National News

Monday, March 19, 2018

Fire chief selection clause in union contract unique to Illinois city

With Springfield Fire Chief Barry Helmerichs retiring at the end of the month, Mayor Jim Langfelder is interviewing Springfield Fire Department members to find a replacement. Langfelder is mandated to limit his search to the existing force because of a clause in the firefighters’ contract that stipulates the hire must be internal. “All other persons assigned or appointed to positions in the Departmental structure as outlined in this Section of the Collective Bargaining Agreement shall be from within the classified fire service of the City of Springfield, Illinois,” states the contract, referring to the positions of fire chief, division chiefs and deputy division chiefs. The provision is unique to Springfield, though the practice of promoting an internal candidate for chief is not.
State Journal-Register

Florida city will not appeal pregnant firefighter discrimination case

The city will not appeal the discrimination and retaliation case it lost to a pregnant firefight last year. That means the court case is over. Tampa Fire Rescue will obey a federal judge’s order and re-hire Tanja Vidovic, the firefighter it fired the day after she filed suit in March 2016. The city will also pay the $245,000 in damages the jury awarded her in December. By dropping the appeal, the city will also stop paying the legal bills this case has racked up. The city has already spent $300,000 defending itself, and will still have to pay whatever legal costs a judge awards to Vidovic. Vidovic said she was relieved that litigation is over. "I am happy to hear the City decided not to appeal," she said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. "I have been overwhelmed with the support that a vast number of community members have shown me.
Tampa Bay Times

San Francisco supervisor rips fire chief as North Beach building burns

San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin criticized Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White as a residential and commercial building in his district burned, saying that firefighters had been slow to pour water on the blaze and that he had been unable to reach the chief as the emergency unfolded. “This was an abject failure of the Fire Department,” said Peskin, leader of the board’s progressive faction, as smoke poured from the building across from Washington Square Park in North Beach on Saturday night. Eight residents were displaced from the building at 659 Union St., and 10 businesses were damaged. The cause of the fire is under investigation. Hayes-White was at the scene in her fire jacket and helmet and defended her department’s efforts, saying firefighters were concentrating on battling flames inside the building and making sure no one was trapped before spraying water from the outside.
San Francisco Chronicle (

Maine town orders fire department to ‘stand down’ because of outdated gear

Limington’s Board of Selectmen has ordered its volunteer fire department to “stand down until further notice” while the town tries to bring its firefighting protective gear into compliance with national standards. Selectmen said in a statement released Sunday that the town’s emergency rescue crews will continue to respond to all medical emergency calls during the stand-down, which is expected to last a few days, but in the meantime the town will rely on mutual aid from neighboring fire departments if a structure fire should break out. “The priority of the selectmen is to insure the health and safety of all employees and residents of the town. Continued swift action by the selectmen and the leadership of the fire department will result in the lifting of the order to stand down within a few days,” selectmen said in the statement.
Portland Press Herald

Update: Body Of Missing Tennessee Firefighter Found

The body of missing Nashville firefighter Jesse Reed has been recovered in Humphreys County. Reed went missing in the Tennessee River on March 6 after his vehicle was submerged. The search for Reed lasted 12 days. He was found around 11:15 a.m. Saturday in a cove about a half mile from where his vehicle went into the water. The 32-year-old had been assigned to Engine 2 A-Shift. He joined the Nashville Fire Department in October 2013. Reports stated he was an advanced EMT, as well as hazmat, rope rescue, and vehicle extrication qualified. Officials at the fire department said they are heartbroken over the loss of Reed.
WTVF-TV CBS 5 Nashville

Friday, March 16, 2018

Death toll from Florida bridge collapse up to 6 as crews work to clear the rubble

At least six fatalities have been confirmed following the collapse of a pedestrian bridge over Tamiami Trail on Thursday. But at a press conference held Friday morning at the Florida International University Tamiami campus, Miami-Dade Police Department director Juan J. Perez said the names of the people killed in the collapse would not be made public until their families had been notified. Perez implored the media to refrain from revealing the names of the deceased, out of respect to their relatives. He also warned that the final death toll could climb, since the painstaking process of clearing rubble, documenting evidence and removing the dead is still in progress.
Miami Herald

Florida union: Fire rescue chief should take random drug tests with firefighters

Hillsborough County firefighters and paramedics will vote on a new union contract next week that for the first time would require random drug testing. Union leadership says it is up in the air whether the contract will pass, citing growing discord between the rank and file and Fire Rescue Chief Dennis Jones. One thing that might help? If Jones and non-union department leadership agreed to drug testing, too, said Derrik Ryan, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 2294. "I can tell you this: it would not hurt," Ryan said. "Certainly we have other issues, morale issues, besides drug testing here. But that certainly would not hurt if they fall in line and do this drug test with us."

Texas Firefighters Share Rare Cave Rescue Experience

For many of the firefighters who worked for hours to free a teenager from a North Side cave last week, it was the first time they were required to do so, as cave rescues in the San Antonio-area are extremely rare. On March 8, the San Antonio Fire Department’s technical rescue team was called out to the Robber Baron Cave, which stretches for a mile about 30 to 80 feet underground. Inside the cave, an 18-year-old Lee High School student on a field trip found herself trapped in an area called the Hole in the Floor. “I’ve been here for 13 years and I’ve made two cave rescues” before the March 8 call, San Antonio Fire Department Capt. Brendan Pohlen said. “Most of these guys have been in caves and trained in caves, but for most of them, this is their first cave rescue.”
San Antonio Express- News

Researchers: PPE does not fully protect firefighters’ skin from toxic chemicals

Researchers recently conducted a study that suggests firefighters are still absorbing toxic chemicals through their skin despite wearing full turnout gear. A study conducted by University of Ottawa researchers found that firefighters had anywhere from three to more than five times the amount of toxins in their urine after battling a blaze than they did before. The study, which involved collecting urine samples and wiping the skin and clothing of more than two dozen firefighters, suggests that the chemicals are entering the body from skin absorption. "There's a relationship between firefighters' urinary PAH metabolite levels and the levels of PAHs on their skin, which leads us to suspect that dermal contact may be an important route of exposure," Jennifer Keir, an author on the study, said. Ottawa Fire Department Captain Dave Matschke was named a co-author on the study and said the research is a “big step forward.”

Judge denies New York fire chief’s motion to reargue Ground Zero-related disability case

Utica fire Chief Russell Brooks is back to Square One. A motion to reargue his lawsuit against the City of Utica -- in which he claimed the city rejected an application for benefits offered to responders affected by health conditions related to 9/11 recovery efforts -- was denied Thursday in state Supreme Court in Rome. Brooks has chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He is enrolled in the federal World Trade Center Health Program, which covers the fire chief's medical costs related to his certified World Trade Center-related illnesses. Given that, Brooks said he only is seeking acknowledgement from the city that he is eligible for benefits. "I want justice," he said. "Moreso, this will reflect on the firefighters that went down to ground zero on 9/11. At that time, some of them were very young and, to me, they're still young. They got cancers that young guys don't get. How can I not fight for myself and for them to get justice?"

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