Archive for category Fire Service News

Gary Fire Department news

This from Dennis McGuire, Jr.:

Remains of Gary, Indiana Engine 1, 2000 Ferrara after a fire destroyed city garage at 9th and Jackson a few days ago. From Facebook

Firefighters sue over excessive noise from sirens (more)

Excerpts from the

Nearly two dozen Palm Beach County firefighters are suing a publicly-traded company claiming sirens it produces for emergency vehicles robbed them of their hearing.

In a lawsuit filed this week in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, current and former firefighters for Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, the West Palm Beach and Boca Raton fire departments say Federal Signal Corp. should have warned them of the hazards of long-term exposure to the high-intensity sirens. They are seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

Federal Signal provided no warnings or inadequate warnings to consumers and end users … about the dangerous propensities of the noise emitted by the sirens,” Pennsylvania attorney Carmen DeGisi wrote in the lawsuit. “Repeated exposure over a period of time to the noise … (has) caused permanent, irreversible hearing loss to the plaintiffs.”

Chicago attorney David Duffy, who represents the diverse Illinois-based company, said it has been hit with similar lawsuits from firefighters elsewhere in the country.

“Federal Signal has strong defenses to these cases and has prevailed in a string of jury trials,” he said in a statement. “Federal Signal is committed to defending its quality siren products and will litigate these cases as necessary.”

It has defeated firefighters’ claims of hearing loss in jury trials in Philadelphia and Cook County, Illinois, according to company news releases.

In April, it recovered $128,000 in legal costs after a law firm dropped its suit on behalf of Washington, D.C. firefighters. A federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled that the law firm failed to properly investigate the hearing loss claims before filing the suit, Federal Signal said.

“Sirens,” Duffy said, “are vital public safety products and save lives.”

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Of interest … social media posting costs battalion chief his job

Excerpts from


The Howard County Maryland Department of Fire and Rescue Services has developed a social media policy that prohibits employees from “posting or publishing statements, opinions or information that might reasonably be interpreted as discriminatory, harassing, defamatory, racially or ethnically derogatory when such statements, opinions, or information may place the Department in disrepute or negatively impact the ability of the Department in carrying out its mission.”

In January 2013, Kevin Buker, a battalion chief with the department, was watching a gun control debate on cable news when he posted on Facebook “My aide had an outstanding idea…lets all kill someone with a liberal…then maybe we can get them outlawed too! Think of the satisfaction of beating a liberal to death with another liberal.” Two department employees forwarded the Facebook post to another battalion chief and an investigation resulted. The department instructed Buker to review the post and remove any language inconsistent with department social media policy. Following this direction, Buker posted the following on his Facebook, “To prevent butthurt and comply with a directive from my supervisor, a recent post has been deleted. So has the complaining party. If I offend you, feel free to delete me…” and he continued that he would like to engage in debate on Facebook and that he is not ashamed of his opinions. Buker went on to state that the local and federal governments are all liberal Democrat and that free speech only applies to liberals and that he fought to ensure First Amendment rights and those rights were being lost.

Buker was subsequently fired and he then filed a free speech lawsuit claiming that his First Amendment rights were violated. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with Buker and upheld his termination. The court stated that the department has legitimate interest in efficiency and preventing internal disruption and that interest outweighed Buker’s interest in speaking in the manner he did. The court believed that his Facebook activity interfered with department operations, and that the department has a strong interest in limiting dissension and discord. Buker’s Facebook post led to dissension in the department and it significantly conflicted with his responsibilities as a battalion chief. There were now concerns regarding Buker’s fitness as a supervisor and that subordinates would no longer take him seriously.

Grutzmacher v. Buker, 2017 WL 1049473 (4th Cir. 2017)

thanks Scott

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Of interest … Illinois American Water

Excerpts from

Illinois American Water is once again offering grants to state fire and emergency organizations. Since 2010, it’s awarded in excess of 350 grants to fire departments totaling more than $342,000.

