Scott Tibbs
Printed in the Indiana Daily Student, 05-27-1999

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Questions linger after fatal Knightridge fire

To the editor:

Having just moved back to Bloomington, I am very concerned about the problems experienced by the Bloomington fire department in the now infamous Knightridge fire.

According to news reports, the fire trucks that responded were unable to pump water at a level required for safety. In addition, the (Mayor John) Fernandez administration knew the fire truck was not operational before the fire ever happened. This fact is very disconcerting, and it leads one to question: Is the Fernandez administration committed to public safety?

I am also confused by some of the statements made by the mayor in the aftermath of the Knightridge disaster. Fernandez has said the operating budget for the fire department has gone up threefold in the last three years. However, I obtained a copy of the last two budgets from the city and did not see the increase Fernandez spoke of.

When I called the mayor's office and inquired about this, I was told that the alleged increase was in non-personnel services. But when I looked at comparisons of the fire budgets for 1997, 1998 and 1999, I observed the combined capital expenses, supplies and other services increased from $1,726,847 in 1997 to $1,992,041 in 1998, and actually decreased in 1999 to $1,945,404. I am not sure where Fernandez sees this threefold increase.

Surely, Fernandez would never intentionally mislead the citizens of Bloomington, so I must be mistaken.

Given the serious questions surrounding the Knightridge fire and the very real concerns many have about the ability of the Bloomington fire department to effectively protect the citizens of Bloomington from fires, I am relieved that the Monroe County Taxpayers Association has formed a Fire Safety Commission to study this matter further. Hopefully, this commission will get to the bottom of this situation and help provide meaningful solutions.