The Cost of a Funeral

Categories: My Take, Opinion

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Albert Law
​Huge red ladder trucks from Alameda were parked along the Embarcadero this morning, and it wasn't difficult to figure out why. It's traditional that firefighters come from miles away to parade their apparatus at funerals. It's also traditional for them to park in front of churches and cross their trucks' ladders as a salute to a fallen comrade, as if they were crossing swords.

There is another tradition among fire departments: Employees ― sometimes thousands of them ― from around the city and state get paid not to work and to attend the funerals of someone many of them didn't know. Off-duty firefighters can be called in to cover all those shifts ― and you would assume overtime is involved. (Our calls to the San Francisco Fire Department and Alameda Fire Department have not been returned.)

While many readers may think this is a crass approach to a tragedy where two San Francisco firefighters lost their lives, so be it. Of course, there is no way to put a price on the worth of the men who died doing their duty. But I think the question regarding the cost of the tribute is worth asking when the city and the fire department are facing huge budget cuts that may affect service and firefighter jobs.

I wondered: How could the Alameda Fire Department afford to have its employees here when it couldn't afford to have them trained in water rescue, which resulted in one man recently taking his own life while standing chest-deep in water with fire department personnel standing by?

The cost in fuel for dozens -- hundreds? -- of trucks in attendance from around the Bay Area and state had to be thousands of dollars. I know of no way to estimate the cost of the hundreds of firefighters attending. State and municipal employees and their bosses and even Gov. Jerry Brown will also be there. Yes, private-sector employees get time off for funerals, but usually for immediate family members only; otherwise they must use vacation or personal days. They aren't granted leave to attend the funerals of people in the same profession, much less in another part of the state.

Perhaps it would be better to allow all the members of the affected fire station and a few representatives of the department to attend the funeral and then thank other departments from around the state for their thoughts during this time.

Another issue today is that traffic will be tied up for hours as the funeral procession moves through the city during afternoon rush hour. The 280 freeway will be closed for several hours, making it difficult for residents of the southern sections of the city to get home. Meanwhile, extra police and highway patrol officers will be on duty at added cost.

The traffic congestion issue -- which also adds to city pollution -- got me to thinking that the best time for a funeral like this would be midday on Saturday or Sunday. That would allow thousands of municipal employees to attend without taking off a workday.

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20 comments
Lawrence Paul
Lawrence Paul

Dear Opinionizmiown, I disagree with everything you wrote. Being helpful to seniors is important to me, following a dispatch order is important to me, and unlike you being Intelligently Civil is important to me. Lawrence Paul

Chrisk229
Chrisk229

Your telling me that 5 firefighters or cops could not walk into the ocean chest deep and pull this guy out of the water before he drown without training. They couldnt afford an inflatable boat ? They send a woman out in the water because they are not trained for that , but she is??? Absolutely atrocious. 120kA year for these pansys.

Lawrence Paul
Lawrence Paul

Dear SF Weekly, I am a cab driver in San Francisco. I do care about risk and I am thankful to the firefighters who gave their all for our safety but this isn't about the loss but about the extreme ceremony.The venue was unnecessary for the funeral which should have been out of town in ie Colma or ?.

Last Friday at 1:45 PM The Department Of Parking & Trafffic and/or the SFPD who were guarding the street closures were condescending, disruptive and promoting a lack of service to the citizens of San Francisco. The comments from firefighters etc below are predictable when I know of an elderly person who was unable to take my cab and had to walk because the passenger was waiting for me BEHIND the Funeral and Street Guards. the street guards insisted that my cab could not drive through a traffic free intersection at Geary & Gough to pick the passenger at 1333 Gough. I was ordered by the street guard at Franklin & Gough to drive in the one mph traffic up Franklin to Sutter (long way around) to 1333 Gough which took 20 minutes longer for me to arrive.  Maybe the elderly passenger at the Senior Living Building was at risk when they had to walk because they believed a cab would not get through because it took so long.

I have to believe that anyone who wasn't a firefighter , DPT or SFPD was not going to get through in a normal way even with a good reason such as "I was dispatched". Why not be HONEST and tell the public that there is no access even if we're "cabbies" are dispatched? 