Departments/districts are eligible for one $1,000 grant per calendar year. Only uniformed, professional and volunteer departments serving IAW’s service territories are eligible.

The grants can be used to cover the costs of personal protective gear, communications equipment, tools, water handling equipment, training and related materials or reimbursement for specific training classes, manuals and workbooks.

Departments have until September 8 to apply. Applications should include a description of the group seeking support, an overview of the project to be funded and grant amount requested, community problems/challenges the project will address, time-frame for project, a summer of other sources being approached for support as well as a project budget.

Applications can be emailed to Karen Cotton, manager of external affairs.  

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Chicago Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

A Chicago Fire Department battalion chief saw one of his firefighters fall to his death seconds after the chief radioed crews to be on the lookout for openings in the floor that weren’t secured or covered, according to a federal safety report.

Daniel Capuano, 42 years old and a 15-year veteran of the department, fell through a 7-foot-square elevator shaft while fighting a fire in a former slaughterhouse in the 9200 block of South Baltimore Avenue in December 2015.

Capuano and another firefighter had split up after reaching the second floor and encountered heavy smoke as they conducted a search for anyone trapped, according to the report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

The report recommended better use of the buddy system so firefighters aren’t alone when searching buildings. The report also noted that one of the engines responding to the scene was down a firefighter. If fully staffed, it “would have provided additional personnel for a more efficient rapid intervention and to aid in removing (Capuano) from the basement.”

Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said firefighters normally do work in pairs, but not always.

“Our standard procedure is two in, two out. You go in as a pair, you go out as a pair,” he said. “There are times when a firefighter will separate, but the intent is to keep them together.

“There was actually a group of four, and other people in the group literally missed that hole by inches,” Langford said. “But they were together. The problem there was visibility and lack of proper safety measures in place, which should have been in place in a building like that. There should never be open floors in building without some form of railing or some barrier to prevent you from walking into a hole.”

Langford disputed the report’s assertion that an extra member on an engine would have helped in removing Capuano from the basement.

“When he went down, he was spotted, literally spotted falling,” Langford said. “Crews were immediately dispatched to go get him, and multiple members went to that spot. An additional body in our opinion would not have made a difference in getting him out of there.”

Capuano and another firefighter had been assigned to search the second floor, where the heaviest smoke was found by arriving crews around 2:50 a.m. Dec. 14, 2015, according to the report.  They were the second pair of firefighters to check the second floor during an initial search of the building.

Capuano’s lieutenant and another firefighter had made their way through the smoke using a pry bar and right-hand search, the lieutenant in front and the other firefighter immediately behind him. When Capuano and a firefighter from a different truck reached the second floor, Capuano went left and the other firefighter went right, according to the report.

After other crews had encountered open holes on the second floor, the battalion chief radioed  firefighters to “watch where they are walking,” the report states. Seconds later, the chief saw something fall and asked what it was. He walked to the opening and saw Capuano in the basement.  He radioed a mayday to bring more firefighters and ambulances to the scene.

There was an aluminum ladder from the first floor through the elevator shaft to the basement, and a lieutenant climbed down while the chief went outside and directed crews toward Capuano.  The firefighter was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he was pronounced dead less than two hours later.

City officials later said the owners of the building had been removing the elevator without authorization and had failed to secure it.

The fire was caused by a welder who worked alone in the building about 12 hours before the fire was reported. He worked until about 1 p.m. and “had extinguished a number of small fires in the area where he was working on the second floor” but “did not recognize that fire was smoldering within the wall,” the report states.

The fire smoldered until about 2:35 a.m. before someone passing by noticed smoke and called 911. Investigators from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health weren’t able to get inside the building because of “ongoing criminal investigations,” but the report stated that the Fire Department was able to track movement of firefighters by tracks in the powder left behind by the welder’s fire extinguisher.

