with others in an emergency?

Are firefighters in Oregon suppose to pass a English competency test for safety reasons? If not, why not?

How do you read road signs or markers if you can't read English?

How would someone that does not speak English warn others or communicate with others that may be in an effected area?

What if the bi-lingual fireboss is out of radio range, and other English speaking firefighters hear the radio transmission but do not understand it?

This is an utter disaster just waiting to happen.

Who is pushing these disastrous policies? And why are they still employed?

Are the contractors involved paying someone off in an effort to pay low wages to maximize their profits?

Seems to me if they paid a decent, liveable wage for this work, they would have no problem filling any position.

What if the bilingual fireboss was injured, or had a medical problem and was removed from the region? We would have fire crews running around that don't speak English? Are they serious?

What is next? Will we be hiring people for the Police Department that only speak Spanish?

I could think of *dozens* of other credible senarios that would have a direct negative safety impact on citizens and firefighters regarding this policy.
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Jigsaw John

Joined: 26 May 2006
Posts: 25

PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2006 6:37 pm    Post subject: FOX News picked up this story and added a poll. Reply with quote

Looks like FOX news got a hold of this story.

They are now running a poll. The results are below.


Is it wrong for firemen squad leaders in Oregon to lose their jobs because they cannot speak Spanish?

a. Yes (66%)

b. No (34%)

c. Not sure (0%)

51,437 total votes
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