Opinionizmiown
Opinionizmiown

Poor poor Whining larry,You didn't read the papers, listen to the radio or watch TV?  You can apparently read and write in English. The word was out. "Expect traffic delays". Should it have said - Expect traffic delays, including "cabbies"? Do you offer up the same whine during Bay to Breakers, Gay Pride Parade or any other multitude of events that take place and close streets every year.Whining larry, go drive in Oakland or where ever it is that you actually live which I suspect isn't San Francisco .

guest
guest

WOW...um, I can tell you that the VAST MAJORITY of Cops and Firefighters were there NOT GETTING PAID...please check your facts. 

David Lee
David Lee

The traffic congestion yesterday from street closures was more widespread and long-lasting than anything I've experienced in my many years in the city. Terrible and costly delays were reported by many friends, and cabbies, from morning through until the afternoon from. People missed flights and meetings and doctors

While I honor the loss of life of these dutiful men, I felt the firefighters did not honor us in the scope of this disruption. I respect the sacrifice of the individuals who died, but yesterday lost respect for firefighters as a group.

Claire Voyance
Claire Voyance

Tom, thank you for speaking for the Silent Majority.  Keep up the good work.

SFproud
SFproud

Tom Walsh YOU imbecile!!! I would hate to be you're conscience the next time you need to dial 911 for yourself....I think it's time you book a one way plane ticket outta SF-Bay Area Back to Broward-Palm Beach Or anywhere else! From the days of the HP Naval base shipyard to the Presidio active army base there is a deep connection to many of those public service men from this town, up and down CA and from afar ...generations of their family members who have served this country based here in SF... and a brotherhood that a lonely, crass self righteous person like you will never be fortunate to experience nor understand. I am not a fireman nor policeman just a proud longtime generation citizen of SF, family here since 1927 and I stood out there proudly with my 4yr old to salute and honor with those grieving public servants. I personally spoke to many of them and almost every one of them shared a personal story of how they paid from their own pocket to be there from out of town or the union, helped them with money they paid outta their earnings. For you to bitch and moan about gas etc being used by Alameda or any public service officers to attend the SF fallen firefighters funeral (post 911) which has not happened to SFFD in 16 years is just stoopid and you should be ashamed of yourself!! This how we DO in San Francisco and like TruSFnatives ecpressed you're just a visitor nd you have worn out your stay! ....like I said Expedia is waiting to book your flight outta MY town. GTFO

PaulER241
PaulER241

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It's very clear "Mr Proud" that you're a ( dis) credit to your profession. It's very revealing how too many of youfirefighters think. Good to know. And, it's truly sad. It will help thecitizens in our respective communities take on a more active role indetermining what people like you do/don't get down the road repay/benefits/etc.. But, really? All the funeral costs were picked up by the union?Would love to see that on paper. If that's really true, then I truly admire you, for you must be on adiet of VanCamp pork & beans morning/noon/night...

 

Proud FAE
Proud FAE

The costs for our members to attend the funeral were picked up by the union. It cost $268 in fuel. The guys went on Thierry days off and paid fir their own meals. So if we need to east pork and beans for $268, we must not make as much as you think.

As for how firefighters think, we all think differently. The fact is, until you know the facts about what it cost each respective department to attend the funeral, you should give the benefit of the doubt and not assume it's tax payer money being wasted. It makes me sick that you would beat the waste and abuse drum without facts the day after these guys were buried. I do not assume you are not a honorable, courageous, caring and proud member of our great country since you clearly stated otherwise above. We attend funerals on our own dime to honor our brothers and carry on a tradition that dates back a very long time, so as far as what you think about how we all think, I could give a crap. Walk the walk then you can talk the talk until then just say thank you and go about your day. You guys are not worth wasting another second on "Mr. Paul".

Proud FAE
Proud FAE

Our union donated money for the fuel cost to drive to SF, the guys that went were off duty. It did not cost our department a dime. This is just as traditional as the funeral itself. There are few firefighters getting paid ot to attend funerals for our brothers you douche bag.

As a member of an honor guard, I attend many funerals. The costs are all picked up by our union (our money not tax payers).

You should check your facts before you speak. You truly are a worthless scumbag and it's people like you that make me sad about what our fine country is becoming.

