National News

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Unions: Poor conditions plague fire stations throughout Massachusetts

Citing rats, broken plumbing, leaky ceilings, poor ventilation and run-down equipment, firefighter unions across the state are sounding the alarm about station houses they say receive little attention, saying poor conditions raise safety fears and hurt morale. “There’s concerns statewide,” said Richard MacKinnon Jr., president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts. A state law signed by Gov. Charlie Baker last year that enforces standards created in the Occupational Safety and Health Act for all state and local government workers, took affect Feb. 1, forcing municipalities to address the issues, according to MacKinnon. Some stations, where firefighters both live and work, have real safety concerns, he said. A fire engine breakdown in Woburn recently forced firefighters to respond to calls in a station pickup truck. The station has been criticized for having rat infestations, jammed windows and floor damage during storms. Woburn has taken initial steps toward building two new stations, appropriating $600,000 for a feasibility study.
The Boston Herald

Feds requiring regional response teams to oil train wrecks

Federal transportation officials are requiring railroads to establish regional response teams along oil train routes following a series of fiery derailments. The new rule announced Thursday is aimed at having crews and equipment ready in the event of an accident. It applies to oil trains in continuous blocks of 20 or more loaded tank cars and those having 35 loaded tank cars. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued the rule in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration. The pipeline safety agency said a review identified challenges that occurred during previous responses to derailments. "This final rule is necessary due to expansion in U.S. energy production having led to significant challenges for the country's transportation system," the agency said. In 2014, the agency issued a report detailing the concerns of fire chiefs and emergency management officials in oil train accidents, including that emergency responders were not fully aware of resources available from railroads and other organizations that would be helpful in preparing for such disasters.

Billions pile up in California special district accounts while critics say many should dissolve

California’s most affluent special districts nearly doubled their spending over the course of a decade, while the value of their cash and investments nearly tripled, according to a Southern California News Group analysis of state data. The figures revive the question many good-government advocates have been asking for decades: Do special districts, which operate largely under the public radar, simply have too much money? Critics say they do, and argue that their functions should be absorbed into cities and counties that overlap their boundaries. Special districts say they don’t, insisting they simply safeguard vital infrastructure and are better left alone. California’s 250 largest special districts had cash and investments worth $47.1 billion when the 2017 fiscal year drew to a close, up dramatically from $17.9 billion a decade earlier, according to data from the State Controller’s Office. That’s a leap of almost $30 billion, or 164 percent. Total spending, meanwhile, jumped nearly 100 percent — from $27.4 billion to $53.5 billion.
Daily Breeze - Metered Site

Indiana firefighters sue town, claiming they have been denied overtime pay

Local firefighters claim in a federal lawsuit against the town that they have been denied overtime pay for nearly a decade. The suit filed Saturday by Chesterton Firefighters Local 4600 also claims that despite assurances from the town that "nothing would change," a policy change was enacted just days after the current labor contract was signed that limits firefighters ability to use four 24-hour periods of earned time off each year, according to the union's attorney, Angela Jones. "It is important to note that even with the four additional days, Chesterton Firefighters receive less time off than neighboring departments," Jones said. "The decision to file suit against the Town was a very difficult one and the Union and Firefighters made every single effort to avoid litigation," Jones said in a prepared statement. "Unfortunately, the Town’s representatives have responded in an aggressive and intimidating manner, displaying nothing short of 'bullying.'

Florida firefighter who blamed positive drug test on coca tea gets job back in settlement

An Orlando firefighter fired last year for a positive drug test was given his job back last week, after he argued the cocaine in his system was a result of drinking a tea made with coca leaves, an internal investigation shows. The positive drug test results, recorded during an annual physical exam in December 2017, prompted the Orlando Fire Department to fire Kevin Reynolds two months later, according to documents released this week in response to a Jan. 4 public records request. He was found to have committed two violations: use of intoxicants or drugs and a general order on drug and alcohol testing. The policies prohibit department members from using illicit drugs “at all times on or off the job,” the order states. Records show Reynolds told investigators he tested positive for cocaine because he drinks coca tea, which is consumed in South America to combat altitude sickness.
Orlando Sentinel

