National News

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Things to start doing when you’re nearly 80: Fighting fires? Meet New Jersey Fire Academy’s most recent graduate

PHOTOS: Bob Halberstadt turns 79 on the Fourth of July. He’ll be nearly two weeks past graduation by that point. And Blairstown Hose Company No. 1 Chief Calvin Inscho figures Halberstadt will have changed his mind by then. Not about becoming a volunteer firefighter. He achieved that on Saturday when he received his New Jersey state Firefighter 1 certification from the Warren County Fire Academy and he has no plans to step away from his newest challenge. No, Inscho said, it’s a pledge that Halberstadt made before beginning his 200 hours of often physically taxing training in February in Franklin Township. “He doesn’t want to be an interior firefighter unless needed,” Inschol said. Halberstadt stunned those at the fire academy with his drive and ability as great or greater than recruits far younger than him. He was honored Saturday with the outstanding recruit award. “He will have skills to do whatever he needs to do as a firefighter,” Inschol said.

Government Accountability Office: Required Auction of Public Safety Spectrum Could Harm First Responder Capabilities

In 11 large metropolitan areas, critical communications for police, firefighters, and others take place in the T-Band part of the radio spectrum. For example, the NYPD dispatches 911 calls via the T-Band. Starting in 2021, public safety T-Band will be auctioned as required by law. Public safety organizations must move their communications to another part of the spectrum within 2 years of the auction's end. In 3 of the 4 metropolitan areas we examined, officials said they haven't found a T-Band alternative. A recent FCC study also found few options. We recommended Congress consider allowing public safety organizations to keep using the T-Band.

California’s homeless encampment fires: Trying hard to find the numbers

If you think there have been a lot more homeless encampment fires of late, you would be right. But, homeless encampment fires are somewhat a numbers game, but the numbers are hard to find. The fire that burned a Pittsburg roofing business's inventory and storage lot full of plastic piping, was caused by a fire that started in a homeless encampment just outside of the businesses perimeters. With fire season longer, hotter, dryer and often windier, firefighters have great reason to be concerned and so should you. By the Bay Area Council's count, there are slightly more than 28,200 homeless people in the Bay Area. Sixty-seven percent of them—about 19,000, have no temporary shelters, subsidized or transitional housing. That helps experts understand why so many homeless encampments have sprung up everywhere. "This highlights a particular problem for us this time of year with the high fire dangers we're experiencing now and will through the fall certainly," said Steve Hill. But, fire-related numbers are actually hard to come by.

Arizona fire highlights challenges for energy storage

Arizona’s largest electric company installed massive batteries near neighborhoods with a large number of solar panels, hoping to capture some of the energy from the afternoon sun to use after dark. Arizona Public Service has been an early adopter of battery storage technology seen as critical for the wider deployment of renewable energy and for a more resilient power grid. But an April fire and explosion at a massive battery west of Phoenix that sent eight firefighters and a police officer to the hospital highlighted the challenges and risks that can arise as utilities prepare for the exponential growth of the technology. With an investigation ongoing and no public word on the fire’s cause, the incident is being closely watched by energy storage researchers and advocates. “This is getting attention, and I think everyone realizes that too many safety incidents ... will be detrimental going forward,” said George Crabtree, director of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, a partnership of national laboratories, universities and companies funded by the U.S. Energy Department. “So I think it’s being taken very seriously.”

Increasing wildfire activity in the Western US could have lasting health impacts

Climate change in the Western U.S. means more intense and frequent wildfires churning out waves of smoke that scientists say will sweep across the continent to affect tens of millions of people and cause a spike in premature deaths. That emerging reality is prompting people in cities and rural areas alike to gird themselves for another summer of sooty skies along the West Coast and in the Rocky Mountains — the regions widely expected to suffer most from blazes tied to dryer, warmer conditions. “There’s so little we can do. We have air purifiers and masks — otherwise we’re just like ‘Please don’t burn,'” said Sarah Rochelle Montoya of San Francisco, who fled her home with her husband and children last fall to escape thick smoke enveloping the city from a disastrous fire roughly 150 miles away. Other sources of air pollution are in decline in the U.S. as coal-fired power plants close and fewer older cars roll down highways. But those air quality gains are being erased in some areas by the ill effects of massive clouds of smoke that can spread hundreds and even thousands of miles on cross-country winds, according to researchers.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Just move! Bystanders block Washington firefighters from fighting fires... again

