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|December 10, 2014
EMT caught sleeping 12 times on job can’t be fired - NY
She’s the FDNY’s “Sleeping Duty.”
The city stripped EMT Serele Ehrlich of her lieutenant’s rank after co-workers and bosses accused her of sleeping on the job an astounding 12 times.
The 57-year-old serial snoozer endangered the public for half a decade while on duty — snoring during training sessions, dozing at her desk and catching some Zs behind the wheel of her command vehicle, the FDNY contended.
Ehrlich slept so deeply, co-workers claimed, she missed phone calls to her desk and radio communications while on patrol. Even flashing lights and blaring sirens failed to rouse her, they complained.
Yet it took more than a dozen complaints over five years before the FDNY took any action against her.
The department tried to fire Ehrlich in 2012, charging her with the sleeping incidents, chronic lateness and going AWOL six times in 2009. A city administrative judge upheld six snoozing charges but recommended only a 45-day suspension, saying Ehrlich had an otherwise unblemished history.
Then-Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano disagreed but backed off firing her and instead demoted Ehrlich to paramedic, writing in November 2013, “The Department should not and will not wait until Lt. Ehrlich’s misconduct results in significant, perhaps deadly, consequences for the public and/or those she is tasked to supervise.”
The city Civil Service Commission upheld the demotion last month.
Ehrlich’s alleged slumbers read like a bad dream. Among them:
Now-retired Deputy Chief JoEddy Friszell found Ehrlich passed out behind the wheel of her command vehicle outside Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn in 2007 with an open map resting on her chest — and could not wake her. “I put every single light on in my vehicle, flashing in her face, and she did not budge,” he told The Post. “I blew the siren, and she did not budge. I took pictures, because she did not budge.”
Friszell said he once discovered Ehrlich sleeping at her desk. He called her on the phone to wake her up, telling her, “You ought to turn around, because I’m in your office behind you.”
Friszell charges Ehrlich once fell asleep on duty in her car while stopped at a red light. “Thank goodness she didn’t take her foot off the brake,” he said. Ehrlich denied this and noted no complaint was ever filed.
Capt. Vincent Hanlon, now retired, said he found Ehrlich reclined in the driver’s seat of her command car parked outside Station 58 in Canarsie in May 2009. He twice tapped on the window — and even called her on the radio while standing next to the car, according to his claims. She did not respond until he smacked his palm against the window, he said. “I wouldn’t call it a nap. She was sound asleep,” he recalled. “When she woke up, I expected to see slippers on her feet.”
In July 2011, Ehrlich was responsible for leading a monthly drill in Station 58. Chief Robert Hannafey, the Brooklyn commander, walked in and found Ehrlich at the supervisor’s desk — “head back, mouth open, snoring,” while two EMTs watched a training video, he testified at Ehrlich’s hearing, showing photos.
As the assigned “conditions officer,” Ehrlich had to monitor and manage 16 employees in eight ambulances on March 2, 2012. That day, Capt. Dinorah Claudio, commanding officer of the Ocean Hill station, took photos of Ehrlich asleep at 8 a.m. in her patrol car on the corner of the busy Rockaway Boulevard and Dean Street, in full public view.
Ehrlich claimed she was reading the newspaper and may have “briefly closed my eyes for a second.” She said Claudio had it in for her after Ehrlich found the captain gave a paramedic unauthorized days off.
Ehrlich denies ever sleeping on the job or missing an emergency, calling it “a witch hunt” by spiteful colleagues. But she acknowledged, “I might have a mild case of sleep apnea.”
“I never hurt nobody,” the 20-year veteran said. “I gave my life to the department. What they’ve done to me is so unfair.”
Her demotion to paramedic took effect last Dec. 6, but Ehrlich — who made up to $90,000 as a lieutenant with overtime — then let her paramedic certification lapse. She was demoted again in August to EMT, with her salary dropping to $48,153.
While serving in EMS, Ehrlich moonlighted as the owner of a Brooklyn baby-furniture shop — and still runs the business on the side, The Post learned.
Co-workers believe Ehrlich, who always worked the overnight shift, came to work tired because of the Midwood business, Brooklyn Baby.
“She would . . . go to sleep every night,” Friszell said of Ehrlich, who worked the night shift.
Ehrlich has owned the business for 33 years. She told customers last week that the Avenue M store was undergoing repairs but to call her any time from 7:30 a.m. to midnight to place orders or to arrange house calls.
An FDNY spokesman called Ehrlich “an active EMT.” But Ehrlich said the department has put her on an unpaid medical leave since October.
|December 10, 2014|
9 Volunteer fire fighters and 1 off-duty career fire captain killed by an ammonium nitrate explosion at a fertilizer plant fire - TX
NIOSH has recently released the following Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Reports
|December 10, 2014|
Career fire fighter killed by structure collapse while conducting interior search for occupants following 4th alarm - TX
NIOSH has recently released the following Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Report
|December 10, 2014
"ALL OF THE RADIOS FAILED"
As you probably know, there were some close calls and Line of Duty deaths in recent years where radios -being used in fire environments (our environment) were part of the concern. In once again their attempt to separate fact from fiction and rumor, NIST did some scientific testing-with the cooperation and participation of fire service.
These new test results* from the NIST confirm that portable radios used by firefighters absolutely can fail to operate properly within 15 minutes when exposed to temperatures that may be encountered during firefighting activities...and not just obvious failure.
We rely on the radios to report our location, our progress and our needs...often urgently. Performance problems with portable radios have definitely been identified by the NIOSH as contributing factors in some firefighter fatalities.
ALL PORTABLE FIRE RADIOS FAILED:
During the post-test cool-down period, three of the radios did not recover normal function.
PLEASE TAKE TIME TO REVIEW THESE FOUR REPORTS:
2-RELATED LODD REPORT
San Francisco FD Double LODD:
The above FIRE killed SFFD Lieutenant Vincent A. Perez and Firefighter-Paramedic Anthony M. Valerio on June 2, 2012--READ THE BELOW for additional details and the SFFD report.
4-ACTUAL SFFD INTERNAL REPORT-See Page 93:
|December 10, 2014
Rockport firefighter hospitalized with two lumbar fractures following training accident - ME
ROCKPORT — Rockport resident William "Billy" Smith is both a Rockland Police officer and a Rockport firefighter, but today he is a patient at Pen Bay Medical Center, laid up in bed with fractures of his L3 and L4 (lumbar) spine.
Smith was participating in the second day of last week's multi-town Rapid Intervention Team training, when his foot became caught up as he was making a controlled descent through a hole in the ceiling to the room below. The maneuver is part of the Rochester Drill, which deals with firefighters falling through and becoming stuck between floors, or becoming trapped between floors.
During the drill, Rockport Fire Chief Jason Peasley said that Smith's group was given the scenario of being trapped on a second floor, after the stairs had burned and/or become impassable. They had to lower themselves down through a hole in the upper floor, to the first floor below.
Loaded down with 40-50 pounds of firefighting gear, and holding on to a charged line (hose) that acted like a rope to help him make the descent, Smith was unable to hold on while he worked to free his foot and lost his grip.
Smith fell about 4-feet, and landed flat on the floor below, on his back. Unfortunately, he was wearing an SCBA air pack at the time of the landing, and the cylindrical tank and the metal frame it connects to were between his back and the wood floor.
"According to the instructors, he did everything correct, everything was by the book," said Peasley. "We had done the prior work and watched the videos, practiced the maneuvers and it was a freak accident."
Peasley said that smith, "happened to land in the worst way."
"Two other firefighters also fell, but they both landed on their sides and were able to walk away uninjured," said Peasley. “Training is for learning, and that’s what we did this weekend.”
In fact, Peasley learned the Camden Fire Department was going to be undergoing the same training Monday night, and they now plan to put down padding in case anyone falls.
“They’re calling it the Billy Pad,” said Peasley. “But the reality is, the training doesn’t call for one, but now we know we want to use padding when we can, because Billy’s fall happened so fast the nearby instructors couldn’t get there fast enough to prevent it.”
The two-day RIT training included 33 firefighters from the towns of Lincolnville, Camden, Hope, Rockport, Rockland, Cushing, Owls Head, South Thomaston and Friendship. The first day of training was Dec. 2, and included a slide presentation, history of the need for the RIT, the work done by RITs, gear needed, responsibilities and what they are allowed to do.
Peasley said this is the first time a multi-town RIT training course had been conducted, and it's the hope that each town will have at least a few members trained specifically for RIT work when there is a major event and need for mutual aid.
"Sometimes it's the best of the best firefighters that take this training, they are the best with ropes and knots, special tools, tricky situations, speed and efficiency, " said Peasley. "Any type of major incident you have, you are working together as three, four possibly five towns at a structure fire. Most towns don't work on structures fires be themselves. So you need to be able to work with other towns and this does that."
The second half of that Tuesday night class was hands-on, including practicing with equipment, tools and techniques. They basically learned how to prep someone to be taken out of a building, said Peasley, whether it's converting an air pack into a harness, or putting someone into a harness, practicing carries, using tools for dragging, and making litters out of poles and rope.
"A RIT team is there for an emergency response, when you have someone go down," said Peasely. "That team basically stands next to the incident commander, and they stay there the entire time. They may not get to go in and play at all, but if anything goes wrong, they are standing right there, they have a RIT bag, an extra bottle of air, ropes, tools and all the stuff they need to go in, and that is their only mission, to save a life."
For this week's training, everybody was learning all the techniques and about the tools, etc. Peasley said that it's unrealistic in the Midcoast to think you'll have the same group of firefighters show up to a call, and to train some of them for RIT work. So by training everybody, a small RIT group can be designated at any given fire scene, no matter who is able to be there to help out.
And as for the job itself, Peasley said that it not only requires good knowledge of ropes and knots and being able to change out air packs quickly, but also physical ability.
"Depending on how rapidly something is going down, you need to make a decision whether it's just 'scoop and go' or taking time to put on a proper harness," said Peasley. "And being able to carry 200 pounds of dead weight requires a lot of physical exertion, as well as training in good techniques to get it done."
Saturday's live training took place in Searsmont on Route 105, in a to-be demolished house across from the Searsmont Community Center. The house was owned by Robbins Lumber, donated and prepared for training. After Saturday’s indoor training, the building was burned to the ground in a controlled fire.
The RIT training started Saturday at 8 a.m. and ended at 3 p.m., said Peasley and it continued without incident after Smith was injured.
After Smith fell, Peasley said his gear was removed to make him more comfortable, and he was assessed by the trainers from Bangor Fire Department.
"He wanted to get up, but they kept telling him to stay down," said Peasley. "He did eventually stand up and was uncomfortable, and I took him out to my truck. Very quickly though, he was in agonizing pain. He refused an ambulance, so I took him in my truck to Pen Bay."
Once at the hospital, Peasley said it took about four people to remove Smith from the truck, as his body was locked in pain and shock.
From his hospital room Monday morning, Smith confirmed Peasley's details.
"It was excruciating pain," said Smith. "I was yelling and crying, it was so bad."
Now, Smith said in addition to the pain he's battling, he's dealing with the realization of his injuries, which are compounded by what he’s already living with on a daily basis.
Two years ago, Smith learned he had a brain tumor. Among the initial symptoms, it caused him severe headaches, and then started messing with his vision. He underwent extensive testing and radiation therapy in Maine hospitals and at out-of-state renowned medical centers, and while the tumor is considered benign, it still sits inside his skull, behind one of his eyes.
Today, while the brain tumor is stable and he suffers bouts of double vision and other side effects, he is trying hard to consider himself lucky.
Nov. 30, a video of Smith sledding with local kids while he was on patrol in Rockland went viral on the Internet. Last Wednesday, his kids had a two-hour delay in the start of school, so they videotaped their dance-off outside in the slush.
"Today, I'm here with a broken back. Unbelievable," said Smith.
Smith said he learned earlier in the day Monday that he would soon be fitted for a back brace, and spend six to eight weeks in it while his fractures healed. So far, there is no talk of a need for surgery.
"We were such great training this weekend, the Bangor guys were so great to work with," said. "I feel so bad that I got hurt, but it shows that our profession is dangerous. If this can happen in a controlled environment, where there's no actual pressure to save your life or someone else's and you can go slowly and take your time to do it right, bad things can still happen."
For now, Smith is trying to take it day by day. Keep his spirits up, be patient while the doctors work to find a way to manage his pain, try to make sure his wife and kids are being taken care of.
But try to get that through the head of a police officer, firefighter, husband and dad. The doer, not the person who has things done for him.
"It blows. I feel bad. But there is nothing I can do right now and that's the hardest part," said Smith.
|December 10, 2014|
FF INJURED IN FIRE COLLAPSE - NJ
The Parsippany District 5 Fire Department did not have far to go on Saturday night, when it was dispatched to put out a house fire two doors down from the station. The call, however, was hardly routine as one firefighter fell through a damaged floor before the job was done.
According to police and fire department reports, District 5, located at 180 Old Bloomfield Ave., and township police were alerted at 9:47 p.m. to a single-family home at 152 Old Bloomfield Ave. for a report of a possible working fire. First responders saw smoke and flames coming from the west side of the home, a small cottage with a single dormer window on the second floor.
