Under Bush’s watch, decay of public firefighting has spawned billion dollar private industry

Trade group founded in 2000 now represents 10,000 private firefighters

SAN DIEGO – After the Great Fire of London in 1666, insurance companies started issuing plaques to show private fire brigades which homes to save–and which to let burn. Insurers organized their own firefighting companies. Not having a plaque didn’t mean your home went totally ignored, but it certainly didn’t help.

Today, a decline in public funding for firefighting services has sparked explosive growth in the private sector. The world’s largest insurance company – American Insurance Group – now has “Wildfire Protection Units” in 150 US zip codes. During the 2007 California wildfires, AIG’s firefighters saved homes in wealthy areas, while less fortunate neighbors were left with rubble. A trade group for private firefighters founded in 2000 now represents 10,000 private firemen.

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