National News

Friday, December 14, 2018

Fallen Massachusetts Firefighter’s Ladder 4 gets prepped for funeral services

For years, they’ve watched from across the street as the trucks go in and out of the Park Avenue fire station, protecting the city and its residents. Now Harris Auto Body is returning the favor, giving two fire trucks a final detailing in preparation for Firefighter Christopher J. Roy’s funeral services. “This is the least we could do,” said John Joubert, an employee at the shop. “It humbles you, and it’s a good feeling - you’re helping these guys out in a time of need.” Firefighter Roy, 36, died Sunday from injuries sustained while fighting an early-morning fire at 7 Lowell St. The tragedy has hit the Worcester community and the firefighting community hard, and thousands are expected to pay their respects to the Roy family this weekend. Calling hours will be held at St. John’s Catholic Church, 44 Temple St., from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. John’s with burial to follow at Notre Dame Cemetery, 162 Webster St.
Worcester Telegram & Gazette

911 call logs reveal terrifying moments at onset of Camp Fire

At 6:33 a.m. on Nov. 8, a Butte County dispatcher answered what was among the first emergency calls in what would become the deadliest wildfire in California history: A “powerline transformer sparked and there is a fire,” the Magalia caller reported. By just after 8 a.m., residents of Concow and Magalia were phoning in a panic — some of them trapped and needing rescue and others frantically alerting authorities to parents and grandparents in harm’s way, according to Butte County dispatchers’ logs. “Her grandfather is at the location fighting off the fire but can not get out,” a dispatcher wrote of an 8:10 a.m. call regarding a man on Green Forest Lane in Concow. A minute later, a call came from a resident on Hoffman Road: “Caller advised her house is on fire and she can not get out. Her mother is stuck and she can not move her.
San Francisco Chronicle

Baltimore County fire chief to retire

Two more top Baltimore County officials are leaving as County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. sets up his new administration. Fire Chief Kyrle Preis and planning director Andrea van Arsdale announced this week that they are retiring. They were two of the department heads who were not included in a list of appointments and reappointments that Olszewski sent to the Baltimore County Council last week. The council is required to confirm Olszewski’s department directors and public safety chiefs. Olszewski said Thursday that he will appoint Assistant Chief Jennifer L. Aubert-Utz to be acting fire chief beginning on Jan. 1. Preis’ retirement is effective Dec. 31. Preis has been fire chief since 2017, taking over for longtime chief John Hohman, who retired. “I truly believe that the Baltimore County Fire Department has given me the most rewarding career one could have,” Preis said in a statement released by the county executive’s office.
Baltimore Sun

3 simple ways to avoid a fire department PR nightmare

Southwest Airlines recently found itself in hot water and had to apologize for the actions of one of its employees. That person, a gate agent, had joked with coworkers about the unusual name of one of the passengers on the flight, and later posted a picture of that passenger’s boarding pass to her personal social media account. The passenger, a five-year-old child traveling with her mother, had the name Abcde, apparently pronounced “Abcity.” Is it normal that an airline employee – or a firefighter – would notice an odd name and even comment on it at work? Absolutely. Firefighters see a lot of things in the course of their work: things that are gruesome, tragic, funny or just bizarre. Talking and joking about those things with their colleagues after the fact can be a healthy way for firefighters to decompress from often stressful circumstances.

City of Houston files legal brief claiming fire pay parity amendment unconstitutional

The city of Houston has alleged in a legal claim that the voter-approved charter amendment granting firefighters equal pay to police officers is unconstitutional and preempted by Texas’ local government code, echoing a similar contention from the Houston Police Officers’ Union. The claim, filed in state district court as part of the police union’s lawsuit against the Houston Professional Fire Firefighters Association and the city, comes 10 days after a judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking implementation of Proposition B, which passed with 59 percent of the vote last month. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Friday. In its argument, the city contends that the pay parity amendment, which applies to firefighters and police officers of corresponding status, “directly conflicts with the collective bargaining process and guidelines for firefighter compensation” laid out in the Texas Local Government Code, meaning it is “expressly preempted” and “therefore invalid.”
Houston Chronicle