Members of the Parsippany Fire District 4 joined the District 5 crew and the fire was extinguished within 15 minutes, according to witnesses.
“I live down the street so we were able to respond very quickly,” said District 5 Chief Robert Campbell Jr.
A firefighter from District 5 was transported to the Morristown Medical Center for non-life-threatening injuries sustained after falling from the second floor as it collapsed while he was inside the residence, according to police. Campbell said the firefighter, whose name was withheld, was released from the hospital that same night with no lingering injuries.
The home was not occupied at the time of the fire, according to a police report. The 28-year-old male and 30-year-old female residents of the home later arrived at the scene and were able to seek shelter with a relative.
Police and Morris County Sheriff’s Office fire investigators investigated and determined the fire was accidental.
The home sustained considerable damage, some of which was covered by a large tarp on the west side of the home, where vinyl siding could be seen warped from the heat. The upstairs dormer window was broken with glass on the pitched roof in front of it.
The home was secured by members of Car 69 Rescue and Recovery.
Additional responders included tower ladders from the Pine Brook Volunteer and Parsippany District 6, the rapid-intervention team from Whippany Fire Department and the Lake Parsippany Volunteer Fire Company District 3.
Parsippany’s Rockaway Neck Volunteer First Aid Squad also responded and stood by with its rig while the Parsippany Rescue and Recovery Unit assisted with its board-up, air truck and PATRIOT rehab trailer.
|December 10, 2014
Firefighter Joyce Craig Lewis Dies in House Fire - PA
(The Last Call - RIP)
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Philadelphia firefighter hailed for her work ethic and the pride she took in being assigned to the city's busiest engine companies died Tuesday after she became trapped in the basement of a burning row home where an elderly woman was later rescued, officials said.
Joyce Craig Lewis — the first female member of the Philadelphia Fire Departmnt to die in the line of duty — was part of a three-member hose team sent to attack the fire in the basement of the home in the city's West Oak Lane neighborhood at about 3 a.m. Tuesday, fire commissioner Derrick Sawyer said.
Commanders quickly changed tactics and ordered the company to withdraw as the fire intensified, with chimney-like conditions billowing smoke and heat toward firefighters, Sawyer said.
Craig Lewis, an 11-year veteran and mother of two, could not escape and issued a mayday call, officials said. Firefighters raced back inside and found the 36-year-old unconscious with no vital signs, he said.
Paramedics performed CPR and rushed her to Albert Einstein Medical Center. She was pronounced dead a short time later.
Mayor Michael Nutter called Craig Lewis's death "a tremendous loss" and a "very sad day" for all Philadelphians.
A procession of fire apparatus led an ambulance with Craig Lewis's body down the closed lanes of the Schuylkill Expressway to the city medical examiner's office. Black bunting was hung from firehouses.
Craig Lewis is survived by a 16-year-old son and a 16-month-old daughter, Nutter said.
The Philadelphia native was one of 58 women among the city's 1,800 firefighters, according to firefighters union president Joe Schulle. She worked in firehouses in Germantown and North Philadelphia before requesting a transfer to Engine 64 in Lawncrest, one of the city's most active fire houses. He said he believes she was working an overtime shift Tuesday morning.
"Everybody on that fire (scene) inevitably today is sitting at home reflecting, thinking what they could have done differently, how this could have been prevented," Schulle said. "They're heartbroken."
However, he said the intense heat and deteriorating conditions may have made it nearly impossible to escape.
"If you are in a flashover, you have seconds — not minutes — to get out of there," Schulle said.
Craig Lewis, a certified EMT, had been previously commended for attacking a fire while colleagues rescued residents from a burning home, Sawyer said. Her efforts Tuesday to keep the fire contained to the basement came as other firefighters rescued the elderly woman from another part of the home, he said.
Her equipment has been collected and preserved for a pending investigation, Sawyer said.
More than 40 Philadelphia firefighters have been killed in the line of duty since 1943, according to the International Association of Fire Fighters.
The last, Capt. Michael Goodwin, died April 6, 2013 in a roof collapse while battling a fire in a three-story building in the city's Queen Village section. He was 53.
Women account for relatively few firefighter deaths in national statistics — 29 of the 1,059 on-duty deaths recorded by the U.S. Fire Administration between 2003 and 2012 — in part because they are still vastly outnumbered by men on department rosters.
|December 10, 2014|
Woman accused of stealing equipment from fire truck - NH
LACONIA, N.H. —Laconia police say a woman faces charges after stealing equipment from a fire truck while it was out on a call.
Firefighters were called to a downtown parking garage for a report of a fire alarm. While on the scene, a bag with equipment and clothing was stolen.
Police tracked down Jasmine Sanchez, who was wearing a Laconia fire department sweatshirt and knit hat.
She was arrested on a charge of receiving stolen property.
|December 10, 2014|
Yemassee officials criticize investigation of fire-station arson - SC
The investigation of an attempt last month to burn the Yemassee Fire Department and Town Hall should be handled by the state instead of the town's police department, according to the mayor and fire chief.
Mayor Jerry Cook and Fire Chief Paul Holmes said Tuesday they had not discussed their concerns with Police Chief Jack Hagy, but hoped he would turn over the investigation of the Nov. 18 fire to the S.C. Law Enforcement Division.
On that night, two volunteer firemen allegedly attempted to burn the fire station because they were feuding with a volunteer firefighter who was inside, according to police reports.
Cook said SLED should lead the investigation because of the town's small size to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.
SLED has been assisting with the investigation, agency spokesman Thom Berry said, but it is not the lead agency.
Cook said he was not opposed to Yemassee police being involved in the investigation, but said SLED should take the lead.
Hagy defended his department's investigation and said he is confident in police Capt. Gregory Alexander, who is in charge of the case. Hagy said he wants to speak with town officials about their concerns.
Former Yemassee and Sheldon Fire District volunteers Chris Williams, 22, and Dominique Thompson, 21, both of Yemassee, have been charged with second-degree arson and attempted murder for their alleged roles in trying to set fire to the building. A teenage firefighter and the interim town clerk were inside the building at the time, but managed to escape, according to police.
Williams and Thompson were released from jail Tuesday after posting $50,000 bonds, reduced Monday from $300,000, according to court records.
Police Capt. Alexander said the dispute started when Thompson took volunteer firefighter Deandre Griffin's face mask on an emergency call. On Nov. 18, Thompson and Williams had heard that Griffin, 18, was angry at them about the face mask incident. The men knew Griffin would be working on reports in the fire station that night, so they decided to burn the station down with Griffin inside, Alexander said.
Williams later told police the fire was Thompson's idea, and that they had talked about setting the fire upstairs, but "his heart just wouldn't let him do it." Instead, he poured gasoline by a door and along a wall, according to a police report.
Thompson initially denied involvement, but later told police he drove Williams to and from the fire station and knew he had made a mistake, the report said.
The mayor and fire chief say they're not satisfied with that version of events.
Cook said he suspects a third person might have suggested the men burn the attic, which houses the town's records. The police chief and captain, however, say they have no evidence anyone else was involved.
Holmes said he's concerned there have not been enough interviews and said the incident seems too extreme to have stemmed from a feud over a face mask.
"It has got to be explained why, instead of doing what normally happens with a disagreement, they're destroying a whole town," Holmes said. "They could have destroyed everything. And you don't do that just because you're upset."
Holmes said he and the police have also had a misunderstanding about Williams and Thompson's work history. Williams was suspended more than a year ago due to his operation of a fire engine on an emergency call, but Thompson had not left the department, Holmes said.
"He had slacked off on his attendance to meetings, but he had not been suspended or anything until this," the fire chief said.
Police Capt. Alexander, though, said he still believes Thompson quit, following a fire at his own home in which no Yemassee volunteer firefighters were available to respond.
The department is still working with SLED to investigate the Nov. 18 fire and a series of other unsolved fires in Yemassee. Alexander said police plan to interview a third person about those incidents, and that person is not a volunteer firefighter or related to Williams or Thompson.
"It's just, bottom line, still under investigation," Alexander said. "We just want to get all our ducks in a row."
|December 10, 2014
Blaze Destroys Buildings After ‘Totally Useless’ Hydrant, Low Pressure Hamper Firefighters - MI
DETROIT (WWJ) - Detroit firefighters battled flames and equipment problems at two different scenes near the Lodge Freeway Wednesday morning.
The first fire broke out at a vacant multi-dwelling home on Calvert Avenue at the Lodge Freeway service drive, just north of Chicago Boulevard.
Fire Chief Gene Biondo said crews dealt with one problem after another — including winds that caused the fire to spread to a neighboring home, which was also vacant.
“This hydrant we can’t use. It’s barely got pressure,” he told WWJ’s Mike Campbell. “They had to open up one of the mains to get us more pressure, but yeah, the hydrant right in front of the house was totally useless. We were pumping from a block down.”
The fire completely destroyed both buildings. As crews were finishing up at the scene, another call came in about a blaze nearby at 14th and Lawrence.
When crews arrived at the second scene, the vacant home was completely engulfed in flames. Firefighters again dealt with low water pressure, but were able to keep the flames from spreading to any other dwellings.
Dealing with low water pressure during this time of year isn’t anything new, Biondo said, because the mains are so old in this part of the city.
“If they keep them at full pressure, they break. So in the winter time, they try to maintain them as best they can and then when we have an incident like this, they get crews out here as quickly as possible and try to boost the pressure for us,” he said.
No injuries were reported at either scene. Causes of both fires remain under investigation.
|December 10, 2014
Firefighter Gus Losleben killed in crash with log truck - TN
(The Last Call - RIP)
Dec. 10, UPDATE– Hardin County Mayor Kevin Davis is requesting that all flags over county buildings be flown at half-staff from sunrise Dec.10 until sunset Dec.13 in honor of Gus Losleben, the Hardin County firefighter killed while responding to a fire on Tuesday.
Dec. 10, UPDATE– The Tennessee Highway Patrol has identified the driver of the log truck who was killed as Christopher Durham, 30, of Booneville, Mississippi. He was a father of three young children and had served in the U.S. military.
According to Trooper Charlie Childers, the Hardin County Fire Department tanker truck carrying 2,000 gallons of water crossed the center line in a curve on Holland Creek Road and struck the loaded log truck head-on.
Dec. 9, UPDATE– Hardin County volunteer firefighter Gus Losleben, 69, died this afternoon of injuries sustained in the crash.
Dec. 9– The head-on collision of a loaded log truck and Hardin County Fire Department tanker claimed the life of the truck driver and critically injured a firefighter, authorities said.
The incident occurred this morning around 10:30.
Hardin County Fire Chief Melvin Martin said District 6 (Olivet-Walkertown) volunteer Gus Losleben, a four year veteran of the department, was driving the tanker to a fully involved house fire in the Walnut Grove community.
Losleben was headed west on Holland Creek Road toward the two-story home when he collided head-on with an eastbound log truck. The firefighter was airlifted to the Memphis Med after being extricated from the obliterated vehicle.
Martin described Losleben’s condition as “extremely critical.”
Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Charlie Childers said the still unidentified driver of the log truck was killed instantly.
THP officials were unsure exactly what caused the crash. A THP Critical Response Team is at the scene investigating.
Logs spilled onto the road, making it difficult for the truck driver’s body to be reached by rescue personnel.
“We will have to clear the scene and remove some of the logs before we are able to positively identify the driver,” Childers said.
Martin said the fire to which Losleben was responding destroyed the structure.
|December 08, 2014|
Greenburgh: Cops probe possible insurance fraud by fire district - NY
GREENBURGH – Greenville Fire District voters will decide Tuesday whether to borrow roughly $1 million for a new ladder truck, as police investigate allegations of insurance fraud involving the rig it is meant to replace.
Voters in the district, which provides emergency services to the Edgemont community, will cast their ballots Tuesday on the proposition, part of an up to $1.785 million bond. The new truck would replace Ladder 4, the focus of a complaint that accuses fire officials of lying about the circumstances of an accident in August 2012 and filing a false insurance claim.
Ladder 4 was traveling to Pelham in August 2012 when it collided with a Toyota driven by a 17-year-old at Ardsley and Old Army roads.
Firefighters told police at the scene they were responding to an emergency, with lights and sirens, and had proceeded with caution through the intersection.
But records submitted as part of the complaint made to the Westchester County district attorney appear to show that firefighters were on a mutual aid call to cover a firehouse in Pelham — and were not permitted to bypass the rules of the road. The Toyota driver told police he did not hear the sirens and proceeded through the intersection because he had a green light.
The complaint also accuses firefighters of driving recklessly and accuses the fire district of engaging in a cover-up to receive insurance coverage.
The district's insurer, Selective Way Insurance Co., sent a letter to Greenville in November 2012 informing the department that another party was believed to be responsible for the loss. The letter says the claim was transferred to Selective's subrogation department to recover payments for damages. An estimate said it would cost about $4,000 to fix the firetruck, a 2001 Pierce Aerial Ladder.
The district attorney referred the matter to police in April, according to a letter obtained by The Journal News.
Greenburgh police Detective Capt. Brian Ryan said he expects to present his findings on the case to the District Attorney's Office in the "near future," but would not comment further.
Fire Chief Daniel Raftery and Robert Bruckenthal, chair of the district's board of fire commissioners, did not respond to requests for comment.