L4585

PaulER241
PaulER241

I agree 1000% with the writer of the article.  It's waaay too much self promtion in attempt to get more $$ and to strengthen the union, that doesn't need it.  And, the tax payers pay for it all.  I do honor all honorable fire fighters and police officers whom are killed in the line of duty.  And, they should all be honored.  However, it should be limited to their own city ( and friends and family members, etc ) that they served in.  Any one else that wants to show up for their funeral does it on their own dime.  How often do you see the same spectacle for those men and women killed in the line of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan? I'll tell you right now, it's usually limited to their immediate family and a local  handful of military personnel.  Do these men and women deserve LESS recognition and honor from their own? Military personnel that never met the person? Those other ( SEALS/GREEN BERETS/MARINES/FIGHTER PILOTS, ETC.. ) find out about it hundreds/thousands miles away, they say a prayer to themselves; having a personal moment of silence; and then get on with it.  You don't need to shell out tons of $$ to accomplish that.

Sean Benward
Sean Benward

Yes it is crass, though not the conversation necessarily. Your timing and the underlying purpose of trying to get some cheap ratings by outlandish headlines is crass and makes you selfish opportunist, unlike the firefighters in your rant. If you need some ratings, try illegal immigration or cycling in the city.

To the firefighters and the families of those firefighter who died saving others. We could never spend enough to truly honor your sacrifice. My heartfelt thanks to you and all the firefighter's in San Francisco. My family and I are humbled and sleep well knowing that you are there for us.

Tom, try this for a story. Yesterday, my family and I were at the McDonald's at Stanyan. As we approached the entrance, a group of homeless gutter punks were dragging/carrying their overdosed/drunk(?) buddy out of the store into the parking lot past my children. Minutes later, a fire engine arrives to tent to this individual. As anyone knows who lives in our fine City, this happens repeatedly each and every day.

Got a thorn up your ass about wasted spending, then go after that you opportunistic prick.

TruSFnatives
TruSFnatives

HONOR. RESPECT. STRONG and GENTLE BROTHERHOOD...You just dont get it, bitter much?...and I suspect a non SF Native...that's how we run this town...you're just visiting!!

Decent_American
Decent_American

I couldnt agree MORE. Im a police officer and these cop/firefighter funerals have gotten totally out of hand - of course the politicans are scared shitless of the union so thye go along with this obscene dog and pony show that gets more outlandish every year.

Opinionizmiown
Opinionizmiown

U ain't not cop or a decent American. Perhaps a liar

Five Oh
Five Oh

Weird. I'm a cop, SFPD. I was there, in uniform, along with the other cops, all off duty and there on our own time. Dept didn't spend a dime. The POA chartered a bus that drove guys from the Hall to the funeral and back, paid for by our POA dues.

I also dont know a single cop who thinks like you. Tell you what, if I don't go home tonight, don't come to my funeral. Guessing you wouldn't anyways.

Many engine companies that showed up from outside SF are volunteer departments, and many of the SF firemen were not getting paid to be there. If its really a concern call the SFFD Chiefs office and ask how they deployment worked for yesterday. It's a city dept, you can find out how many guys got paid. I think you'll be surprised.

People will say what they want about us, but we still come, 24/7, when they pick up a phone.

Phil
Phil

Tom,

I drove from Southern California in my own car on my own time and wore my Fire Department Dress uniform proudly to support our fallen brothers. I stood proud next to others who arrived from much further away. Those I spoke with told me they paid their own way, which is tradition for many firefighters.

My 'opinion' of you is that you are jealous of the brotherhood and sisterhood among first responders. You stood by and watched rather than ask in person the questions you seem to already have all the answers to. Some people are just meant to be a bystander.

I was proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who step up and serve. I stood with men and women who know sacrifice and accept tragedy in order to help everyone, including you.

I left the funeral in my own car. The traffic wasn't much different than I have ever experienced in this beautiful city. I wish there wasn't a funeral. I wish that those brave men had not perished but not for the same reasons as you.

My condolences to the family and thanks to all the great people I met today.

Phil AmbroseGlendale Fire Station 26

Burbank_Bill
Burbank_Bill

Fuck you Phil. go give an Armenian a blow job you overpaid , lazy prick.

Nielsandannie
Nielsandannie

Tom, it's obvious you have a grudge against firefighters and public service employees. As a member of the New York City Fire Dept., i can assure my brethren from the Bay area were honoring their fallen brothers on their own time.   I myself have attended over 400 funerals for fallen police and firefighters over my 23 yrs. of service. You see Tom, folks like us in public safety have a sense of honor and camraderie,so we go out of our way, on our own time, to honor one of our own when they die. So sorry you had to be inconvenienced with traffic today. At least you are still alive and able to sit in it.   Lt. Niels W. Jorgensen FDNY  80 Truck

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