National News

Friday, January 18, 2019

City warned about lack of fire training 17 years before fatal blaze in Delaware

The 1997 fire at the Delaware Trust building was a wake-up call. Firefighters were confused about who was in charge and struggled to coordinate during the high-rise blaze that injured 15 of them at what is now the Residences at Rodney Square, federal investigators said in a report two years later. The feds recommended additional training. They said Wilmington should utilize nearby training facilities, conduct exercises with county companies and "evaluate their in-service training program to ensure that it is adequately preparing fire fighters to respond to various incidents," the report said. "There were people going every which way," then-fire union president Mike McNulty told The News Journal in 1999. "We were lucky we didn't lose anyone." Nearly two decades later, the department wasn't so lucky. A blaze on Sept. 24, 2016, in Canby Park took the lives of three Wilmington firefighters: Christopher Leach, Jerry Fickes and Ardythe Hope. A lack of training for firefighters and officers was cited among the factors that turned the fire fatal, federal investigators said in a November report.
Wilmington News Journal (Delaware Online)

West Virginia firefighters arrested for setting county blazes ’for the excitement of it’

Four McDowell County firefighters were arrested Thursday on charges of intentionally setting fires in the War area of McDowell County. Cody Patterson, 26, James Stutson, 40, Michael Click, 28, and Brandon Short, 22, have all been charged by the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office with first-degree arson and conspiracy, according to a press release from the agency. The suspects were setting fires “for the excitement of it,” according to the investigating officer, Assistant State Fire Marshal L.T. Hamrick. “The guys were all bored and wanted a call to go on,” Hamrick said Thursday, after the suspects were arraigned in Welch. The investigation began after investigators were called to a vacant apartment fire in War on Oct. 31, 2018, where it was determined that the fire was incendiary in cause, according to the fire marshal’s press release. Hamrick said the investigation is continuing and more charges are possible.
Times West Virginian

Injured Iowa firefighter breathing on his own

Though still in critical condition, Clinton firefighter Adam Cain now is breathing on his own and “continues to slowly improve” from a Jan. 5 explosion that killed a colleague, according to an update Thursday from the city. The 23-year-old’s ventilator was removed Wednesday, City Administrator Matt Brooke said. Cain was badly injured in the grain-silo explosion at the ADM plant in Clinton. Clinton fire Lt. Eric Hosette, 33, died in the blast. Cain “is scheduled for surgery on one of his broken arms this morning,” Brooke wrote in the update. A firefighter at the Charlotte Volunteer Fire Department, where Hosette served as chief, said Cain sustained many injuries. In addition to respiratory damage, the firefighter said, Cain also suffered many broken bones and cuts. He has been undergoing lifesaving treatment at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City since the incident, which remains under investigation. Brooke said the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health are looking into the cause of the fire and the resulting explosion.
The Gazette

4 patients treated after suspicious package reported at California courthouse

VIDEO: Firefighters treated four patients including a sheriff's deputy at the courthouse in Santa Ana after a package was opened that made them feel ill, officials said. A sheriff's deputy opened a package on the third floor of the courthouse and several people immediately felt ill, officials said. An Orange County hazardous materials team and the bomb squad responded around 2:30 p.m. and that area of the courthouse was blocked off, though the rest of the complex continued operations. The Sheriff's Department said three civilians and one deputy were treated and were transported to a local hospital. They underwent decontamination before being transported. They were not considered to have life-threatening injuries. There were no evacuations and the situation was described as "contained." By around 5 p.m., officials said the initial investigation was complete and there was no additional threat to others at the courthouse. The package was sent to a crime lab for further analysis.

Pennsylvania township establishes pay-per-call program for fire companies

In an effort to incentivize volunteer firefighters and encourage their continued life-saving efforts in Plymouth Township, the governing body unanimously approved a pay-per-call retention program. Active volunteer members with Plymouth Fire Co. and Harmonville Fire Co. are eligible for nominal payments for service and training provided members either respond to a minimum of 15 percent of the total number of dispatched emergency calls or attend at least 50 percent of the total weekly fire company sponsored training/drill nights. Council Chair Marty Higgins said the pay-per-call effort is aimed at “compensating volunteers for some of their activities.” The objective is to help fire companies increase their volunteer rosters while demonstrating the value of firefighters’ services. The pay-per-call fee schedule includes $5 per dispatched emergency call fee; $10 fee for emergency calls that exceed 60 minutes; $10 per in-station duty staffing at six-hour increments; and $20 per certificate training by an accredited institution for classes of a minimum of 12 hours. Higgins said the pay-per-call effort will hopefully prevent or at least postpone the need to hire paid fire staff. Doing so would cost the township “millions of dollars,” he said.
The Times Herald