The new firetruck is one of three propositions on the ballot. The other two concern the renovation of Fire Headquarters and financing tax certiorari claims against the district. There's also an election for fire commissioner.
Greenville's website says that, if the resolutions are approved, the fire district will issue one bond combining the three items. It was not clear what will happen if any of the propositions fail.
The fire truck would be paid for by issuing up to $950,000 in serial bonds and appropriating up to $300,000 from the district's capital reserve fund.
The district says the concept of "saving up" for a major purchase has become unrealistic due in part to the significant increase in price for large-ticket items like fire trucks.
Voting will take place Tuesday from 2 to 9 p.m. at the firehouse at 711 Central Park Ave.
|December 08, 2014|
Short-Staffed Buffalo Fire Department to Blast Past Overtime Averages - NY
The Buffalo Fire Department is short-staffed by nearly 15 percent, and that's leading to several million dollars of overtime paid out by the city but it's a problem that has lasted more than a decade, according the the local fire union's president.
"Why is there overtime? 200 of our members have retired since 2009, and the people that were hired didn't replace the total number of people that have retired," said Local 282 President Dan Cunningham.
The Buffalo Fire Department is short 90 members, leading to $4.6 million of overtime paid out to firefighters in the first six months of the year, according to Cunningham.
"The city of Buffalo hadn't hired an employee from the fire department from 2002 until September of 2009," Cunningham said.
From 2009-2012, he said the city hired 148 new firefighters, but it's still not enough. Cunningham says back in June, 2,000 candidates were placed on a list after passing the written firefighter's exam, but that's not all there is to it.
"There is training that's required to move the process of hiring new firefighters forward, and we're working on getting that training accomplished, which requires the support and assistance of unionized firefighters," he said.
That training is called the Candidate Physical Ability Test. Cunningham said firefighters would have to volunteer to work four hours of overtime to administer the training. He said 47 firefighters have signed up, but Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield won't start the training until 100 firefighters sign up.
"They're wanting our members, who are working an exorbitant amount of overtime because the city is short. Now they want them to work more overtime to take this test so they can verify it's a good test," the union president said.
Since 2007, the city has spent an average of $8.7 million a year in overtime to firefighters. This year is already on pace to pass that, especially with the response effort to last month's snowstorm. Mayor Byron Brown said he is aware of the issue, but said there are regulations and contract issues that he has to work through.
"The fire department, in terms of its hiring, is under federal court order, so that is based on past discrimination in hiring that goes back many, many years before I was in office as mayor. So, we have to work with the federal government," Brown said.
But Cunningham said after years of going through this, that's not an excuse.
"The Department of Justice has been involved in hiring in the City of Buffalo since 1974, and they can't get it straight?" he said.
|December 07, 2014|
Firefighter Hurt During St. Louis Fire - MO
ST. LOUIS -- A firefighter was hurt battling a fire that gutted the apartment of a family of four this afternoon in the 1200 block of North 16th Street, fire officials said.
Batallion Chief Mike Killingsworth said 16-year-old twin brothers and a man got out of the apartment safely and called for help about 4:50 p.m.
The fire caused extensive damage to their apartment but the flames did not reach the others in the three-story building in the Carr Square complex.
The injured firefighter suffered from smoke inhalation and was taken to a hospital, officials said. The firefighter's injuries were not considered life-threatening. No one else was hurt.
There was a brief scare at the scene because of reports of a missing child. It was quickly learned that the child was still at school.
Killingsworth said the cause of the fire was unknown.
The Red Cross was at the scene to offer help to displaced residents. The property manager said the family in the apartment where the fire started lost all their belongings. Other apartments had smoke damage but residents were expected to be able to return to them next week.
Denise Hollinshed is a crime reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
|December 07, 2014
Effects of Chemical Blast on Calif. Firefighters Still Unknown - CA
SANTA PAULA, Calif. -- Three Santa Paula firefighters were the first to show up on a dark morning in mid-November after the back of a truck exploded at a wastewater plant west of town.
Told that it was only a sewage explosion, they entered the grounds of the Santa Clara Waste Water Co. without any special protection for what turned out to be a chemical blast, Fire Chief Rick Araiza said last week. Now, the firefighters are ill and on 30-day disability leave with an unknown prognosis, he said.
Capt. Milo Bustillos, Engineer Matt Lindsey and firefighter Matt May declined to comment on the advice of legal counsel. But Araiza said the men's illnesses plus damage to an engine that may never be returned to duty have created havoc in the Santa Paula Fire Department.
"I'm extremely upset," Araiza said. "I've lost some of my best firefighters."
The fallout is personal for the small department serving a city of 30,000, he said.
"We know their families," he said. "We grew up together. For this to happen when they're doing their jobs is just devastating."
He fears his best fire engine -- one of three in the department -- may be a total loss because of contamination. A city mechanic sent to help clean up the engine has fallen ill, as well, he said.
It's unknown how fully they will recover amid continued mystery over the substance that exploded around 3:45 a.m. Nov. 18. The exact identity of the chemical will probably never be known, said Rick Bandelin, hazardous materials manager for the Ventura County Environmental Health Division.
Samples have been collected, he said, but the substance is so volatile that laboratories are refusing to test it.
Officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is assisting county officials in the investigation, declined to say how unusual the spill site is, saying only that each site has unique characteristics. But the mixture of chemicals has properties that are difficult to neutralize, officials said.
Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said the incident began when the back of a vacuum truck exploded after pressure built up from the chemicals inside. Then a couple of hours later as the sun came up, the chemical dried, became volatile and ignited, he said.
Dozens of people were treated for potential exposure, two people were injured and evacuations were ordered.
Araiza gathered his crews together Saturday morning to update them and help his department begin to heal.
"We're hurting right now," he said.
The Ventura County Fire Department also responded, but Lorenzen knew of no ongoing respiratory issues for firefighters who were at the scene.
Lorenzen said firefighters were assured by staff on site that there was nothing hazardous at the facility.
"Based on that, they went in," he said, adding that the firefighters might have taken additional precautions if they had known the nature of the explosion.
All the county firefighters have returned to work, he said.
Dr. David Mescher, a pulmonologist who practices in Oxnard and Camarillo, said it's difficult to predict how well patients will recover without identification of the chemical.
"Without knowing what the chemical is and the intensity of exposure and the duration of exposure, you really don't know," he said.
Santa Paula operates one of the smallest fire departments in the county, with 18 firefighters and 30 reserves.
The city can depend on aid from other fire departments if there's a big fire, but the worry is the day-to-day demands for the agency that responds to 2,400 calls a year. Firefighters handle city fires and medical calls, inspect buildings for fire safety and are automatically dispatched to fires in Fillmore and the unincorporated territory between Ventura and Santa Paula.
|December 07, 2014
WHEEL FALLS OFF LINTHICUM FIRE PUMPER - MD
Firefighters from the Linthicum Fire Station had the ride of a lifetime Sunday, when their Fire Engines front wheel failed nearly causing a serious accident.The Fire Department had received multiple reports of a dwelling fire in the 200 block of 6 Ave NE shortly before 1 p.m. Several units from Glen Burnie area, including the Linthicum station, responded. Arriving crews reported a working fire in the attic. That fire was brought under control a short time later.
Accidents like these proves how dangerous the job of Firefighting can be. In fact, many of the annual fatalities involving firefighters are due directly to vehicle collisions. There were no reports of injuries in this incident. County maintenance crews responded to the scene to assist the stranded engine. An investigation will take place so officials can determine what exactly caused the failure.
|December 07, 2014
FF INJURED BY PIECE OF FALLING ROOF - KC
A firefighter was injured while battling a house fire in Kansas City on Sunday morning.Firefighters were called to a house fire on East 77th Terrace near Troost just after 5 a.m. Sunday.
A piece of roof fell on the firefighter's head. He was taken to hospital with burns but is expected to be OK.
A mother and child live in the home but were not there at the time of the fire.
Most of the second floor was gutted from the fire. It is not considered a total loss but it is not livable.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
|December 07, 2014
ATLANTA FF INJURED AT OK CAFE FIRE - GA
The Atlanta Fire Department was called out to OK Cafe on the corner of West Paces Ferry Road and Northside Parkway around 8 a.m. Sunday.
A woman who was inside the restaurant when the fire started says there were around 50 people inside at the time. She says a waiter began running through the restaurant yelling for everyone to leave.
No flames were visible, but there was a burnt smell inside, according to a witness.
“We started getting smoke, smelling smoke and then they said it was on fire and they told us to evacuate and run out, so we got the customers out and we got out. Everybody got out safe, everybody is fine,” said Melissa Rogers, who has been a waitress at the restaurant for 13 years.
AFD says no injuries were reported from the initial fire. One firefighter was injured on the scene and taken to Atlanta Medical Center. There is no word on the firefighter’s injuries or condition.
The owner told Channel 2’s Steve Gehlbach he believes it started because of an electrical issue with a hot water heater. He told Gehlbach they were having issues with the heater and called an electrician, but quickly called 911 when smoke started building.
Atlanta firefighters could be seen on the roof above the Take Away section for most of the morning on Sunday.
The restaurant, which is considered an Atlanta landmark, has been in business since 1987.
The General Manager told Gehlbach the dining room seems to be OK and they plan to rebuild and reopen soon.
“All our staff as we approach the holiday season, that’s really the tough part. You know, what are they going to do now? We’ve always done the right thing for them and we will continue to do the right thing for them. It’s just a sad state of affairs. This place means a lot to a lot of people in this community,” said General Manager Carlos Alarcon.
|December 07, 2014
Firefighter breaks leg battling house fire in southwest Houston - TX
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- A Houston firefighter is recovering in the hospital this morning after he broke his leg battling an overnight house fire in southwest Houston.
Arson investigators say something electrical sparked the flames.
The fire broke out around 8:30 last night on Trail Lake Lane near Rocky Springs Trail.
Firefighters found heavy smoke pouring from the home as they arrived.
Despite mechanical problems, firefighters say it took them just minutes to douse the flames.
Houston firefighter Scott Artze said, "We had some mechanical problems when we got on location and had one firefighter get injured while we were hooking up the fire hydrant."
The home's garage and attic were damaged in the blaze.
|December 07, 2014
Firefighter Crashes on Way to Philly Rowhome Blaze - PA
A Philadelphia firefighter was heading to a fire early Saturday morning when his car collided with another vehicle only a few blocks from the blaze.
The crash occurred near the intersection of Jasper and East Atlantic streets in the Kensington section of the city around 2 a.m. -- moments after crews responded to the house fire on the 3300 block of Jasper Street, near East Wensley Street, officials said.
It is unclear if the Battalion Chief was hurt in the crash. The woman driving the other vehicle -- an unlicensed driver -- was taken to a local hospital for treatment, authorities said. The severity of her injuries is unknown.
The house fire was placed under control at 2:25 a.m. No one was hurt in the blaze.
Read more: http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Firefighter-Crashes-on-Way-to-Philly-Rowhome-Blaze-Kensington-Jasper-284963721.html#ixzz3LGvXvPUI
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|December 07, 2014
Hartford firefighters involved in altercation at house fire - CT
HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - Two Hartford firefighters were involved in an altercation while responding to a fire Saturday.
At about 1:40 p.m. Hartford police officers were dispatched to the fire house at 25 Blue Hills Ave. for a report of a fight between two Hartford Fire Department lieutenants.
According to police, the incident involves a reported fight between the two lieutenants at a fire located at 16 Chatham Street. The fire was reported at 11:56 a.m. Saturday. Police said both lieutenants, and a witness who is a Hartford Fire Department employee, were interviewed.
Eyewitness New has obtained the 911 calls made by one of the firefighters to police.
"Can you send an officer to the firehouse? I want to file an assault complaint against a firefighter," one of the firefighters involved in the altercation said during the 911 call.
The lieutenant was calling police about the other fire lieutenant who he says hit him in the back of the head causing his helmet to fly off after getting into a heated argument.
"Is that party there as well," the police dispatcher asked the lieutenant.
"Pardon me? No he's not," the lieutenant said to dispatch.
Neither of the lieutenants wanted to press charges.
"We are a fire department as well as a family," said Chief Carlos Huertas, of the Hartford Fire Department. "The women and men of this department are performing a very technical and dangerous job during the most difficult and stressful of times. Today's incident only proves that our brave firefighters are human. Rest assured, we will examine this incident and take appropriate action to ensure public safety."
According to police, the incident was not in public view and there were no reported injuries.
A police dispatcher called the fire house after the lieutenant called the complaint, to make sure it was a legitimate call.
"I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but Engine 14 just filed a report for some sort of assault that went on there," the dispatcher said.
Sources told Eyewitness News both firefighters have been placed on administrative leave.
The homeowner where the fire broke out said he didn't see or hear anything out of the ordinary at the time, but sources said one lieutenant was allegedly telling the other lieutenant what to do.
The sources said one lieutenant hit the other in the back of the head, knocking his helmet off.
|December 07, 2014
EMT Hurt in Ambulance Crash Recovering - MD
A Maryland EMT seriously injured in an ambulance crash earlier this week has been released from the hospital.
EMT Jay Stanton, a volunteer at Elkridge Vol. Fire Department, who suffered extensive leg injuries, was released from R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center on Friday.
