A third fire-fighting crew likely wouldn't have made a difference in last week's fire that damaged six York City buildings.

The Thursday morning blaze at West Philadelphia Street and North Belvidere Avenue was so far along by the time first responders arrived, their only goal was to keep it from spreading to other buildings, city Fire Chief David Michaels said.

Still, a third alarm was sounded, and firefighters from nearby West Manchester Township should have been off in a flash to assist.

That would have happened, too — if York County's emergency paging system hadn't failed.

And if that system's back-up hadn't been down for repairs.

And if the county employee responsible for alerting emergency responders to the outages had followed established protocol.

Because of that unfortunate series of events, the back-up crew — which at least could have relieved weary firefighters during the all-night operation – never knew they were needed.

We take Chief Michaels at his word: The back-up probably wouldn't have made a difference in the fire that left 11 homeless.

But it's chilling to think of what could have happened.

The chief was remarkably composed after the fire, saying he planned to address the 911 paging problems with county personnel.

Michaels cited two main concerns he plans to share: that the county keep the backup system online as much as possible and that employees follow notification protocol if there is another outage.

Well yeah.


In other words, do what you're supposed to do.

County spokesman Carl Lindquist said officials anticipate infrequent outages with the paging system, and that's why there's a backup and backup failure procedure in place.

The first order of business will be getting the backup system online, and the necessary parts have been ordered, he said. Also, the county employee who didn't follow the notification procedure will be disciplined and/or giving additional training.

These are obvious steps to take, but we wonder if it will be enough to satisfy the county's first responders and the residents they protect.

Given the cascade of failures and what's at stake, we think county officials should conduct a thorough review to find out exactly what went wrong and how they intend to correct the problem — and then release the report to the public.