In Closed Session

There are many advantages to living in Long Beach, not the least of which is the unlikelihood of suffering from wildfires.

We have our own share of potential natural disasters — did you see that tsunami map that was floating around a couple of years ago? But there's no fuel here for what has become a plague on much of our Golden State.

There still are plenty of impacts to our fair city when wildfires erupt. I'm not talking about the occasional smoky day or difficulty traveling on freeways, either.

Did you know that there are Long Beach firefighters on the front lines today at both the Kincade Fire in Napa Valley and the Getty Fire in the Sepulveda Pass? Or that some of our fire engines and their crews were fighting the Tick Fire last week?

Long Beach is part of something called a Mutual Aid Agreement, where fire departments in one jurisdiction promise to come to another jurisdiction's aid when something too big for one department occurs. Those agreements used to be very specific — Los Angeles and Long Beach agree to help each other, Orange County and Long Beach make the agreement, too. I'm pretty sure those agreements remain in place, but there now are much larger, more global agreements as well.

Those agreements cross city and county boundaries, and erase state borders as well. A fair chunk of the nation was represented last year fighting the fires that torched northern California, and some departments already have returned this year.

But what we worry about is our own hometown, right?

I remember writing a few years ago about some Long Beach crews fighting a fire a few hundred miles from home. I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was, when I received questions about whether Long Beach was sufficiently covered while these crews were gone.

I suppose that "what about me" attitude is understandable when it comes to public safety, even if it seems pretty uncharitable. But leaders of our fire department, of fire departments in general, are well aware that their primary responsibility is to their own jurisdiction. Long Beach has, at least to my knowledge, always made sure there was enough personnel to properly protect and serve our city.

Not that it is easy. There aren't firefighters just sitting around, waiting to be called. Those shifts left uncovered when fire crews travel are filled primarily through overtime. They're not just padding paychecks, folks. On occasion, they are working double shifts.

If you kept a running tally, there's little doubt that Long Beach Fire Department personnel and equipment go help other departments far more often than other departments come here. That's a good thing — heck, maybe it helps our karma. It certainly is the right thing to do.

But don't forget the other side of the coin. If and when we do experience a disaster such as an earthquake, flooding or a high-rise fire, those departments we have been helping stand ready to help us. That's called Mutual Aid.

And it's worth its weight in gold.

While the Fire Department is the most visible and impactful way Long Beach helps others when they need it, it is not the only way. Sticking with the fires example, there are folks from Long Beach's Salvation Army corps on hand now at fire scenes, serving meals, offering water and more at evacuation centers and elsewhere. The same goes for Long Beach members of the Red Cross.

No doubt there are other help groups I'm not aware of doing their part too. Thank you for your service.

Next Tuesday, a small chunk of Long Beach residents will elect a new member of the Long Beach City Council. Remember, this person not only will look after the needs of the First District, but will participate in decisions impacting the entire city.

In 2014, the last time there was a contested election in the First District, 2,404 people voted. That was in a citywide election that included races for the mayor, city attorney, etc.

Tuesday, only First District voters will receive a ballot, and the City Council race is the only thing on that ballot. Moreover, there will be eight names on the ballot, and this is a winner-takes-all election.

You do the math. I figure the next First District representative needs around 750 votes to win.

Does anyone else see anything wrong with that?

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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