He still has a long road to recovery, friends said.
On Monday night, Stanton was driving the ambulance responding to a mutual aid call when it crested a hill on U.S. 1. There was a tractor trailer blocking all three lanes as it had been involved in an earlier collision.
The ambulance hit the back of a Hyundai Sonata, then hit the side of the trailer, police reported.
Stanton was pinned in the wreckage of the ambulance for more than an hour. Two others in the ambulance were released after treatment at a local hospital.
Several civilians including a child were hurt as well.
|December 07, 2014
Responders Still Dealing with Sandy Hook Shooting Trauma - CT
NEWTOWN -- EMT Peter Houlahan of Redding has never missed a day of work over a bad emergency call. He has never been so emotionally overwhelmed by trauma that he lost his focus on patient care.
But something changed the day he was called to the worst crime scene in Connecticut history -- at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 first-graders and six educators were killed by a young gunman who then killed himself.
"Before Sandy Hook I looked at the world as a good place where bad things happened," the 53-year-old father of two said. "Now I look at the world as a bad place where good things happen."
Like most EMTs and firefighters and police who responded to Sandy Hook on Dec. 14, 2012, Houlahan is doing the same job he was doing that horrible day, coping with the stress that comes with confronting death so frequently.
But unlike a growing number of police and firefighters, Houlahan has not sought help -- either from peers or from professionals -- even though he knows where to find it.
"You almost feel like 'I can't close my eyes anymore -- I see those children, I see those parents,' " said Houlahan, recalling the kids he saw running from the school building as he approaced, and the parents in the Newtown firehouse waiting to hear the worst.
"Then there is the anxiety and the anger and the fear," he says. "But I haven't had to get help. I feel like. What's the point? I have gone on a lot of bad calls."
As recently as a generation ago, Houlahan's reservations might have gone unchallenged. But Connecticut's public safety culture is changing, and with it perhaps the notion that emergency service workers are somehow immune to emotional injury.
"Brain science and the accumulative and acute effects of post-traumatic stress have shown us that this needs to be put on the front burner," said state police Sgt. Troy Anderson, who has been running a peer-driven counseling and support program since 2007. "There is no predisposition or DNA gene that allows us to go to scenes nobody signed up to see."
In addition to stress management sessions for first responders, which have gained acceptance in firehouses and police departments in Connecticut over the past two decades, a new Trauma Recovery Network has started in Fairfield County and a new Recovery and Resiliency Team has begun outreach in Newtown as a result of the Sandy Hook tragedy.
Both groups strive to help first responders recognize problems with sleep, appetite and intimacy as manifestations of emotional injury that must be treated just like physical injury.
"We are not so stigmatized by this anymore," said Bernie Meehan, assistant fire chief in Danbury and a paramedic in Roxbury who has run about 400 debriefings for first responders after traumatic incidents. "It is not a big deal now if you go to a varsity-level tragedy and you say 'I took a hit there.' If you took a good shot traumatically, most first responders won't bust a person's chops for that."
Still, obstacles remain. The stigma that keeps some first responders from making the connection between trauma and mental health is rooted in a culture where asking for help has traditionally been seen as a sign of weakness.
In Newtown, a handful of officers have left the department and several others have faced disciplinary hearings since the Sandy Hook shootings, said Eric Brown, an attorney for the Newtown police union.
"It's speculative because none of it is proven, but most people would agree that Sandy Hook had an impact on them," Brown said.
In neighboring Danbury, where Brown also represents police, an city officer was disciplined for off-duty behavior that was eventually linked to his hospital duty the day of the tragedy.
"I think people want to believe that cops are superheroes," Brown said. "Nobody wants to hear that a cop has a mental health issue."
With the second anniversary of the mass shooting one week away, officials are saying little publicly in deference to the families of the victims. But first responders are using peer programs to keep the conversation open about stress management.
"We are keeping it alive because we know we have to," said Anderson, the state police sergeant. "If anybody sets the tone that we have to move on, that creates a barrier to treatment if somebody needs it."
Barriers to recovery
Houlahan's was the third ambulance to arrive at Sandy Hook. Two ambulances before him had rushed victims to the hospital. He was poised to enter the school when he was told no one else could be saved.
"We knew what was inside there and I was grateful I didn't go in," Houlahan said. "I saw others, from the most highly trained law enforcement we have, come out upset, resting on each other's shoulders. I saw one guy who was in such shock I can still see his eyes. I will never forget it."
Equally unsettling for him and scores of other first responders was the empty feeling of knowing that they couldn't help.
"I had EMS guys lined up behind me and what was really disturbing was this deep feeling of sadness that there was nothing to hold on to," he said. "I had days where I felt like my legs were kicking out from under me, but I didn't think that I had anything to talk about."
"I felt like, Who am I to go get help, when all I was doing was sitting there?"
His experience is common among first responders, said Dr. Jill Barron, a psychiatrist who completed a study for Newtown in 2013 about recovering from the tragedy.
"(E)vidence has shown that the more aware or reflective one is, the better able they are to withstand stress, and they are less likely to experience 'burnout' in addition to a host of physical problems," Barron wrote in her recommendations for first responders.
Houlahan has reflected deeply on that day, and has written a moving first-person account of his experience.
"I have been to very dark places with depression," he said. "It's not that I am spiraling into this acute depression; it is just my perspective on things. I have tried to face it and take it on when I saw it coming."
Since the beginning of stress debriefings for first responders after the L'Ambiance Plaza collapse in Bridgeport killed 28 workers in 1987, the tools to diffuse trauma-related stress have increased substantially.
One therapeutic technique that is becoming popular is called EMRD -- for Eye Movement, Desensitization and Reprocessing.
"There is research indicating that these traumatic experiences are damaging to people's brains," said Meehan. "EMRD is a way to redirect some of those thought patterns."
Anderson says there are more treatment options than people might expect.
"We were able to get many of our people trained in Transcendental Meditation," he said. "What we are saying is you really need to explore the options. There is an option out there for everyone."
Part of the challenge of helping all first responders get the help they need is the special nature of their work environments.
A firehouse is more amenable to a conversation than an ambulance garage, for example, particularly when firefighters are sitting around a meal of pork roast and potatoes.
"It is fairly easy to diffuse a rough call when you are breaking bread with your brothers," Meehan says. "You can look at these young guys and remember what it was like when you were their age and say, 'You did a good job.' "
EMTs tend to be more isolated and overworked.
"Every good EMT I know becomes detached at the scene," said Houlahan. "Detachment has its good points, but the bad side is you almost don't have the emotional vocabulary to take these things on and recognize them."
While hundreds of first responders were affected by the tragedy at Sandy Hook, either as part of the investigation or in a support role, those closest to the horror were Newtown's first responders.
"I think the men and the women in the police department understand the need to be vigilant and take care of their mental health," Brown said. "I don't think it is easy but I think they are doing okay.
"I don't know the extent to which they are suffering," he added. "It would be hard for me to imagine that they aren't suffering."
The Newtown Police Department was in the headlines last year because of its plans to fire an officer named Thomas Bean, who said he was so traumatized by Sandy Hook that he could not pick up a gun. The department backed off those plans under public pressure, but informed Bean that the town insurance policy would pay his long-term disability benefits for only two years.
Bean had arrived at Sandy Hook 20 minutes after the gunfire ended. He was assigned to interior security, and later called what he saw 'horrific.' He awoke the next morning feeling numb and thought about cutting himself with a razor blade "just to feel something."
Bean is fighting the town for what he says is his right under the police union contract to receive disability benefits until the date of his retirement, which would be 12 more years.
The case is being heard by the state Board of Mediation and Arbitration. A key point at issue is that post-traumatic stress disorder is not covered in state workers compensation law as a workplace injury.
Bean went to Hartford in March to ask the General Assembly's Public Safety and Security Committee to pass legislation that would cover his condition.
Brown, who represents Bean, said the bill stalled because legislators fear it would cost municipalities too much money.
"The politicians don't have the will because their constituents don't," Brown said. "If you have a broken arm, you can X-ray it, but if you have a broken heart, no X-ray is going to show that."
Newtown police Capt. Joe Rios said the effect trauma has on emergency service workers and first responders is a reality.
"We recognize there are significant mental health issues concerning 12/14 and other critical incidents such as a serious crash or the death of a child," Rios said. "So how we take care of each other on a daily basis is important, and I think the awareness and the understanding is growing."
Meanwhile the Newtown community has rallied around its first responders.
"They are such a dedicated and stoic group of people that I don't know if they know how much we appreciate them and respect them," said Donna Culbert, director of the Newtown Health District. "They are still our rock."
|December 07, 2014
Medic describes putting out blaze at fire station - SC
YEMASSEE, S.C. — Brad Welch had just settled in for a night’s rest at the EMS station in Yemassee when a panicked voice came in on the radio.
“I could hear a sense of fear,” Welch recalled.
Welch, a paramedic, was on call with Hampton County EMS and bolted out the station’s front door. He saw smoke billowing out of the Yemassee Fire Station that was just across the small parking lot.
Welch ran to the station, opened the side door and saw fire spreading across the back wall.
Also trained as a firefighter, Welch, 28, started one of the fire engines and extinguished the blaze, which took about 10 minutes.
“I was only doing my job,” Welch insists.
Two former volunteer firefighters — Christopher Williams, 22, and Dominique Thompson, 21 — have been accused of setting the fire at about 11:30 p.m. Nov. 18, trapping another volunteer firefighter in the station’s office, Fire Chief Paul Holmes said.
The trapped firefighter — a 17-year-old who has not been identified because of his age — escaped without harm and helped Welch put out the fire, Welch said.
“The Town Hall and fire station were saved,” Fire Chief Paul Holmes said. “If (Welch) had not responded as fast as he did, the whole Town Hall would probably have been in flames, and we’d have lost fire trucks and ambulances (parked at the station).”
The fire damaged one of the station’s doors and walls, Holmes said. It also caused minor damage to a fire truck, but it is still operable.
Though a full-time paramedic, Welch is no stranger to fighting fires. He is a certified firefighter EMT and worked for the Bamberg Fire Department from 2000 to 2004.
When responding to fires as a firefighter, Welch is dressed in protective clothing — fully covered with gloves, boots and a helmet. The EMS uniform he was wearing is much less protective, and not made to fight fires.
But that didn’t slow Welch.
“It happened so fast, I didn’t have time to think about what I was doing before I did it,” Welch said. “I was trained to do that, so it was just kind of nature.”
Welch said he didn’t see anyone outside when he emerged from the EMS station, including the suspects.
Williams and Thompson were identified on the fire station’s surveillance camera and charged hours later with allegedly setting the fire, Holmes said.
During an interrogation, one of the two men said they both poured gasoline around the fire station door at about 11 p.m. and lit it because they were “feuding” with the volunteer firefighter who was inside, Yemassee police Capt. Greg Alexander said.
Williams and Thompson were charged with attempted murder and second-degree arson. They are being held at the Hampton County Detention Center, with bonds set at $300,000 each, according to a jail official.
|December 07, 2014|
3 emergency dispatchers fired following deputy's shooting - FL
Three veteran dispatch agency workers were fired this morning when an internal review determined they did not follow dispatch protocol for a fire call that led to the shooting death of Leon County Deputy Chris Smith.
Tim Lee, director of the joint Consolidated Dispatch Agency, told the agency's board he terminated the employees because they failed to relay to first responders call notes put in the system just two weeks prior that Curtis Wade Holley had threatened to shoot law enforcement officers if they came to his door.
Lee said the dispatchers were trained to relay the information — which popped up as it was supposed to on the right side of their computer screens — but for reasons he could not explain, each failed to click on the alert.
"The system functioned properly. It displayed the premise hazard," Lee said. "The dispatcher, through human error, failed to click on the premise hazard."
Consequently, on the morning of Nov. 22, firefighters and Deputies Smith and Colin Wulfekuhl were sent without warning to 3722 Caracus Court for what they thought was a simple house fire. Instead, they were ambushed by Holley, 53, who investigators said harbored anti-government views and set the home ablaze to lure first responders.
Smith, a 47-year-old married father of two, was first on the scene and immediately shot and killed by Holley. Holley then turned his .40 caliber handgun on Wulfekuhl, who was saved by his bullet-proof vest as he ordered arriving firefighters to stay back. After a 12-minute gun battle in the middle of the street in the quiet neighborhood, Tallahassee Police Officer Scott Angulo shot and killed Holley.
Leon County Sheriff's Office Maj. Robert Swearingen said it's unknown whether or not Smith would have changed how he approached the call had he known about Holley's threats.
But, said Swearingen, who spoke on behalf of Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell, the failure of dispatchers to relay the information was inexcusable.
"The Leon County Sheriff's Office is gravely concerned and deeply troubled about the CDA staff not providing available, critical officer safety information to Deputy Chris Smith and Deputy Colin Wulfekuhl and all of the first responders who were dispatched to 3722 Caracus Court," he said.
An internal CDA review of the incident found an "officer safety" alert was entered into the dispatch system for the northwest Tallahassee home on Nov. 8 at the request of LCSO Sgt. Wiley Meggs.
