In June 2019, ST published articles that requested the improvement of the work condition of firefighters. On April 1, 2020, the status of firefighters is transitioned to a national position. Let's find out what exactly happened. ................................Ed
The long-cherished fate of the firefighter has finally been lifted. This was possible thanks to the fact that the status of all the fire officials had been converted to a national position as of April 1, 2020. It has been more than 9 years since the related bill was first proposed in 2011, and 47 years since it was dualized into national and local positions. The nationalization of the firefighters was promoted after pointing out that it will be dependent on the financial conditions of each local government or the interest of the heads of the local governments. There are differences in the level of fire safety services, as well as the treatment of firefighters. If a firefighter belongs to a local government, the quality gap in the firefighting service will inevitably widen based on the financial capabilities of the local government and the interest of the head of the organization. In addition, as the firefighting service expanded not only for extinguishing fire, but also for rescue and national disaster response, there was also a sense that the state’s responsibility should be strengthened.
If the fire officials are transferred to state posts, they can upgrade the budget-related special account for fire stations operated by municipal and provincial ordinances to the law and receive stable fire resources. Therefore, citizens will be able to receive more fire and safety services. In particular, the joint response system is expected to be strengthened in the event of a disaster, with firefighters close to the scene being dispatched first, regardless of city or provincial boundaries and jurisdictions. In terms of manpower, the National Emergency Management Agency plans to recruit 20,000 fire officials by 2022. Once that plan is completed, the number of people in charge per person will be reduced from 926 to 768 as of the end of last year, smaller than that of Japan (779) and the United States (911), which are major OECD (Organization f o r E c o n o m i c Cooperation and Development) countries.
Behind the rapid deployment of firefighting forces during the Goseong forest fire on May 1 was the transition to the national position of firefighters in April. At the site of the Goseong forest fire, Jeong Moon-ho, the head of the National Fire Agency, was in charge of the field because legal grounds were established in order to respond at the national level in the event of a large-scale disaster situation due to the conversion of firefighters to a national position. An official from the National Fire Agency said, “Since a national position has been established and legal grounds have been provided, city and provincial fire departments have also accepted mobilization orders as a natural duty,” and added, “In the past, if an attempt to catch a fire was like asking for support, it is now possible to conduct it at a national level without distinction between cities and provinces.” In other words, it was confirmed that the national response was easy after the transition to the national position of the firefighters, which greatly helped the safety of the people.
An average of 502 firefighters were injured or killed on duty each year due to the poor working conditions. In addition, as many as 2,509 fire officials have been injured or have died in the past five years (2014-2018). Including the cases of death and injuries, the number will be much higher. It is hoped that the transition to the national position will improve the treatment of firefighters and create a safer working environment for them. That way, our society will be safer, too.
Lee Ga-eun (ST Reporter)