Thursday, January 17, 2019

New York senator honors hero firefighter John Heller on Senate floor

VIDEO: A former Oneonta firefighter who died after rescuing his fiancé and nephews from a burning apartment in December was recognized by the New York State Senate on Tuesday. State Senator Jim Seward honored John Heller with a special New York State Senate Resolution. He was granted the state senate’s Liberty Medal, the highest honor given by the New York State Senate. “The Liberty Medal is conferred on a select few, those who have distinguished themselves by meritorious action against hostile odds. John Heller was that type of individual,” Senator Seward said. “John displayed great courage in saving the lives of his fiancé and four young nephews, and he made the ultimate sacrifice. His final act on earth was one of bravery, valor, heroism, and love for others.” The senator previously presented the Liberty Medal to Heller’s parents and fiancé during a memorial service in Oneonta on January 4.

Critical incident intervention for first responders bill signed into law in Massachusetts

VIDEO: Governor Charlie Baker signed Senate Bill 2633 on Wednesday to make sure first responders aren't penalized for seeking counseling after a traumatic experience. Under the new law, crisis intervention services will be required at police and fire stations across the state. Critical incident stress management teams will help first responders who are coping with psychological stress or trauma. "In our agency, we have a peer support group consisting of three officers who keep things confidential," Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone said, "and that would be where they would start within our agency. So we have the protocols in place that would help those officers get the ball rolling and get the assistance they need." Stress management team members are appointed. Police and fire chiefs hand-pick people on their staff to provide peer support. Those on the stress management team are bound by confidentiality and cannot disclose any personal information or be forced to testify in court.

Three Washington firefighters hospitalized after encountering bug bombs in apartment

Three Spokane Valley Fire Fighters were hospitalized Wednesday afternoon after being exposed to chemicals from bug bombs. The firefighters were responding to a fire alarm around 1 p.m. at Central Park Condominiums near South Eastern Road and East Sixth Avenue. When firefighters arrived, they saw no fire or smoke, but saw an overturned wheelchair and crawled through a window to find if someone was in the apartment, said Greg Rodgers, spokesman for the Spokane Valley Fire Department. Once inside, they smelled an odor and left to put on air packs, he said. They went back in and found no one. When they went outside again, they started feeling nauseous, so the incident commander upgraded the call to a hazmat call and the three firefighters were taken to a local hospital. They went through treatment for exposure and were released from the hospital at about 3:30 p.m., Rodgers said. The resident of the apartment, who wasn’t home and hadn’t been home since the bug bombs went off, set off three at once. They were intended for bed bugs and fleas.
The Spokesman Review

Houston mayor meets with firefighters, says he is open to negotiating phase-in of raises

For the first time since the November election, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Wednesday sat down with the head of the firefighters union and said he is willing to negotiate a plan to phase in raises mandated by the voter-approved charter amendment that requires the city to pay firefighters the same as police of equal rank and seniority. Seated across a wide conference room table from Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association President Marty Lancton, Turner said, "We are not the federal government. We cannot engage in deficit spending. Our books must balance at the end of the fiscal year. And so, if you all are willing to work with me, as the mayor of the city of Houston, to spread the cost of Proposition B out over an extended period of time, then I am more than willing to sit down and work with you ... to work out the details." The offer to negotiate a way to implement the raises over time rather than being forced to implement the full raises — which Turner has said would cost the city an additional $100 million a year — was a sharp turnaround for the mayor.
Houston Chronicle

City in South Carolina limits fire truck responses on non-life-threatening medical calls

The city of Charleston is limiting fire truck responses on non-life threatening medical calls, following in the footsteps of other local municipalities who’ve done so for several years. Fire personnel in Charleston will now only respond to the non-life threatening 911 calls — like nausea and earaches — when Emergency Medical Service workers either request assistance or the anticipated EMS response time is longer than 10 minutes. Fire officials say the effort will free up fire personnel for more critical calls. “I don’t want to be on a medical call that no one could reasonably expect is life-threatening and have a cardiac arrest come out a couple of blocks away and not have a fire unit close to that call,” said Charleston Fire Chief Dan Curia. Like in some other municipalities, Charleston’s previous policy was that fire trucks were dispatched for all medical calls — even though their roles were limited at the scene. Firefighters could stabilize patients until EMS arrived, but couldn’t transport patients themselves.
The Post and Courier

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