"Per Sgt. Meggs with LCSO if we got a call at this residence he wants to be notified no matter what time," the alert stated. "Mr. Holley (if he is the owner of the residence) has threatened to shoot any law enforcement that comes to his residence. This is valid until told otherwise by Sgt. Meggs as of 11/8/2014 at 11:16 hours."
LCSO officials would not disclose what caused Meggs to have the warning added, citing the ongoing investigation into the overall shooting incident.
The dispatchers fired were: Gwen Forehand, a 25-year veteran; Doyal Hester, a 20-year-employee and Darrel Newman, who had 10 years on the job. They were all fired over the phone, Lee said.
Shante Knight, a new employee undergoing training, was suspended for two weeks without pay.
Forehand, one of the three fired, told the Tallahassee Democrat that Lee was "an awesome director," but that more training is needed at the agency.
"Hindsight is 20/20, working a call is not that easy," she said. "It's easy to go back and look back and say, 'Hey this is what happened.' I just hate people had to get fired behind it."
She chose not to discuss the details of the Nov. 22 incident. The Democrat was unable to contact Newman or Hester.
Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox has been expressing concerns about the dispatch system for months.
"I think we have systemic problems at the CDA, which is why I ordered an audit prior to this horrible tragedy," Maddox said. "I am waiting for those results."
City Auditor Bert Fletcher, who is heading up the audit, said it is 75 percent complete and will include reviews of processes, training, technological issues and staffing.
Since opening last September, the dispatch center has been plagued with problems, including dozens of technological errors that led to shutdowns.
In the still-unsolved July killing of FSU law professor Dan Markel in his Betton Hills garage, first responders were initially sent to the wrong address because of a software-driven error.
Lee said he has made a recommendation to Motorola, the system vendor, to modify the system so a dispatcher could not process a call without clicking on the "premise hazard" field and alerting first responders of potential danger.
Moving forward, he said, such system warnings will be annually evaluated for accuracy and dispatchers will receive training that reinforces CDA procedures. The agency's quality-assurance staff will verify that premise hazards, if present, are viewed when calls come in.
"I take very seriously the actions that are being taken and that my position is to represent the community as well as the first responders," Lee said. "I think my immediate reaction to the response and the incident has shown that we take these events seriously."
Leon County Administrator Vince Long, who chairs the CDA's board of directors, said the agency has assigned officers from the different law enforcement agencies to review and analyze the dispatch center's processes.
Despite recent events, Long expressed his confidence in Lee.
"We fully support director Lee's actions," he said. "This just speaks to the fact that this function is provided by imperfect people with imperfect technology and certainly under imperfect circumstances."
|December 05, 2014
Safety Issues Surfaced Days Before Conn. Firefighter Died - CT
Two days before Hartford firefighter Kevin Bell was killed on duty, an internal department email revealed an inspection of his engine company's equipment found numerous safety problems, including completely empty air tanks.
Bell's breathing apparatus was seized as part of the investigation into his death on Oct. 7. There is no indication whether equipment issues played a role in his death.
In a stinging e-mail written on Sunday, Oct. 5, Lt. John Nolan of Bell's Engine Co. 16 cited equipment issues including a generator empty of fuel, a water hose not working properly and two empty Scott air bottles.
"Life safety cannot be taken lightly," Nolan wrote in e-mail to Fire Chief Carlos M. Huertas. The emails were obtained by the Courant under the Freedom of Information Act.
"(Fire) House work has not been performed anywhere near satisfactory, if at all," Nolan said, referring to routine equipment checks that are supposed to be done daily at the end of each shift.
Nolan's email requests that Huertas assign for "retraining" another lieutenant in the company and a firefighter who he alleged indicated that a water hose was ready for use when it was not.
Within 20 minutes of getting Nolan's e-mail, Huertas forwarded it interim Assistant Chief Terry Waller ordering him to immediately correct "this egregious behavior."
"I require Fire Services from both shifts explaining what in the 'Sam Hill' is going on," Huertas wrote.
Huertas, who Friday declined to comment on the issues at Engine Co. 16, ordered Waller to make sure anyone not adhering to proper safety protocols aware they will be subject to discipline, including potentially being fired.
Waller responded early on Oct. 6 "that I will handle it and give you a report ASAP."
A review of e-mails from July through November does not indicate whether Waller reported back to Huertas about the equipment problems.
Another email, sent Sept. 24 from fire official Stephen Larkum to Huertas and Waller, reveals that the engine company's thermal imaging camera was not working properly. The cameras can be used to find firefighters through smoke and fire.
Engine 16's imager was purchased in 2005, making it one of the oldest in the department. In his e-mail, Larkum wrote that given its age the department should consider replacing it at a cost of $10,000.
"As you know this is a very important piece of equipment that everyone relies on," Larkum wrote.
Department sources said that Engine 16's thermal imager wasn't replaced prior to the fatal fire and that it obtained a one three days after Bell's death
Bell, 48, a six-year veteran of the department was killed while fighting a fire in a two-story home on Blue Hills Avenue, not far from his firehouse.
He was found unconscious on the second floor in a room to the right of the stairwell. He was discovered missing after Deputy Chief James McLoughlin, the incident commander, ordered all firefighters from the building and conducted a head count.
A second firefighter, Jason Martinez, 29, was seriously injured when he jumped from a second floor window in front of the building. Martinez suffered burns on 10 percent of his body and was taken to Bridgeport Hospital's burn unit. He was released Oct. 30 and has not returned to work.
The state fire marshal's office, Conn-OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are conducting separate investigations of the blaze. Huertas also appointed a board of inquiry to review the department's actions. More than 70 firefighters were at the scene of the fire.
The investigations are expected to take 6 to 8 months to complete. The state medical examiner has not issued a cause of death and a cause of the fire has not been determined.
|December 05, 2014
Sticker shock: Spat between Detroit fire and police over parking spot - MI
DETROIT (WJBK) - A coveted parking spot leads to a sticky situation between police and fire.
Detroit police and fire work as a team and often times where you see one, you'll see the other.
Earlier this week one firefighter was heated over a police officer's pick of parking spot at the Detroit Public Safety Building.
The officer's car then ended up covered in firefighter stickers along with a note, which made Edsel Jenkins, the executive fire commissioner, livid.
"Totally embarrassing, inexcusable and unacceptable," he said. "There are designated parking spots inside headquarters and at times, depending up the urgency, somebody might park in somebody else's parking space, but that is no reason to put stickers on someone's windshield, that's inappropriate."
Stickers stuck to the personal car of a police officer, along with a nasty gram from a firefighter which read "Stay out of our spot, you are not the senior chief of fire department, I will be informing the chief of police," signed.
The names, FOX 2 will keep secret for now.
"I've spoken with the individual, but it's under investigation by DPD, Internal Affairs," Jenkins said. "They conduct investigations not just for DPD but for DFD. I'm going to wait for them to complete that investigation before I take any action."
It started on the sixth floor of the parking structure which is where the convenient foot-bridge is to get inside the public safety building.
Police said the night before Thanksgiving, an officer parked her car, inside the garage, before she headed in for roll call.
The officer stopped in one of the coveted spaces, closest to the door which she thought it was fair game with few cars around.
That was about 10 p.m. but when she returned to her car around 4 a.m. it was covered with the stickers that say "I visited a fire station" with a note.
The officer filed a police report. and trying to remove this reminders stuck to her car.
FOX 2 was told that the officer didn't realize the space was reserved for Detroit Fire Department personnel until after the sticker shock.
"We hope to be roll models for young people in the city of Detroit," Jenkins said. "And we're supposed to be above reproach and someone that the average citizen looks up to.
"It's inappropriate conduct and in our rules and regulations there are penalties for that."
"I'm embarrassed that this happened and we're going to guarantee that it doesn't happen again."
With Internal Affairs is handling the investigation police declined comment.
|December 05, 2014|
Fire Department Settles Sexual Harassment Case for $1.1 Million - NJ
NJ Fire Department Settles Sexual Harassment Case for $1.1 Million
The terms of a settlement announced last month by a New Jersey borough have finally been disclosed, and the female firefighter who claimed to have been sexually harassed will be receiving $1.1 million.
According to news reports, Kerry “Kira” Mansueto has agreed to accept $1.1 million to settle the lawsuit she filed in 2011 against the Borough of Cateret. The story was in the headlines recently when Mayor Daniel Reiman vowed to take disciplinary action against the male firefighters involved in the scandal. That vow followed a news expose into the case by Home News Tribune and MyCentralJersey.com reporter Sergio Bichao.
MyCentralJersey.com quoted Mayor Reiman as saying “Let me be clear: The settlement of the civil legal matter does not mean that the borough accepts any or all claims in the initial complaint as fact. However, based on the investigation to date, there appears to be evidence of behavior that is disturbing and unacceptable — and there is no department or office in this community where such things will be tolerated.”
Mansueto and her attorneys are claiming that Mayor Reiman’s failure to address her concerns are partially responsible for the harassment continuing for as long as it did. Calling the Mayor’s statement a “crock”, Mansueto’s attorney, Alan Genitempo was quoted as saying “She asked them to investigate. If they had taken action back then, there never would have been a lawsuit. They failed to recognize their obligations. I think that they did what people should never do and that is to take the words of the harasser over the victim without ever speaking to her.”
Mansueto herself was quoted as saying: “The mayor blew me off. He wouldn’t return my calls. His calendar was always booked. The fact that all that happened and now the mayor is saying that I never reported anything is very, very disturbing.”
Here is a copy of the settlement: Mansueto-v-Carteret-settlement-agreement
|December 05, 2014|
EMSA Investigates, Learns Following Ambulance Crashes - OK
Per routine procedure, EMSA is conducting its own review of Tuesday's crash involving an ambulance and the extrication of the driver from a pickup.
Just before 4 p.m. Tuesday, a green pickup crossed the center line and collided with an EMSA ambulance near the W. Edmond Road-State Street intersection, Edmond Police Department spokeswoman Jenny Monroe said in a previous report.
The 17-year-old driver of the pickup was transported to OU Medical Center's Presbyterian Tower in Oklahoma City, Monroe said. Fire rescue personnel used a variety of tools to extricate him from the severely damaged truck.
Monroe said the teen's injuries were non-life threatening. A passenger in the pickup was not injured and left the scene with a parent, Monroe said.
"We are lucky that is the case," she said. "It could have been much worse."
Monroe said crash investigators still have some work to do before issuing any citations.
EMSA spokeswoman Lara O'Leary said two EMSA personnel and a student were transported in good condition to a local hospital, treated for bumps and bruises and released.
At the time of the crash, the five-ton ambulance was in the process of pre-positioning for the next call, O'Leary said. Per routine procedure, when word of the crash came in, another ambulance was immediately dispatched to the scene, O'Leary said.
EMSA contracts with a private ambulance service to provide emergency medical care and dispatching. O'Leary said the agency owns and operates 55 ambulances in central Oklahoma and 45 in northeast Oklahoma, where the population is slightly lower.
After any crash, EMSA has procedures in place for personnel to follow including sending a supervisor to the scene, conducting its own investigation and working closely with local law enforcement, O'Leary said. The review includes determining cause and implementing changes if needed, O'Leary said.
Medics complete thorough training including how to handle anambulance, O'Leary said.
|December 05, 2014
Firefighter hit on I-5 urges drivers to move over - WA
TUKWILA, Wash. -- Five days after a scary crash on Interstate 5, Tukwila firefighter Greg Hansen told his frightening story.
It was Saturday at 6 p.m. when he responded to a crash on the interstate. While he was working with the victim of a collision, a second car hit him and sent him approximately 12 feet into the air.
In 2007 Washington state passed a law requiring all vehicles to move over when they see emergency workers at work on the highway. At this point the investigation is ongoing and once the Washington State Patrol determines who is at fault, the driver or drivers will be cited. WSP is hoping anyone who is a witness to the crash will contact them immediately.
"I don't remember it happening. The next thing I remember is there's a bunch of people over me working on me," firefighter Greg Hansen said. "All I remember is a boom, boom and the next thing I remember is that I'm on the ground and in the most pain that I've ever been in in my life."
Greg's wife Mary Prentice was at home when she learned her husband had been hit.
"I will tell you that that's a phone call that no family member of any emergency worker wants to ever get," Mary Prentice said. "When I knew that he was going to Harborview, I knew that something was really wrong."
Amazingly Hansen did not suffer any broken bones and was released from the hospital that night.
"I'd rather run into a burning building any day than go to a call on the freeway," Hansen said. "They don't move over. They're going by you at 60, 70 miles per hour, they don't move over. It's scary, it's very scary."
"If I had a message it would be to slow down and move over when you see emergency lights, I don't care what color they are. If they are flashing on the freeway, slow down and move over," Hansen said. "When I think about it there are thousands of ways this could have gone and each one of them is worse."
|December 04, 2014|
Grain Elevator Fire Challenges Firefighters - WI
A grain bin fire at DeLong Co. caused more than $100,000 damage Tuesday morning, according to Sharon Fire Chief Bruce Vanderveen.
Sharon firefighters were dispatched at 8:30 a.m. to DeLong Co., N545 Salt Box Road, Sharon.
When they arrived, smoke was billowing from one of the bins, and fire and smoke were belching from the trench under the bin.
The 20,000-bushel bin was holding wet corn. When corn comes in from the field, some is dried with heaters, and some is stored wet.