The first crews found heavy smoke on the second floor and glowing embers falling along the wall with the elevator shaft, according to the report. Despite the heavy smoke, the first engine’s lieutenant didn’t find elevated heat conditions using a thermal imager.

The NIOSH report listed several factors that contributed to Capuano’s death: searching the second floor alone; unsecured floor openings; deep-seated fire; zero visibility; and inadequate shielding of flammable materials during welding.

The report’s first three recommendations deal directly with the search that led to Capuano’s death. It notes that the Fire Department should ensure crew integrity, train firefighters on becoming proficient in limited-visibility searches and better train firefighters on situational awareness.

Langford said training and protocols for “large-area searches” over areas of low visibility have been revised since the fire to include the use of ropes. About 75 percent of department members have undergone “rope-assisted search technique” training, Langford said. The Fire Department fills a building on Pershing Road with smoke and the members go through a simulated fire search using ropes.

The report also recommends using “risk management” principles to evaluate how aggressive they should be in fighting some fires. It noted that “more caution” should be used fighting fires in abandoned, vacant and unoccupied structures or if there is no evidence of people inside. The first sweep of a building — meant to find possible occupants — is called a “primary search.”

“Firefighters should anticipate the possibility of floor openings and other hazards whenever they enter buildings that may be under construction, renovation or otherwise unsafe,” it adds. Obvious signs would be dumpsters and construction debris outside.

That’s not the way the Chicago Fire Department evaluates fires, Langford said. Every building gets a primary search on the assumption it’s occupied — and the only limiting factor is the safety of the firefighters making the search.

If the building is unstable or too engulfed, it would delay the search, Langford said.

“We’re going to do a primary search. We do fires in a lot of abandoned buildings. They’re supposedly abandoned, and vacant and many times we find people living them,” Langford said. “We know fires don’t start by themselves.”

The report noted that fires in cold-storage buildings present a unique challenge: layers of insulation on outside walls.  Six firefighters died in Massachusetts when they became lost in a “mazelike” cold-storage warehouse.

The report also refers frequently to unsafe building conditions and says the city should ensure firefighters have more information when rolling up on vacant buildings. There could be a marking system for buildings under renovation, including specifics about the work for a crew that is dispatched, it suggested.

The owners of the building had received permits in September 2015 for construction work, but none authorized the removal or demolition of an elevator. If they had, the city would have completed an elevator inspection to make sure it was safely decommissioned before issuing the permit for its removal, according to the building department.

“If building owners choose to ignore the permit process and (fail to put) commonsense safety procedures in place, a database won’t help with that,” Langford said. “There won’t be any data in it. If building owners comply with requests for permitting and safety, a database would be filled with information that would be very useful to Fire Department. In this case, it wasn’t done.”

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MABAS Division 24 news

Excerpts from the

A consortium of south suburban fire departments on Wednesday opened the region’s first firefighter candidate testing center, a major step toward aligning local hiring practices with national standards.

MABAS 24, which consists of 20 departments in southern Cook County, partnered with the National Testing Network, a pre-employment testing service, to launch the testing facility at Division 24 headquarters in Homewood.

Aspiring firefighters, who had previously traveled long distances, including across state lines, to take the nationally recognized Candidate Physical Ability Test required by many departments, can now do so in their own backyard.

In addition to adding convenience, MABAS officials said they hope the testing center will help standardize the firefighter hiring process in the region.

Because there is no recognized regional or statewide physical ability test that firefighters must pass before being hired, individual departments and fire protection districts have historically created their own tests or contracted with outside companies to administer tests. As a result, physical ability tests have varied widely by department, and some, including the city of Chicago’s, invited costly litigation from applicants who asserted the tests were discriminatory.

The Candidate Physical Ability Test, or CPAT, which will be administered at the new testing center, is considered legally defensible and non-discriminatory. Both the International Association of Fire Fighters and the International Association of Fire Chiefs endorse the test.