Kennewick police had to help firefighters get to a brushfire near the Burlington Store Saturday after onlookers kept getting in the way. First responders tell Action News they're seeing too much of this and they need your help. Officers say they understand the interest, it's human nature to watch events as they unfold but it's starting to impede their ability to do their job. "We'll communicate with you through the media as early and as often as we can," says Kennewick fire battalion chief Mike Barnett. "We ask that you stay out of the way." He's asking nicely now in order to avoid harsher words during life-or-death situations. The firefighter says it's for your safety as a civilian and as a member of this community that might someday need help. "We don't want to see people get hit," he explains. "But it also slows down fire apparatus getting into the area to be able to take action." Tri-Cities firefighters say incidents of 'looky-loos' getting in the way are increasing.
KEPR-TV CBS 19 Pasco

Navy SEAL deemed ‘too old’ wins fight to join FDNY

The Navy SEAL rejected to become a city firefighter for being too old can now be hired by the FDNY, thanks to action taken by state lawmakers Thursday. Special Operations Chief Shaun Donovan missed city employee age stipulations by six months and 25 days to join the FDNY in April. The Post first reported on his plight, sparking outrage and support for his bid to become a firefighter. In response, legislators passed a bill Thursday relaxing the city’s employee age requirements for military vets: once a candidate reaches age 29 and then joins the military, he has a seven-year window — formerly six — to join the FDNY. “There’s a special place in my heart for the FDNY. When you have that as your motivation, you want to do right by those people,” said bill sponsor Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Brooklyn). “He wants to continue to give back, he already served our country and he wants to keep serving. Why should we ever tell someone now you can’t serve?”
New York Post

Oregon farmers, ranchers immune from liability while fighting wildfires

The Oregon Legislature has passed a bill to protect farmers and ranchers from liability while fighting dangerous wildfires, such as the 2018 Substation fire in Wasco and Sherman counties. Senate Bill 290 is similar to other Good Samaritan laws that encourage bystanders to assist people in emergencies without worrying about being sued if something goes wrong. Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena, sponsored SB 290, which passed both the House and Senate unanimously. Gov. Kate Brown signed the bill during a ceremony on June 18 with members of the Oregon Wheat Growers League. Hansell said the bill was inspired by the deadly Substation fire that torched 78,425 acres of dry wheat fields and grasslands last year in north-central Oregon. Wheat farmers were among the first to arrive on scene, using tractors and disc plows to dig wide firebreaks around homes and communities.
Capital Press

Illinois department working without 15th firefighter

After Joe Scarbeary retired from the Streator Fire Department last October, the Streator City Council decided not to hire a firefighter to replace him. The Streator Fire Department has been working without a 15th firefighter since May 2018, after Scarbeary had an injury that would eventually lead to his retirement and the city's decision not to rehire the position in November. From Nov. 1 to May 5, Streator firefighters worked a total of 2,239 overtime hours, with 1,056 of those hours considered coverage for what would have been a 15th firefighter, according to information provided in a Freedom of Information Act request and confirmed by Fire Chief Gary Bird. Comparatively, a total of 1,549 overtime hours were logged from July 1 to Oct. 31, when Scarbeary would have been out on injury. Streator firefighters union president Kurt Snow believes the situation is not sustainable.
Illinois Times

9/11 Dust Linked to Prostate Cancer in First Responders

A possible link between World Trade Center dust and prostate cancer in first responders has been found by researchers. Exposure to dust at the New York City site after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks triggered chronic inflammation in the responders' prostates, which may have contributed to their cancer, according to the Mount Sinai Health researchers. They noted that inflammation has long been considered an important factor in prostate cancer. "Several years ago, I saw a first responder in his 40s who began having symptoms of prostatitis, a painful condition that involves inflammation of the prostate, soon after exposure to the World Trade Center dust," said researcher Dr. William Oh, chief of the division of hematology and medical oncology at Mount Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine.
U.S. News & World Report

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