Fighting a fire in a grain bin is challenging, Vanderveen said.
"There's really no good way to do it," he said.
Firefighters tried to close the doors on the bin to cut off oxygen to the fire but were unable to do so.
Crews cut a hole in the bottom of the bin to try to drain the bin of corn but were only partially successful.
"When that stuff burns, it turns into a kind of tar," Vanderveen said.
Burning corn can explode if not handled correctly, he said.
The Sharon department requested mutual aid at about 8:50 a.m., and fire and ambulance crews from Clinton, Walworth, Darien, Delavan, the town of Linn, Lake Geneva and Harvard, Illinois, responded.
Just after 1 p.m., firefighters declared the bin unsound and cleared the area around it.
"It was no longer safe to have fire personnel near it," Vanderveen said.
Vanderveen put damage estimates "in excess of $100,000."
The DeLong Co. plans to bring in specialists to do salvage and recovery, Vanderveen said.
|December 04, 2014|
Ambulance Involved in Head-on Crash - KY
An ambulance headed from Harlan to a Lexington hospital was involved in a collision on Alumni Drive in Lexington on Monday.
According to Harlan EMS Operations Officer Steve Lewis, nobody was seriously hurt in the crash.
"Our crew was transporting a patient to UK Medical Center," said Lewis. "The patient's condition worsened, (so) they upgraded their status and were running emergency to get them there quicker."
Lewis said an wreck in the opposite lane occurred which placed a vehicle in the path of the ambulance.
"It hit head-on," said Lewis. "We had two crew members, a patient who is a minor and his guardian in the ambulance with him. All four of them were transported to UK Medical Center by the Lexington Fire Department."
All four ambulance occupants were treated in the emergency room and released, said Lewis.
Lewis said the patient was then taken on to the original destination.
"Severe damage to the front," said Lewis when asked about damage to the ambulance. "We've not gotten appraisers to look at it to say whether it was totaled, so we're still waiting on information on that."
Lewis said the ambulance was towed from the scene.
"We're just happy the patient and crew are OK," said Lewis. "We don't know the extent of everyone's injuries in the other vehicle, but we're glad everybody was treated and released and we hope they make a full recovery."
Sherelle Roberts, public information officer for Lexington Division of Police, said the incident involved the ambulance and two mini-vans.
Although there were three vehicles involved, Lewis said only one of them actually struck the ambulance.
"There was a road closure for just a brief period of time," said Roberts. "Probably less than an hour, because they had to wait for tow trucks to come ... After that the roadway was cleared and the situation was pretty well finished."
Neither Lewis or Roberts would release the names of any parties involved in the crash.
|December 04, 2014|
Long Beach to lay off 5 firefighters - NY
The city says it will lay off five firefighters on Jan. 1, when a $910,530 federal grant — which allowed the Fire Department to bring back personnel two years ago — comes to an end.
Officials with the Long Beach Professional Firefighters Local 287, the union representing the city’s career firefighters, say they were informed about the layoffs at a meeting with City Manager Jack Schnirman and other officials on Monday. “We were told that the grant has ended, and after the holiday we’re going to have to lay five guys off,” said Will Ryan, vice president of Local 287. “We’re extremely disappointed.”
The Fire Department consists of both a career and volunteer force, and the cuts will bring the career unit down to 25 firefighters. Schnirman, however, said that union members were aware that the layoffs were on the horizon, since the two-year grant — issued in December 2012 — was set to expire.
“Unfortunately, we’re looking at a situation where we have a grant that has expired,” Schnirman said, “and it’s something that we were all aware of two years ago.”
Residents and firefighters packed Tuesday’s City Council meeting after word quickly spread about the layoffs on social media, and there were calls for the city to reconsider and find room in the budget or other sources of funding — on a night when the city discussed plans for a new skate park.
Many cited a need to retain the firefighters, especially since the Long Beach Medical Center remains closed and turnaround times on ambulances have increased dramatically.
“I really think we need to go back and maybe trim something,” said resident Mary Volosovich. “I’m for the skate park … but the quality and protection of life — we don’t have that 24/7 [hospital] and it’s not going to be up next year or so, we all know that. Go back to your drawing board and look at this again. You can’t play with people’s lives like this.”
The discussion came on a night when Schnirman announced that the city was experiencing a widespread power outage, which led one resident to shout, “The Fire Department is on it!” to a round of applause.
“The last thing we should be cutting is our firefighters,” another resident told the council.
Schnirman pointed to a memo regarding the terms of the grant, signed by the union, which stated, “Following the completion of the [grant] cycle, the city may elect to submit a renewal application. If rejected, there is no guarantee that the city will be able to keep the five firefighters.”
“There’s no surprise here,” Schnirman said before the meeting. “We had the meeting yesterday and I said, ‘Look, guys, today is the date the grant expires, and there is no new grant.’”
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer announced the grant at a press conference two years ago, pointing to the impact Hurricane Sandy had on the community and the need for additional firefighters in Long Beach. The award was provided by the federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response program and administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The funding allowed the Fire Department to rehire five firefighters who were laid off in July 2012. The layoffs came after the city, still reeling from a multi-million-dollar deficit, claimed that the previous administration had not budgeted for those positions.
Schnirman and Fire Commissioner Scott Kemins said that the SAFER grant was not available this year. “There is no grant to reapply for,” Kemins said. “The money is drying up, and in 2013, only two departments in the state were awarded a SAFER grant, and both were less than $100,000.”
But some union members questioned the layoffs, saying that the city had budgeted for 30 firefighters in the current fiscal year. Ryan cited the “already dangerously low staffing levels.”
“The budget makes no reference in it being influenced by grant money,” he said. “I ask why we reduce it now to 25, especially if the fiscal year is until July. The city is out of its financial crisis and has increased their work force. Why are we now reducing and jeopardizing essential emergency services?”
Long Beach firefighters receive a starting salary of $40,000 per year, but longtime members of the department can earn more than $100,000.
Schnirman said that it would cost the city an additional $660,000 per year to maintain the current staffing level — the equivalent of a 2 percent tax increase. “Given that the grant has expired, we’re looking at a situation where our payroll will be impacted at approximately $55,000 per month,” he said. “Public safety, of course, is paramount, and at this point we’re looking at a situation where we would go back to historical staffing levels of the last 30-some-odd years.”
Historically, Kemins said, the Fire Department has operated with 25 career members, and would continue to operate with at least five firefighters per tour. The city also operates three ambulances, manned by career firefighters and volunteers. Schnirman said that, because of the hospital’s closure, an additional ambulance was brought in last year, at no cost to the city, from Nassau University Medical Center, to assist — an action that he said was met by a grievance filed by the union, which claimed that it violated their contract. The city also hired a consulting firm earlier this year to perform a “full-scale evaluation of its emergency response needs.”
“Those are things we will be looking at in the near future,” Schnirman said.
Some union members said after the meeting, however, that the cuts would have a negative impact on services, at a time when firefighters have already responded to more than 4,350 calls this year.
The city said it had yet to determine who would be let go, since the layoffs will be based on seniority, in keeping with civil service regulations.
“We’re looking forward to upcoming meetings with city officials and the city manager to find ways to forgo the layoffs,” Ryan said.
|December 04, 2014
3 FFs INJURED IN LEXINGTON FLASHOVER - KY
Three firefighters received minor injuries while battling a fire in Lexington.The fire happened at a home on Delmont Drive near Versailles Road on Thursday afternoon. Lexington Fire officials tell LEX 18 that three of their firefighters received minor injuries during a flashover.
A flashover occurs when everything in the room reaches combustion temperature at the same time and catches the the contents of that room on fire. The firefighters were in the front yard at the time of the combustion.
One firefighter received first degree burns to his hand.
|December 04, 2014
DALLAS FFs INJURED IN SMOKE EXLOSION - TX
Two firefighters suffered burns battling a late night house fire in Dallas.
|December 04, 2014|
Firefighters Demonstrate for Better Pay, Benefits - FL
Marion County commissioners arriving at their meeting Tuesday morning were met by firefighters and paramedics demonstrating for better pay and benefits.
Wearing yellow T-shirts and holding signs with slogans like "protect your quality of life," as many as 80 men and women lined Southeast 25th Avenue.
"The purpose is to raise awareness. People need to be made aware of the way that they (county commissioners) treat the employees in the community is unacceptable," said Ryan O'Reilly, a Marion County firefighter and paramedic.
Ryan said salary negotiations with the county are painfully slow, and county residents need to know their firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians are severely underpaid. Salaries, he said, are substantially less than what other nearby counties pay.
In many cases, the county doesn't pay a living wage, he said. "But this is not just about money. This is about public safety, as well."
Of the county commissioners, O'Reilly said, "They don't care."
Experienced emergency workers are quitting. Sixty have left in the past year and there are more than 30 vacancies that still haven't been filled, according to Marion County Fire Rescue records.
Many of those leaving are experienced emergency workers who are being replaced by less experienced men and women, O'Reilly said.
Worse yet, dozens of firefighter/paramedics qualify for food stamps, O'Reilly said.
To make sure as many people know that as possible, the Professional Firefighters of Marion County union posted the fact on an electronic billboard at Southeast 17th Street and Lake Weir Avenue.
O'Reilly, who is also an officer in the firefighter's union, said that while it is unknown how many firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians qualify for food stamps, he has counseled many, knowing their salaries and the number of dependents in their homes.
"We're talking dozens (who qualify)," he said, though he noted that most do not actually accept the government assistance.
O'Reilly said that when he began working for the county as a firefighter six years ago, he qualified for food stamps. His starting wage was $8.88 per hour. He had a wife and three children.
The Marion County Fire Rescue pay has not improved much since then, according to Marion County records.
A firefighter's beginning salary is $8.98 per hour.
An EMT's beginning salary is $8.98 per hour.
A paramedic's beginning salary is $10.98/hr.
Combination firefighter/EMTs begin at $9.83 per hour.
Combination firefighter/paramedics begin at $11.93 per hour.
Because of overtime work that is typical in this kind of job, average salaries for EMTs through firefighter/paramedics range from about $27,000 annually to $42,000, according to county salary records. The annual starting salary for firefighter/paramedics in Marion County is $35,472.
Meanwhile, response times have increased due to a lack of adequate ambulances and firefighter/paramedic crews, O'Reilly said.
Whatever the reason, response times have been climbing, records show. While the national goal is 9 minutes in most cases, Marion County has crept up to 10.6 minutes in many cases.
Marion County Fire Rescue Chief Stuart McElhaney said it has become difficult to replace emergency workers who are leaving. Most disconcerting is the difficulty in replacing experienced paramedics who have contact with patients.
He said Marion County has now become a department for new, young emergency personnel who leave once they have a little experience under their belts.
The department has about 500 employees.
Starting annual salaries for firefighter/paramedics in Gainesville is $44,188 per year. In The Villages it's $42,653; in Pasco County, it's $43,389; and in the City of Ocala, it's $37,553, according to a recent Marion County advisory board workshop report.
O'Reilly said the union wants a $2 per hour raise for its members. All Marion County employees received a 3 percent across-the-board raise in October.
Courtnie Mims, 29, is a mother of two sons and wife of a Marion County firefighter/paramedic. She was one of the people out protesting Tuesday morning.
"We're one of the families that qualifies for (government) help," she said.
She doesn't accept food stamps or other government assistance; instead, she makes other sacrifices, like eliminating cable television and using basic phone service instead of smartphones.
Her husband has been working for the county as a firefighter/paramedic four years.
Asked whether he ever thought he might be standing on the roadside waving signs asking for a pay raise when he was still learning to be a firefighter, Kevin Mims, 31, said: "I wouldn't have believed it."
County Commissioner David Moore said there is little he can say because the county is currently negotiating with the firefighters' union.
He acknowledged that his emergency personnel were not paid at the same level as those in neighboring counties. He said the county was still recovering from the recession.
"We do have some catching up to make. We're still recovering from the Great Recession. We're doing the best we can," he told the Star-Banner after Tuesday's commission meeting.
Also during the county commission meeting, commissioners unanimously voted to make Assistant County Administrator Bill Kauffman the interim county administrator. If he performs to the commission's liking until Sept. 30, he will be granted a five-year contract.
The move increases his previous annual salary from $108,576 to $157,500. He will also receive $600 per month for a vehicle allowance. After the interim period, his base salary increases to $167,500 per year.
Commissioner Stan McClain said it will mostly likely not take until September to determine whether Kauffman is doing a good job and that the board will probably discuss his future tenure before then.
Commissioner Carl Zalak said he wanted a written set of goals for Kauffman so the board could better evaluate the new administrator, and so that he better understands what the board wants of him.
The board also agreed to grant Kauffman the same authority as any county administrator, which means he can hire and fire employees.
"We can't evaluate him if we tie his hands," Zalak said.
Kauffman said he was honored by the board's faith in him.
|December 04, 2014|
Suspended cop faces DUI after hitting fire truck - PA
ERIE, Pa. (AP) - Police in Erie have charged one of their own with drunken driving for an off-duty accident in which the suspended officer allegedly rear-ended a fire truck that was backing into its station on Thanksgiving.
