National News

Friday, July 13, 2018

New York firefighters speak against open search for new chief

Andre Esposito, chairman of Utica’s Civil Service Commission, believes the board has a tough decision to make within the next few months. The commission is considering a request from Mayor Robert Palmieri to authorize an open competitive exam to vet candidates for Utica’s next fire chief. This would open up the test to internal and external candidates for a fire department historically led by internal promotion. Esposito and Civil Service Commissioners Teresa Wojnas and Dietra Harvey will have to weigh that against the opinions of top fire officials in Utica and nearby cities as well as several local elected officials who believe the Utica Fire Department has enough worthy candidates within its ranks. Several of those dissenting opinions were voiced Thursday’s Civil Service Commission meeting.
Utica Observer-Dispatch

Unnamed contractor ’responsible’ for Wisconsin explosion; injured firefighter makes grand return to station

Verizon Wireless and a Kansas-based construction company said Thursday that they were responsible, through an as-yet-unnamed subcontractor, for work being done at the site of a massive natural gas explosion Tuesday that rocked Sun Prairie’s downtown, killing a volunteer firefighter and critically injuring another. Sun Prairie firefighter Ryan Welch was released from a hospital Thursday and brought to Fire Station 1, a block from the blast site, by a procession of emergency vehicles that were greeted by dozens of residents who cheered Welch into the station. “His face is burned, his jaw is broken in several places, he lost teeth, his hands are injured. A building fell on him, but he was up walking (with help) the next day,” according to a GoFundMe page launched Thursday to provide him support.
Wisconsin State Journal

Deputy district chief demoted in latest Chicago Fire Department timekeeping scam

A $156,360-a-year deputy district chief has been demoted –– and faces a lengthy suspension along with a paramedic-in-charge for their participation in, yet another timekeeping scam in the Chicago Fire Department. Sources identified the demoted deputy district chief as Edgar Ignacio Silvestrini, who was in charge of the fire department’s Medical Administration Regulatory Compliance section. The section oversees emergency medical services and is in charge of records training and quality control. The deputy district chief is accused of looking the other way while the paramedic-in-charge under his command left early with “regularity” to attend medical education classes on city time without clocking out appropriately. Sources familiar with the investigation described the timekeeping scam as “isolated, but serious.” It’s not the first time taxpayers have been cheated by a timekeeping scam in the Chicago Fire Department.
Chicago Sun-Times

California wildfires: End in sight for Klamathon, County fires

An inferno that has burned from California into Oregon over the past week and is believed to have killed one person should be fully under control by Sunday, officials said. The Klamathon Fire, which started July 5 in Siskiyou County, was 75 percent contained Thursday evening at 36,500 acres, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. Throughout the week, as many as 2,299 responders have worked to establish containment lines with one major challenge: gaining access to the north side of the fire. Overnight Wednesday into Thursday, crews established containment lines north of the blaze and minimal fire activity was expected as the fire remained inside the perimeter, Cal Fire said.
SF Gate

Teenager’s death leads to major change at Cincinnati 911 center

A major upgrade called Smart 911 was launched Thursday to help improve Cincinnati’s 911 operations in the wake of a teenager's death. “This will be able to save lives,” said Cincinnati Councilwoman Amy Murray. When someone calls 911 from a cellphone key information will now be displayed on the dispatcher’s screen about the caller if they've signed up for the program. “The benefit for us is that it’s going to give us readily and quick access to a wide variety of information that you provide for us that our call takers would otherwise have to ask you for,” said Cincinnati Emergency Communications Center director Jayson Dunn. Anyone who wants to make their information available to the 911 center will need to go to and enter the information they choose. Officials said key information like the user's name, address, medical conditions and emergency contacts will be helpful to first responders, but more can be added.
WLWT-TV NBC 5 Cincinnati

Thursday, July 12, 2018

New Hampshire councilor draws ire for remarks at meeting during exchange with firefighter union head

City Councilor Bob Hamel is facing criticism for his remarks at a Monday night meeting during a prickly exchange with the head of the union that represents city firefighters. It is the height of budget season in Laconia, which has a tax cap in place, and the council and fire department have clashed in recent weeks over the cost of overtime for firefighters. ... “You guys really need to calm down, you really do,” Hamel said. “You’re out of control over there and that comes from the top down, from a chief who says he does not answer to the council. It’s a Massachusetts attitude and it needs to stop. We need to work together. “It was your union, and I know you guys think you can walk on water,” Hamel continued. “There was a man in this town a long time ago who said he could walk on water and he tried it up at the Weirs dock and he didn’t. I know what you guys go through I was a policeman for 10 years and I’ve seen what you’ve seen.”
Manchester Union Leader

Virginia department hires new fire chief amid turmoil

Fairfax County’s next fire chief will be a veteran firefighter who has led Howard County’s fire department for the past four years and served two combat tours as a Marine, the Board of Supervisors has announced. John S. Butler is set to take over the 1,400-strong department in September, replacing Richard Bowers, who retired in April. Butler began his career with the Howard fire department in 1993 as a paramedic, moving up the ranks until he was appointed chief in 2014. “We had a number of strong candidates, however, Chief Butler demonstrated the leadership, vision and communications skills that will move our ­excellent Fire and Rescue Department forward,” said County Executive Bryan Hill. “His proven experience and successful leadership at the helm of a large department will continue to strengthen our culture and contribute to a positive future for the department.”
Washington Post

Massive fire destroys Arizona Safeway supermarket

Fire destroyed a Safeway grocery store in Phoenix Wednesday evening, engulfing the building in flames for more than an hour and producing a tower of smoke that could be seen for miles. Phoenix fire officials said a roof on the building apparently had collapsed during a storm that brought a heavy downpour in the area prior to the fire. The three-alarm fire broke out at the store near 35th and Northern avenues just before 6 p.m., the Phoenix Fire Department said. Both Phoenix and Glendale fire departments responded to the fire, which largely had been controlled after 7 p.m., although numerous spots still were burning within the store's perimeter.
Arizona Republic, & KPNX-TV NBC 12 Phoenix

Houston proposes sharp hike in ambulance fees

Houston Fire Department leaders on Tuesday proposed a sharp hike in ambulance fees, floating several new charges they hope will prevent repeat callers from using the city’s emergency medical services as a convenience. Ambulance transport fees would rise 70 percent, to $1,876; the accompanying $14.36-per-mile fee would not change. Aside from annual adjustments for inflation, it would be the first increase in the fees in six years. “In essence, the taxpayers of the city of Houston are subsidizing every medical transport call,” Fire Chief Sam Peña told a City Council committee Tuesday. “We are not recouping what we incur to deliver that service.” Houston also would levy new fees in cases when paramedics respond — at an estimated cost of $1,400 per trip, $1,800 if transport to a hospital is required — but the city currently recovers none of the cost of sending them.
Houston Chronicle

Coding team develops app to turn smartphones into smoke detectors

A team of coding students from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, have developed an app that can turn your smartphone into a smoke detector. 'Smoke Detective' is programmed to allow a smartphone camera to detect smoke from a fire, then sound an audible and visible alarm upon detection. Local husband and father, Steve Davis, came up with the idea after his family went through the trauma of a house fire. A chance meeting with a college professor gave Davis the resources he needed to take his innovative idea from paper to product. The team hopes to release Smoke Detective for iPhone and Android by the end of 2018.
WTAE-TV ABC 4 Pittsburgh

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