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June 27, 2011


No more firefighter trips to grocery stores

by Deena Winter

In my six years covering city hall in Lincoln, one of the most common complaints I heard from readers was — I am not kidding — about firefighters doing grocery shopping while on the clock.

People would get so indignant about seeing a firetruck in the parking lot, or a firefighter in the grocery aisle, all decked out in their uniforms and clearly on the clock.

They did not think firefighters should shop for food while on duty — even though this is pretty standard nationwide (at least that’s what the union head told me) and if a call comes in, the firefighters drop everything and go.

Well, apparently that practice is about to end in Lincoln. Coby Mach of “Drive Time Lincoln” is reporting that the city’s former police chief and new public safety director, Tom Casady, intends to end the practice. But apparently not just to avoid the appearance of inactivity — to save money on gas.

What do you think? I have to say, I’ve never encountered a firefighter in a grocery store — although I’ve seen firetrucks parked outside many a store and restaurant where they appeared to be making a pit stop.

I don’t believe I’ve ever gone grocery shopping while on the clock — but then I got a lunch break and other “coffee breaks” every day. Still, I never could figure out why firefighters couldn’t just bring their food with them to the fire station, just as most workers bring their lunch to work.

Then again, if this is one of the biggest gripes we have about the fire department, life is pretty good in Lincoln, Neb.

14 Comments Post a comment
  1. Em
    Jun 27 2011

    Clearly my knowledge of firefighters is limited to what I’ve seen on TV so I always just thought they were buying food for the station.

  2. CS
    Jun 27 2011

    Firefighters aren’t buying groceries individually. They are shopping for the entire crew-they eat together, cook together, maintain the station together-the ‘other’ family. Only in NE, home of the welfare farmer, have I heard people complain about this.

  3. Hinske
    Jun 27 2011

    So what’s next? they can’t go to the bathroom while on the clock?

  4. Erik
    Jun 27 2011

    How do you save money on this? Who’s going to do the grocery shopping now? Casady’s gonna be REALLY popular with the firefighters now…

    • ej
      Jun 28 2011

      Good. His job isn’t a popularity contest.

  5. Reader
    Jun 27 2011

    GREAT- I love it. What a bunch of whiners. It’s called getting your food before you go to work, and then bring it with you to cook at a later time or cold cuts like most workers. I can only hope for the end of Kelly Days also.

  6. Jun 27 2011

    I do not have a problem with them going to the store on the clock. I see large groups of them at Hy-Vee regularly. However I do have a big problem with their compensation. Just last week LJS published my letter to the editor ripping them for averaging $77k per year, with the EMS transport division averaging $101K. There are 28 people in the EMS transport division. Name other group of 25+ that average over $100k, I cannot think of any. We keep cutting roads, parks, libraries, and pools. Yet this protected class city of workers seems untouchable.

    • fedwayup
      Jul 2 2011

      Mayors office. Isn’t there about 25 there? why so many aides? The firefighters are saving lives and property! Tell me what all these are aides are doing! We have a 9.3 million dollar deficit, and people are worried about our firefighters eating. Beutler needs to cut the real fat, and stop pointing the finger everywhere but at his own office! It’s okay to take away from everyone else, but you seen what happened when they talked about taking his and his boy’s pension match. Good thing we have all those city lawyers working for the city. Ya right. Beutler has a bottomless checkbook with a team of lawyers.

  7. Jane H Kinsey
    Jun 28 2011

    Just one of many perks that firefighters get in Lincoln. I agree that it should be abolished.
    I hope Casady eliminates more of them.
    In spite of LJS saying they did a good job at the LPS fire, if it competent to send a truck with a hose that is too short to fight a fire? Where was the truck with the longer hose and why was it not called to assist? If Lincoln doesn’t have one, we should. The authorities should take money from salaries and/or benefits to do so. Firefighters are paid on a par with the
    department heads and Buetler’s aides who earn way over the average salary in Lincoln. When are citizens going to put a stop to this baloney?

  8. Jeff Poley
    Jun 28 2011


    Mach really earns his money, doesn’t he. OMG, Firefighters are out there on the tax payer’s dime getting food for the firehouse so they don’t go out and put their butts on the line on an empty stomach. In the military, we PAY people to do nothing but go to the grocery store and purchase food (and cook it) for the troops. Maybe we should have our troops get their food on their own time and save a few hard earned tax payer dollars. After all, they’re just overpaid public employees and therefore not deserving of our respect.


  9. A fireman's wife
    Apr 4 2012

    I don’t live in or near you town, however I am the wife of a fireman. I am appalled at the comments above.

    First, firemen work 24-72 hour shifts. My husband works 24 hours on- 24 hours off, the department south of us works 48 on-48 off. And there is another department in our area that works 72 on-48 off. This means for a minimum of 24 hours, they are at work. They don’t get coffee or lunch breaks. As a matter of fact, I know my husband and his crew literally drop their food to go on a run at least twice per day. Yes, they do go to the grocery store while “on the clock,” however they pay for everything themselves. Also, most firemen don’t just make a trip to the grocery whenever they feel like it. Almost every trip is planned around when they have to go somewhere (i.e. if they have to go to the main station for an engine check, they will stop at the grocery on the way back). I can count on one hand the number of times in my husband’s 30 -year career when he has said they went to the grocery and nowhere else. And they don’t always go while on shift. As a matter of fact, my husband woke up an hour early this morning to go grocery shopping for his entire crew, because they have in-station training this week and won’t have to go anywhere expect if there is a run. He gave up extra sleep and seeing his kids this morning in order to get food before his shift starts. And that extra sleep is precious, seeing as he will more than likely have 2-3 runs in the middle of the night.

    Second, the fact that someone is complaining about a fireman making $77k a year is absolutely insane. They earn every dime of that money. Every single time my husband walks out the door to go to work, he is walking away from his family in order to protect someone elses family. They don’t just put out fires. The majority of their runs are medical emergencies, car accidents, and domestic violence cases. My husband has had to walk into homes that were filled with contagious illnesses in order to help someone, he has nearly been hit by careless drivers who are too busy gawking at an accident to pay attention to what they are doing, and he has been caught in the middle of domestic fights. He has burns on his hands and scars all over his body from running into deadly situations to save someone he doesn’t even know. He wakes up at night in a cold sweat because he was dreaming that he was caught in a fire. When everyone else is trying to get out of a burning building, he and his crew are running in. Not only that, but he is an engineer, which means he drives the fire engine. I cannot even begin to tell you the number of times he has had to make evasive maneuvers, because some stupid person didn’t get out of the way or see them coming. My husband puts his life on the line EVERY SINGLE DAY for people he doesn’t even know and you people are going to b*%#h about going to the grocery store???? You should really re-evaluate your priorities.

    By the way, my husband only makes $56k a year. And that’s not even close to what he and his crew are worth.

    • Ivelisse
      Aug 5 2012

      You are absolutely correct!… These people don’t think.

    • Harris Capps
      Feb 18 2020

      To “A fireman’s wife”. I agree with most of what you said. I will only remind you that our combat military troops, for the most part, get far less than that to put their lives on the line. Many of their families actually have to use food stamps. That is not to say, I am slamming fire-persons… I simply want you to keep the military in mind.

  10. EAD
    Aug 4 2017

    People who complain about Police, Firefighters and EMTs:
    People who can’t pass any of the tests or education aspects.
    People who think everyone is out to get them and their money.
    Snobs who think they are better than the people who swear to put their life on the line for them.
    You won’t give a damn what they do after they help you so shut the hell up you whiny ass bitchs.


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