Online court records don't list an attorney for 28-year-old Gabriel Carducci. The Erie Times-News reports he was mailed a summons Wednesday on charges of drunken driving, careless driving and not yielding to a fire truck entering a fire station and faces a preliminary hearing Jan. 15.
Police say Carducci was glassy eyed and had a blood-alcohol content twice the state's legal limit for drivers when he crashed about 5 a.m.
Police chief Randy Bowers says Carducci was already put on leave Nov. 10 for another unspecified off-duty incident that is being investigated by outside agencies.
Carducci doesn't have a listed phone.
|December 04, 2014|
Homeless man charged with theft from Melbourne fire truck - FL
Melbourne police have arrested a homeless man on a charge of stealing items from a Melbourne fire truck near City Hall on Monday night.
According to a release from the Melbourne Police Department, witnesses reported seeing a man entering the truck around 10 p.m. through a broken rear window and removing items from it. The value of the items was estimated at more than $5,000.
When officers arrived, they reported seeing 33-year-old Jacob Alan Pelak holding items in his hands and walking away from the truck, which was parked in the 1000 block of Palmetto Avenue.
Pelak was arrested after a foot chase.
The items removed from the truck were recovered.
Pelak was charged with grand larceny of a fire extinguisher, larceny theft of more than $300 but less than $5,000, resisting an officer/obstructing without violence and burglary of an unoccupied conveyance unarmed. He remains in custody at the Brevard County Jail.
|December 04, 2014|
Firefighter Bitten While Responding To Call - MI
LANSING, MI (WLNS) - A firefighter is recovering from a nasty bite on his arm.
Officials say a drunk 27-year old man put up a fight in an ambulance and latched on with his teeth.
It happened outside of Deja Vu Strip Club on West Jolly Road in Lansing early in the morning.
According to Lansing police managers called police because the suspect was causing a scene, refusing to leave.
Soon after they got there the man collapsed.
The Lansing Fire Department was called and when they loaded him into an ambulance, he started struggling, and bit a firefighter.
The 27-year old man will likely be charged with aggravated assault.
|December 03, 2014|
NFFF Issues New Report to Address Suicide Among Firefighters
Did you know a fire department is three times more likely in any given year to experience a suicide among its membership than a line-of-duty death? Fortunately, suicide is preventable and help is available.
The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) has made suicide research and awareness a priority and released a new report, "Confronting Suicide in the Fire Service: Strategies for Intervention & Prevention," to address the growing issue and need for further research and funding.The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recognize suicide as a major public health problem and are focusing attention on this growing national and international issue. According to the WHO, "More than 800,000 people worldwide die from suicide every year... one every 40 seconds. For each suicide there are many more people who attempt suicide every year." The CDC reports suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for all Americans taking 39,000 lives and is responsible for nearly 500,000 self-inflicted injuries annually.
"The incidence of suicide affects all segments of society, therefore every sector or organization within the public plays a role in working toward prevention. As the incidence of suicide was becoming a growing concern within the fire service, the foundation realized that we could help raise awareness about the issue and hopefully draw more attention to research and education," said Chief Ron Siarnicki, executive director of the NFFF.
The report summarizes suicide statistics, risk factors, public health assessment, and prevention tactics. Most importantly the report highlights recommendations for future research based on findings from national summits in 2011 and 2013 to measure the prevalence of suicide among firefighters; develop prevention, screening and intervention efforts; and establish a national agenda with an action plan to reduce suicides. Recommendations include:
Both summits and the report are a result of the Foundation's Everyone Goes Home program and outlined in Firefighter Life Safety Initiative # 13, Provide firefighters and their families with access to counseling and support.
|December 03, 2014
Three Milwaukee firefighters injured after jumping out of window - WI
MILWAUKEE —Three firefighters were injured while fighting a fire on Tuesday night.
The fire was reported around 10:10 p.m. at an apartment building near Eggert Place and Sherman Boulevard in Milwaukee.
First-responders rushed inside after getting reports that residents were trapped.
While inside, three firefighters became trapped and had to jump out of a second-story window. They were taken to an area hospital to be treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
No one else was seriously hurt.
The Red Cross is helping residents of the building.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
|December 03, 2014
Myrtle Beach Fire Department is announcing the passing of Fire Lieutenant John Burns - SC
(The Last Call - RIP)
The Myrtle Beach Fire Department is announcing the passing of Fire Lieutenant John Burns (1964 - 2014). Lieutenant Burns died while on duty (12/3/2014) of what appears to be natural causes. John began his 26 year career with the Myrtle Beach Fire Department in July 1988. John received many accolades throughout his firefighting service, he was an active member of the Pee Dee Regional Urban Search and Rescue Team (USAR), United States Air Force Veteran, and a SC State Certified Fire Instructor.
|December 03, 2014
First responders file suit in Paulsboro spill - NJ
A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of 16 emergency responders seeking compensation and medical monitoring for health concerns stemming from a 2012 train derailment and toxic spill in Paulsboro.
The lawsuit names Conrail, CSX, and Norfolk Southern, which operate a bridge that malfunctioned and caused the accident. It also names the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health, a consulting firm hired to assess medical problems.
A lawyer representing the workers said the firm, hired by the railroad companies, either failed to take urine samples for medical monitoring or lost them.
The train derailed while crossing the East Jefferson Street Bridge, built in 1873, causing more than 20,000 gallons of highly toxic vinyl chloride to spill and spew fumes.
The National Transportation Safety Board issued a report over the summer that placed much blame on the rail company, but also faulted local emergency officials as being ill-prepared.
The agency criticized Conrail for allowing the freight train to cross the swing-style bridge over the Mantua Creek even though safety locks were not working. The agency also noted that the company did not provide sufficient training for the crew to inspect the locks.
Seven cars derailed, four into the creek, causing one to rupture and leak the vinyl chloride. Nearly 700 residents were evacuated from their homes, and about 30 sought medical attention.
Matthew Weng of the Chance & McCann law firm, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the workers in federal court in Camden, said there were initial conflicting reports about the leak and how dangerous the fumes were, while police, firefighters, and medics responded without proper protection - including masks.
Weng said many experienced burning eyes and respiratory issues that day, while some had increased illnesses in the year that followed. There are also concerns, Weng said, that those who were exposed may face a lifetime of medical issues, including cancers that may develop later in life.
Among the plaintiffs are members of the police departments of Greenwich, Mantua, and Pitman, the Mantua Fire Department, the Gloucester County Sheriff's Office, the county EMS, and Inspira Medical Center Woodbury.
A spokesman for Conrail said the company would respond to the allegations in legal filings. Spokesmen for CSX, Norfolk Southern, and the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health said they could not comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit, filed Nov. 25, is among several filed on behalf of residents, business owners, and first responders. In total, there are about 2,000 plaintiffs.
|December 03, 2014
Federal investigators probing elite LAFD fireboat unit - CA
Criminal investigators with the U.S. Coast Guard are probing an elite group of Los Angeles firefighters at the city's port to determine whether federal licensing records were falsified for crew members assigned to large fireboats, The Times has learned.
In June, a special agent of the Coast Guard Investigative Service requested 10 years of LAFD logs, journals and other records that document the operation of the department's fleet of five fireboats, according to a copy of the request obtained by The Times.
A internal LAFD memo sent last week said the investigation is focusing on whether “unidentified members" of the unit properly obtained Coast Guard licenses required by the city.
Officials with the Coast Guard and the LAFD confirmed the investigation Tuesday but declined to provide details because the inquiry is ongoing.
LAFD spokesman Peter Sanders said his agency is "cooperating fully" with the investigation, and holding off on any internal review of the matter until federal agents have completed their work.
The inquiry comes as the LAFD has been trying to restore confidence in how new department recruits are selected, following a Times investigation that raised concerns of nepotism and unfairness.
The specially trained and equipped fireboat units under scrutiny are stationed at firehouses near the Port of Los Angeles.
They conduct search-and-rescue operations at sea and fight waterfront fires, such as a Wilmington wharf blaze in September that paralyzed commerce and sent toxic smoke into neighboring communities.
The teams include scuba divers trained for underwater firefighting, as well as crews that operate the LAFD harbor-based fleet, including a 105-foot, water-cannon equipped boat described as “the world’s most powerful fireboat.”
Under city rules, pilots and mates assigned to the boats must first secure Coast Guard-issued licenses that involve specialized training, a written exam and verification of hundreds of hours of experience at sea.
Investigators are focusing on whether licensing paperwork documenting the time spent on the water by some firefighters was overstated, according to a source familiar with the investigation who declined to be named because of the ongoing inquiry. The inquiry began after investigators received a tip, the source said.
Sanders said the LAFD conducted a similar internal investigation two years ago but was unable to substantiate allegations that records had been falsified.
Chris Volkle, a commercial ship captain who heads Marine Fire Training, a Seattle-area academy that provides training for on-the-water firefighters, said most private maritime companies and fire departments have record books where training hours are documented.
"If that person driving that fireboat is unqualified" and lacks experience, Volkle said, "he could kill people."
LAFD fireboat jobs are highly paid assignments. Last year, the 15 pilots and mates at the port earned more than $210,000, on average, nearly half of that from overtime, according to a Times analysis of city payroll data.
Before he was named LAFD fire chief in July by Mayor Eric Garcetti, port operations were under the supervision of then-Asst. Chief Ralph M. Terrazas.
Terrazas has been briefed on the investigation, but had no comment on the investigation, Sanders said.
The Coast Guard unit handling the case at the port is a federal law enforcement agency charged with pursuing maritime criminal activity.
Lt. Commander Joe Klinker, spokesman for the Coast Guard, said "the investigation is active," which precludes additional comment by his agency.
By Ben Welsh, Richard Winton / latimes.com
|December 02, 2014
FF INJURED AT HOUSE FIRE - VT
A firefighter was taken to the hospital Tuesday afternoon after falling during initial efforts to put out a three-alarm house fire on Route 100.
"I don't know what his condition is yet," said Whitingham Fire Department Chief Stanley Janovsky, adding that he would not comment on the firefighters name.
Calls were made to people known to be living at the home to make certain they weren't inside during the fire. No names have been released.
"We're still trying to make that determination. We haven't found anyone inside," Janovsky said. "We're not 100 percent sure."
The cause or origin was not determined yet either as of 3 p.m. on Tuesday. The fire was still active at that time. Janovsky said there was a wood stove inside the home. The home is considered a total loss.
When Janovsky's department received word that the home was on fire, it was believed that someone could be inside.
"We have found a dog," he said.
Due to collapsed ceilings and unsafe conditions, firefighters in the interior of the home were experiencing difficulties getting through to areas of the home needing to be extinguished. The third floor had collapsed on the second floor, Janovsky told the Reformer.
"The only real issue is getting the hot spots out and trying to tip toe around live wires," Janovsky said, adding that firefighters had to make sure floors inside were safe before walking on them.
Green Mountain Power had not yet shown up at the scene as of 3 p.m. Janovsky said the company was called to shut power off two hours before.
Whitingham First Response and Deerfield Valley Rescue assisted at the scene with over a dozen firefighters from Whitingham Fire Department, Halifax Fire Company, Readsboro Fire Department, Wilmington Fire Department, West Dover Fire Department and Heath Fire Department, of Massachussetts. Water was taken by Lake Sadawga without any issue.
"It was definietely hot. The second and third floor was fully involved when we got here," said Janovsky. "I would say it's under control as long as nobody gets hurt. They got to take their time getting to where they got to get."
Neighbors said they smelt smoke but did not think anything of it as another neighbor regularly burns wood.
|December 02, 2014
WALL COLLAPSE CLOSE CALL IN WATERLOO - MO
Waterloo Fire Rescue responded to a fire at Tri-City Clothing, 713 Logan Avenue (Edwards St).
Fire crews initially were inside the building fighting the fire. After a portion of the roof collapsed the crews were pulled out of the building for safety reasons. While crews battled the fire from the ground Waterloo Fire Rescue's aerial truck was used to fight the fire from above.
Shortly after I arrived I could see the first floor was engulfed in flames. About forty-five minutes later I saw flames start shooting out from the 2nd floor in the back of the building and could see the 2nd floor was engulfed in fire.
Shortly before 02:00 a.m. Tuesday morning (about six hours after the fire started) a wall of the building collapsed.
No injuries were reported during the fire. Due to the mid to low teen temperatures the Red Cross provided hot cocoa, coffee, water and chocolate chip cookies to to fire fighters.
A portion of the 700 block of Logan Avenue and the 100 block of Edwards Street is closed until the debris can be cleaned up.
|December 02, 2014
FF INJURED IN FALL THROUGH PORCH - IN
Wayne Township Fire Department was called to a working residence fire on Monday afternoon.The fire broke out at Dunn Street and Glenn Arm Road around 3:18 p.m.
According to a release tree trimmers working next door called in the fire.
One firefighter was injured after he fell from the front porch due to thick black smoke that made it hard to see. The firefighter was transported in good condition to IU Methodist Hospital.
The fire was contained in 15 minutes and no one was home at the time of the fire.
A cause of the fire was under investigation. Damages were estimated at $40,000.
|December 02, 2014
6 injured in Howard County ambulance crash - MD
ELKRIDGE, Md. (WUSA9) -- Six people, including an ambulance driver and an 11-year-old child, were injured in an accident involving a tractor-trailer, an ambulance and two other vehicles in Howard County Monday night, according to Howard County police officials.