The CPAT is an eight-event course of job-specific actions, such as a hose drag, ladder raise and search and rescue that candidates must complete in less than 10 minutes and 20 seconds.

Those interested in a career as a firefighter can register online to take a CPAT test at the Homewood facility for $125. The registration fee includes a packet with exercises to help candidates train for the course and the opportunity to attend orientation sessions where candidates can familiarize themselves with the eight stations in person. Candidates also can attempt up to two timed practice runs for $39 each.

The CPAT test, which upon passage is good for one year, is intended for entry-level firefighters hoping to break into the profession.

Because the test is standardized and nationally recognized, it is transferable to any department across the country that requires it, meaning that a certified firefighter candidate can apply to multiple departments, including those out-of-state, without having to travel or take multiple tests.

The Homewood facility will offer two testing sessions per month to start, but could expand to as many as three times a week within a year, depending on demand. The testing location also will provide computer-based testing for entry-level firefighters, law enforcement officers, corrections officers, and emergency communications applicants.

The money MABAS 24 earns from operating the testing facility will go toward paying off the $70,000 outlay the division made to purchase the center’s specialized training equipment.

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Cardiac Enlargement in U.S. Firefighters

A new white paper released by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF), “Cardiac Enlargement in U.S. Firefighters,” shows research has found a direct relationship between an enlarged heart and an increased risk for cardio vascular events, including sudden death, among firefighters.  

click on the paper for a larger, downloadable copy

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Of interest … McHenry County College Fire Science Program

Excerpts from the

Firefighter candidates and instructors from McHenry County College were among 50 firefighters from 15 departments who recently participated in more than eight hours of live fire exercises at the Illinois Fire Service Institute in Champaign. Firefighters practiced search and rescue, fire extinguishment, and searching for hidden fires in this structure.

This training, for firefighters from McHenry, Lake, and Kane Counties, was made possible by $5,475 in Perkins grant funding allocated to the MCC Fire Science Program.

The Perkins grant is a federal grant that provides funding for career and occupational training.

“The grant that was awarded to the McHenry County College Fire Science Program not only benefitted firefighters from McHenry County, but also firefighters from surrounding counties,” said Wes Crain, instructor and fire science department chair. “Firefighter candidates had an opportunity to gain live fire training experience that they otherwise would have not been able to attain.

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Pleasantview Fire District news (more)

Comstock Fire Chief Ed Switalski was killed in the line of duty on I-94 in June. Our community came together to pay tribute and say goodbye. A memorial fund has been established in Chief Switalski’s name. Comstock Township has a link for contributions on their homepage, Comstock M-I dot G-O-V. You can watch the full memorial service on PMN Channel 187 through mid-July.
The full memorial service is scheduled to air on PMN Channel 187 during July 2017 on Sundays at 9:30 a.m., Mondays at 4:00 p.m., Thursdays at 9:00 p.m., and Saturdays at 10:00 a.m.


thanks Drew


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Pierce Manufacturing hit with class action lawsuit (more)

Excerpts from the

Several Illinois cities are banding together to pursue legal action after, they claim, a fire equipment maker stiffed them on warranty repairs.

Bloomington and Normal are among seven cities considering an alliance to pursue any and all legal remedies against Pierce Manufacturing of Appleton, Wis.

Of Normal’s five fire engines and two ladder trucks, six have corroded chassis, including two so badly damaged that they’re out of service. Repairs are estimated at $90,000 per vehicle, which the town wants Pierce to pay for under a 50-year warranty on each chassis offered by the company.

“It is our understanding … that Pierce has been denying similar claims, asserting that the apparatus were not properly washed, considering the salt that is present on our roadways during the winter,” according to the memo. “Our fire department washes each fire apparatus every day.”

In response, the town staff has requested it enter into an agreement with Bloomington, Champaign, Charleston, Decatur, Ottawa and Peoria to fight back. The City Council will consider that agreement when it meets today.


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