The position of firefighter is really somewhat archaistic.
How many fires do they actually fight these days? Cities facing budgeting realities need to reinvent these positions as public-safety positions that include fire fighting, emergency medical aide, emergency preparedness and other roles deemed necessary for the good of the community.
These new employees, replacing the old firefighters, should come to work, just like the police and other city employees, do their assigned jobs and go home when their shift is finished. It is no longer reasonable to pay firefighters to sleep, grocery shop, prepare meals and hang around the firehouse.
We now live in a 24/7 world and there is no reason that the newly invented "public-safety job" cannot find essential tasks to be preformed at all hours of the day and night.
When they are on the job they should be working. The fire engines do not have to sit in the firehouse if nothing is going on. Just like going to the store, essential personnel can be assigned to tasks as a group and go out to the worksite with a fire truck. They can jump on the truck there as quickly as they can from the fire station.
There are probably hundreds of ways that "public safety" personnel can be deployed.
With looming budget cuts to school police teams, they can take over the role of ensuring safety around school zones. They can watch train tracks. They can train neighborhood leaders in emergency preparedness. At night they can be extra eyes on the street. They can do building inspections. They can help out on short-term projects â€” building, moving, cleaning.
The possibilities are endless once we dump the old system and require these city employees to work full time.