The accident happened at Washington Boulevard and Kit Kat Road in Elkridge at approximately 7 p.m. on Monday, say police. They tell us that the ambulance was responding to an emergency call for mutual aid in Baltimore County and had its emergency equipment on at the time of the crash.
Police say the tractor trailer was stopped, taking up three lanes of Washington Boulevard, due to a crash it was involved in with another vehicle. It had been making a left turn from Kit Kat Road to southbound Washington Boulevard. When the ambulance went up the hill on northbound Washington Boulevard just before Kit Kat Road it hit the back of a Hyundai Sonata, then hit the side of the trailer part of the tractor trailer, according to police. That impact made the Hyundai collide into the back of a Chrysler 300.
The driver of the Howard County Fire Department ambulance, EMT Jay Stanton, had to be extricated from the vehicle. It took crews an hour to do so, according to police. He was then sent to University of Maryland Shock Trauma in Baltimore in critical condition. He is now in stable condition, say police.
Five other people were sent to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, Howard County Police said. They included two EMTs, the driver of the Hyundai, an 11-year-old female passenger in the Hyundai, and the driver of the Chrysler. Police say that the driver of the tractor trailer was not injured.
Police continue to investigate the crash, which closed the road in both directions for approximately five hours.
|December 02, 2014
Responder Seriously Hurt in Ambulance, Tractor-Trailer Crash - MD
A Howard County firefighter was seriously injured Monday night aftera crash involving an ambulance, a tractor-trailer and two other vehicles.
The driver of the medic unit was pinned, and the 'Go Team' from R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center was requested.
Two other providers in the ambulance also were injured as well as four civilians, according to WBAL.
There was no patient in the ambulance when it struck the rig on U.S. 1 at Kit Kat Road, authorities said.
|December 02, 2014|
Frisco firefighter injures shoulder while battling two-alarm fire - TX
A Frisco firefighter was injured Monday night while fighting a two alarm house fire.
Firefighters were dispatched to the 1300 block of Bowie Lane about 6 p.m. When they arrived they found fire showing through the attic of the two-story house.
At some point, a firefighter fell about eight feet from a ladder injuring his shoulder. He was transported to Texas Health Presbyterian of Plano and is in stable condition.
No other injuries were reported.
Crews were able to extinguish the fire by 8:25 p.m. The cause is under investigation.
|December 02, 2014
Lit cigarette started a house fire Monday night in Red Bird, fire officials said - TX
Updated at 11:14 a.m. Tuesday: A burning cigarette ignited a blaze Monday night that badly damaged a Red Bird house, fire officials said.
One of the residents of a house in the 1500 block of Drury Drive said he heard smoke alarms going off about 20 minutes after he smoked a cigarette. When he went to check the alarms, he saw that the garage was on fire. The fire rapidly spread throughout the house and took firefighters about an hour to extinguish, Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans said in a press release.
Two firefighters suffered burn injuries after a minor gas explosion while battling the blaze. A third firefighter was also injured. All three were taken to the hospital in stable condition and have since been released, Evans said.
The American Red Cross responded to help the two male and four female residents. No other injuries were reported.
The fire caused more than $100,000 in damage to the house and contents.
Updated at 8:08 a.m. Tuesday: NBC 5 reports that three Dallas firefighters were injured late Monday while putting out a fire near West Leadbetter Drive and Highway 67.
The station also reports that two neighbors helped the homeowner and her mother escape the fire.
Original post at 10:54 p.m. Monday: Two Dallas Fire-Rescue firefighters were injured in a small explosion at a fire Monday night.
Firefighters were dispatched to a one-story house in the 1500 block of Drury Drive, near West Ledbetter Drive and Highway 67, in Red Bird about 10:30 p.m.
One firefighter suffered superficial burns to the face and hands, and another sustained slightly worse burns to the scalp, a Fire-Rescue dispatcher said.
Both were taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital. Their injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.
Two additional ambulances were dispatched to the scene but did not transport anyone.
Investigators are working to determine what caused the fire and the explosion.
|December 01, 2014|
Org. Opens Addiction Treatment Center for Responders - IL
Scott Schaben started working as a suburban firefighter in the 1980s, bonding with his co-workers over off-duty beers. But his social drinking turned compulsive after he went through a divorce a few years ago, consuming his life until he knew he needed help.
He ended up seeking treatment at Rosecrance, a Rockford-based recovery center that has what it bills as the nation's first treatment program aimed exclusively at firefighters and paramedics. Schaben, 52, said that being among others who knew the stresses and demands of his job was a considerable help.
"It was just like a huge load taken off my shoulders," he said. "I just felt that even though I didn't know someone, I could still talk to them. It made a big difference."
Researchers have consistently found that members of the fire service drink more than the average adult, a legacy of consumption that dates to when some firehouses doubled as the local tavern.
But when off-duty imbibing leads to addiction, getting help can be problematic, some say. The job's pressure and "no weakness" culture make it difficult to face up to the problem, and its insular culture creates a belief that outsiders won't be able to help.
That led Rosecrance last month to create a separate unit at its inpatient center for firefighters and paramedics. Led by an active-duty Chicago Fire Department battalion chief, it aims to provide the expertise and understanding that will help its clients get better.
"No one told us the effects the job would have on us and our families, and no one gave us the tools on how to deal with it, day in and day out, for a career," said Dan DeGryse, the battalion chief. "It's going to take time to change. What we're trying to do now is address it after 150 years of the same stuff."
Researchers say aspects of the fire service are risk factors for addiction. Firefighters and paramedics witness traumatic scenes over and over, sometimes multiple times per day. They have unusual schedules, typically working 24-hour shifts followed by two or more days off -- time some fill with drinking.
And they have a culture some say has long tolerated, if not encouraged, drinking to excess once the job is done.
"Alcohol is used as a social lubricant," said Sara Jahnke of the Kansas-based Center for Fire, Rescue and EMS Health Research. "A lot of the debriefing happens at the bar, talking about things that happened on the shift."
Jahnke, the daughter of a retired fire chief, recently contributed to two papers focusing on alcohol use within the fire service. One found that during the prior month, about half of career and volunteer firefighters binge drank and about 10 percent reported driving while intoxicated -- numbers that are significantly higher than in the general public.
The second paper looked at firefighters' perceptions of alcohol use, concluding that many inaccurately believe their profession is no worse than the norm when it comes to problem drinking.
"The alcohol ... is not one of those (things) where it's abused," one firefighter told the researchers. "But socially, you get that tolerance like you're in college."
Christopher Scrol, a Rockford firefighter and paramedic who leads the local union, disputed the idea that alcoholism in the fire service is worse than in other jobs, saying the image of the hard-drinking first responder is out of date. Firefighters today, he said, are increasingly well-educated and health-conscious.
"We work a 24-hour shift," he said. "The last thing I want to do at 8 a.m. is go hit a bar. It's not on my radar."
Chief Sean Maloy of the Bedford Park Fire Department, who also leads the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association, said that while he understands how the stress of the job can lead to substance abuse, he sees no evidence that it is a widespread problem.
"The potential is there for a lot of them ... (but) I think it would be the exception, not the rule," he said.
But Jeff Dill, a captain in the Palatine Rural Fire Protection District and founder of a training service called the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance, said firefighters are well-skilled at concealing their issues.
"I talk about cultural brainwashing: When you put this uniform on, this is how you're supposed to act -- show unity, strength, no weakness, handle all your problems on your own," he said. "Now we're starting to find (some) can't meet those expectations."
Dill is on the advisory committee for Rosecrance's Florian program, named after the patron saint of firefighters. The roughly monthlong residential program was developed under the idea that the job conditions and customs that lead some firefighters and paramedicsinto addiction require a unique response.
"There are treatment programs that claim to treat first responders, but we're not all the same," DeGryse said. "We don't all drink at the same bars. We don't experience exactly the same thing."
Pat Spangler, who has worked with firefighters for years at Rosecrance, said conditions vary even within the fire service. Members of big urban departments might have more acute sleep problems and exposure to more trauma, while rural volunteer firefighters might know the people they come to help.
But one commonality, he said, is the urge to keep personal problems buried.
"They don't really address the trauma of (the job), because they don't want to open Pandora's box," he said. "As one fireman told a therapist I was talking to: 'You don't want me questioning whether I should run into that house. You want me to be confident.'"
Rosecrance counselor Diana Rudeen said part of the treatment is to help firefighters deal with job stress without drugs or alcohol. That can include everything from deep breathing exercises to "thought stopping" -- a technique to banish negative ideas before they become overwhelming.
"It's like planting your feet on the ground -- 'I'm OK, I'm here, I'm going to go into the fire and I'm going to save lives, '" Rudeen said.
A further challenge comes when it's time for firefighters andparamedics to return to work. The job's strain and sleep issues will still be there, as will colleagues who believe in bonding over a drink. Rudeen said the program tries to address that with follow-up counseling that can include online chats or face-to-face peer counseling.
So far, she said, it seems to be working.
"When they go back to the firehouse, they talk to the guys they're on the (rig) with and say, 'I'm in treatment. I'm not going to be able to go out afterward, '" she said. "I've had (former clients) who have been really successful with that."
Tim Gibbons, 55, who just retired as a Chicago Fire Department battalion chief after almost 35 years in the fire service, got sober 30 years ago and has since supported other firefighters struggling with substance abuse -- including some who have gone through Rosecrance.
He said that while the old firehouse drinking culture has gone away, problems with alcoholism remain. He plans to do peer counseling for the Florian program even in retirement, saying that "letting tough guys and gals be vulnerable with each other" helps their recovery.
"The problems are still there," Gibbons said. "Our ability to pull what used to be shameful into the light of day is what's different. People are much more accepting of what can no longer be denied."
|December 01, 2014
Firefighter in Dust-up at Deadly House Fire - TX
A Texas firefighter was knocked down by a distraught family member Monday morning as he arrived at a fatal house fire in Parker County.
After the attack on the Spring Creek firefighter, the suspect ran away, according to CBSDFW.
Deputies from the Parker County Sheriff's Office chased and caught him, but it's unclear if he is a suspect in the house fire, the station reported.
The Parker County Fire Marshal said that firefighters had to restrain the victim's husband at the scene and that a firefighter was knocked down.
Firefighters discovered a 27-year-old mother and her three-year-old son dead in the home that burned to the ground.
A fire on the same property over the summer left an elderly man dead and there had recently been a dispute over the man's will.
The cause is under investigation by Parker and Tarrant County officials.
|December 01, 2014|
Long Island Communities Face Major Volunteer Firefighter, EMT Shortage - NY
ISLIP TERRACE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Volunteer fire and rescue services on Long Island are in need of more than a few good men and women.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, volunteerism is down, and one Long Island community as even had to change the way it handles medical emergencies.
Lee Neuman used to volunteer in her local ambulance corps. Now, she worries that if she herself is ever in need, an ambulance won’t get to her in time.
“Seconds do count,” Neuman said. “Seconds can mean the difference between life and death.”
Her fire department in Islip Terrace is about to change who responds to medical emergencies. The fire protection district faces a shortage in responding EMT volunteers.
So Islip Terrace is disbanding its ambulance service for now — directing 911 calls to this nearby community ambulance corps that already serves four other districts.
Critics are sounding the alarm.
“The response time is going to have to get longer,” said Islip Terrace Fire Commissioner Tony Chiofalo. “The ambulance now is further away.”
Islip Terrace is not alone. Across Long Island, medical emergency calls to 911 are up and volunteers are down.
“They can’t handle the volume,” Chiofalo said. “You got a lot of really dedicated, committed people, but it’s very strained.”
For years, Suffolk County communities relied solely on volunteers for ambulance services. But the economy took its toll on numbers.
Officials blame an exodus of youth, an aging population, Baby Boomers working two jobs, and changing values.
Chris Ciaccio knows the value of volunteering. He gives his time to the Commack ambulance corps.
“I work full time. I make my hours here, and I just recently bought a house,” Ciaccio said. “It’s a lot of commitments outside of this place, but if you really do like it, you stay and you make it work out.”
Commack is one of the few districts that have not had to supplement the volunteers with paid staff.
The district has gotten creative — accepting non-residents and assigning set shifts.
“They can schedule their time,” said Richard O’Brien, chairman of the board for the Commack Volunteer Ambulance Corps. “They know they are not on a call 24/7.”
Back in Islip Terrace, the department will stop taking emergency medical calls for one year, while officials say they’ll work to boost the ranks.
The Chief of the Exchange Ambulance Corps told CBS2 it will be able to absorb the additional calls from Islip Terrace without problems.
|December 01, 2014|
Firefighter hurt in P&G paper machine blaze - WI
Green Bay Metro firefighters battled a stubborn blaze at an east-side paper mill for more than three hours on Sunday afternoon.
The fire in a paper machine at the Procter & Gamble mill at 501 Eastman Ave. was reported shortly before 4 p.m.
One firefighter was injured and taken to a local hospital for evaluation, according to a press release from the Green Bay Metro Fire Department. No damage estimate was immediately available.
Firefighters from a number of surrounding departments were called to assist. Response vehicles from around Brown County, including Howard and Bellevue, were seen entering the area through a security gate.