Thursday, December 13, 2018

7 FDNY firefighters, 5 civilians hurt as massive fire tears through Queens businesses

At least 12 people are recovering from injuries after a massive fire burned through several businesses in Sunnyside, Queens. The fire broke out inside one store on Queens Boulevard around 2:14 a.m. Thursday and quickly spread. Dozens of firefighters were called to the scene as the fire grew to five alarms. The raging flames eventually engulfed six stores, one of which partially collapsed in the back. Firefighters dodged a frightening backdraft that ripped through one building at around 3 a.m., sending them scrambling to Queens Boulevard for safety.

Texas city council to consider making 4-person crew rule mandatory for fire calls

Austin City Council members on Thursday will consider an ordinance that would require most of the city’s fire vehicles to be staffed with a minimum of four people, a move decades in the making that supporters say will improve safety and efficiency at the Fire Department. The ordinance would essentially bring into law a policy that the Fire Department has already been implementing to make sure that first responders are able to act immediately during a critical fire incident. The city began working toward four-person crews in the early 1990s. Austin fire union President Bob Nicks said council members passed an aspirational resolution roughly 10 years ago that called for making four-person staffing the standard by 2019. With the help of a grant in 2012, the department reached the goal earlier than expected. “The ordinance kind of ensures that we stay there,” Nicks said. “We discussed the importance of it with council, and they decided that it is important enough to make it a law.”
Austin American-Statesman

Ghost Ship defendants ask for arrest of landlord, fire officials for deadly California blaze

The attorneys for the Ghost Ship defendants are asking the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office for an unusual move — to arrest the warehouse landlords and fire department officials for the deadly fire. Attorneys for Derick Almena and Max Harris announced the motion to compel the arrests on Tuesday, asking for a laundry list of arrests that includes the Ghost Ship warehouse landlord Chor Ng and her two children, Eva and Kai, who served as building managers. Almena and Harris are awaiting trial on 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter each for the deaths of the people who perished in the Ghost Ship warehouse fire on Dec. 2, 2016. Besides the landlord family, the list names several members of the Oakland Fire Department, including Capt. George Freelen, who testified in the case’s preliminary hearing last year that there was a high fire load at the warehouse when he and others entered inside.
East Bay Times

Councilman demands independent probe on FDNY chief suspended over abusive behavior accusations

The head of the city council's investigations committee has requested an independent probe of the events leading up to the suspension of a top Fire Department chief accused of abusive behavior. Councilman Ritchie Torres, (D-Bronx), sent Department of Investigation Commissioner Margaret Garnett the request Tuesday, days after FDNY Chief of Department James Leonard was relieved of his command and put on desk duty. The suspension followed Daily News reports that Leonard had been accused of openly berating and humiliating subordinates, and tried to freeze out First Deputy Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, one of few women in the top ranks of the FDNY. In announcing Leonard's suspension, the FDNY said the city's Law Department will be responsible for investigating his behavior. But Councilman Torres says the city charter dictates that DOI — which is considered a more independent watchdog — should handle these allegations.
New York Daily News

How suburban Illinois fire chiefs collect both pensions and paychecks

Mitch Crocetti's job pays pretty well, but his old job pays him even better. The Pingree Grove & Countryside Fire Protection District chief receives $117,500 a year in his current role, but his pension after his previous 30-year career with the Wood Dale Fire Department also pays him $124,037 annually. Crocetti is one of at least 15 suburban fire chiefs who are drawing six-figure salaries while receiving pensions and building toward eventual second public pensions, according to a Daily Herald analysis of fire pension records. Crocetti said smaller fire departments benefit by being able to pay lower salaries to retirees on pensions. "That's how a lot of these smaller departments can afford to have experienced, educated chiefs," Crocetti said. "Without these kinds of benefits, I don't know how a smaller community could draw someone."
Illinois Daily Herald

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