Friday, February 15, 2019

3 Firefighters Hurt When Engine Rolls Over in California

VIDEO: A Cal Fire engine assigned to respond to rain-related incidents in the North County went off the road and rolled over in Bonsall Thursday. The truck veered off Old Highway 395 south of Camino Del Rey and landed in an embankment about 20 feet below the roadway at about 6:15 a.m., California Highway Patrol said. No other vehicles were believed to be involved in the crash but an investigation was ongoing, Cal Fire spokesperson Issac Sanchez said. The three firefighters inside were able to get out of the crashed vehicle with minor injuries, CHP said. All were transported to a nearby hospital for evaluation, Sanchez said. Sanchez said while CHP will conduct an investigation into the crash, Cal Fire would also be conduction their own investigation.

Iowa State Senator and Firefighter resign over cross training controversy

VIDEO: Iowa State Senator and Cedar Falls Firefighter Jeff Danielson says he is resigning from both the Iowa State Senate and the Cedar Falls Fire Department, effective immediately. Danielson tells KWWL News his resignations are directly related to the ongoing dispute over the use of Cedar Falls Police Officers being cross-trained to also work as Cedar Falls Firefighters in the City’s Public Safety Officer program. The 48 year old Senator says he is leaving two jobs he loves, but, of the Cedar Falls Fire Department controversy he says, “The situation has gotten so bad I have to leave.” Over a 12-month period, Danielson says 10 firefighters have resigned amid the ongoing debate over the use of Public Safety Officers.
KWWL News 7

Clinical trial offers hope for veteran and longtime Idaho firefighter to speak again

When William “Bud” Paine descended to the lower levels of the Naval Destroyer Escort to stand by on fire watch as welders took to maintenance of the ship, he was handed a canteen and a bandanna. “‘Just keep the bandanna wet,’ they said. ‘This stuff won’t hurt you,’” Paine, now 63, recalled. “This stuff” was the 96,000 pounds of asbestos sharing living quarters on board with the Navy sailors. His exposure to insulation material during his service led to a throat cancer diagnosis in 2001, a year of failed radiation treatment and the final option of removing his voice box in 2002. Paine has communicated for over 15 years by forcing air through a prosthesis that acts as his vocal chords and must be changed every three months. Hope to regain his voice again came by an ad for a new clinical trial on his Facebook feed last spring. The Mayo Clinic campus in Arizona is attempting to give individuals who have had their larynx removed — about 60,000 Americans — the chance to get it back by organ transplant or rebuilding their own with stem cells.
Idaho Press

Wisconsin firefighters explore cancer preventing benefits from sauna therapy

The Madison Fire Department has installed an infrared sauna into its new station 14 helping firefighters sweat out dangerous carcinogens which can sometimes cause cancer. Kevin Hembrook has worked for the Madison Fire Department for nineteen years. He serves on the Fire Fighters Local 311 Health and Safety committee. “Probably just in the last couple years I've really been conscious of what the job that I do can do to my health,” said Hembrook. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health performed a multi-year study which found firefighters have a nine percent greater risk at being diagnosed with cancer and a 14 percent risk of a cancer related death. Hembrook says statistics like these are what spurred him to explore options for cancer-prevention. For some time, Hembrook has gone to Jenerate Wellness in Waunakee for a one-hour session in an infrared sauna. Though his research, Hembrook learned there were benefits to sweating out the toxins and cancer-causing carcinogens.
WMTV-TV NBC 15 Madison

Michigan city council hopes to negotiate with township over fire department dispute

Tension between the City of Grand Blanc and Grand Blanc Township continues to grow over a fire department dispute. After decades of working together the township decided to withdraw from the Grand Blanc Community Fire Commission last month. Several on Grand Blanc’s City Council aren’t happy and say they were blindsided. They heard from the consultants behind the study that led to the township's decision. That study showed in 2017 the township paid nearly one point two million dollars for the fire department while the city paid more than 210 thousand. But the study also says the township paid more for indirect costs like payroll and union negotiations because the firefighters are township employees. Now Grand Blanc’s City Council hopes they can turn this disagreement around while the township is already thinking about future plans like buying new equipment.

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