Posts Tagged Chicago Fire Department

New engines for Chicago (more)

Updated photos from the E-ONE website showing production of the new engines for Chicago

Fire engine being built

E-ONE photo

Fire engine being built

E-ONE photo

Fire engine being built

E-ONE photo

Fire engine being built

E-ONE photo

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CFD Deputy Commissioner McNicolas resigns after crash (more)

Excerpts from the

The Chicago Police Department struggled Friday to explain why the third-highest ranking member of the Chicago Fire Department was neither tested for alcohol in his system nor charged with drunken driving after crashing his city-owned SUV this week near Lake Shore Drive in Lincoln Park.

The Chicago Fire Department concluded that John McNicholas was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident. But the breathalyzer test was administered hours after the crash happened, at fire department headquarters at 35th and State, by the Chicago Fire Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau.

Chicago Police officers were on the scene of the accident on LaSalle Drive just off Lake Shore Drive for up to two hours but never administered a field sobriety test or breathalyzer test, sources said. Four squad cars were dispatched to the scene and were there from 30 minutes to two hours.

The failure to administer those tests raises questions about whether McNicholas was given preferential treatment by police and comes at a time when the Chicago Police Department is working to restore its battered image and trust with the public.

Unlike Illinois State Police, Chicago Police officers do not carry breathalyzers in their squad cars. If a breathalyzer is administered, it has to be done at the district station. That was not done in McNicholas’ case.

Both tests were important, but there are two different standards.

The fire department has as close to a zero-tolerance policy as it can get. Any department member whose blood-alcohol level exceeds .02 — which is possible after just one or two cocktails — is considered under the influence of alcohol.

That’s why McNicholas, who resigned as deputy commissioner Wednesday, agreed to a full separation from the Chicago Fire Department after taking the test that is mandatory after all accidents involving fire department vehicles.

The state standard for charging a motorist with DUI is .08. Since police officers on the scene never tested McNicholas for that standard, he is not expected to be charged with DUI.

On Friday, Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi insisted that the police investigation of the accident involving McNicholas was still open and that police were conferring with prosecutors about possible charges. So far, McNicholas has been ticketed only for negligent driving. He would not confirm that police officers who were on the scene of the accident failed to administer tests to McNicholas — much less explain why.

If officers gave McNicholas a pass, “I can assure you that, if that is the case, they’ll be in trouble.”

Instead of calling 911 and having the conversation recorded, sources said McNicholas called a “black phone” at the 911 center that is not recorded. The call taker noticed immediately that the deputy commissioner sounded as if he had been drinking and followed protocol by dispatching a battalion chief and deputy district chief along with police officers. As for its part of the investigation, the Chicago Fire Department appears to have handled the investigation by the book.

McNicholas did not return to his career service rank of battalion chief. Nor was he eligible for the last-chance policy included in the firefighters’ contract that allows members with drug or alcohol problems to keep their jobs if they submit to and pass random drug and alcohol testing over a one-year period.

thanks Dan

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Chicago FD EMS District Chief Pat Ciara

Excerpts from the Windy City Times:

“I was a tomboy from an early age and knew there was something different about me since I was seven,” said longtime Chicago Fire Department (CFD) Paramedic Pat Ciara. She is the highest ranking out lesbian in the history of the CFD.

“I wanted to do traditionally boy things but my mom, who was concerned with what the neighbors thought of our family, kept putting me in dresses and trying to get me to play with dolls,” she said. “I didn’t play with dolls like the other girls did. I used to rip their hair out and carry them by their legs.”

Ciara worked for a number of years after high school and later graduated from Mayfair College ( now Truman College ) in 1975 with an associate’s degree.

“I worked for a private ambulance company after I graduated from Mayfair and, while I was doing that, I went to EMT school in 1975 at Lutheran General, and then paramedic school in 1976 at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood,” said Ciara. “Right after paramedic school, I applied to the CFD not knowing whether I’d get in or not, but I had to try, because that’s what I really wanted to do.

“Before I worked for the CFD, I owned Town & Country Ambulance Company for about 18 months with a straight, male partner named Gerry. We started it in 1978 and then I got my letter from the CFD telling me I’d been accepted into their ranks. This was exactly what I wanted, so I told Gerry I’d have to sever our business partnership. This was in February of 1980.”

Ciara started out at the CFD as a fire-medic. Eight months later, she was promoted to paramedic-in-charge, and stayed in that role until April 1982. After that, she was promoted to field chief. She did that for 12 years and in 1994 was promoted to chief of EMS training.

“As chief, I took care of all the paramedics that were hired and put them through CFD training,” said Ciara. “In 2000, I was promoted to deputy chief paramedic. They assigned me to Field Division One, which is north of Roosevelt Road. I was in charge of 500 paramedics from the lakefront to O’Hare Airport. I did that until 9/11.”

After 9/11, she took over the logistics of the paramedic division.

“When I started at the CFD, I had to bring all of my own equipment including a blood pressure cuff, stethoscope and intubation equipment,” said Ciara. “They had very little supplies on the ambulances…”

While working for the CFD, she completed her education. She earned her Bachelor of Science in business management from National-Louis University in 2001, and her Master of Science degree in industrial relations from Loyola University in 2003.

Ciara was promoted to her final position at the CFD in 2004—district chief, director of personnel. She explained that without her master’s degree she wouldn’t have gotten the job. As district chief, she worked on everyone’s retirement and hiring packets, and medical evaluations of those who were ill or injured on the job.

“In 2005, I had a mild heart attack so I had an angiogram and a stent placed in my heart and went through cardiac rehab,” said Ciara. “I wanted to go back to work but everyone told me I should go on disability. After trying to go back to work, I decided to take the disability payments and technically I’m still an active duty CFD paramedic, but now that I’m 68, I’m looking at officially retiring. I’m proud of my work as a paramedic. I really loved the job and what I accomplished. Some of the people I mentored are now in positions of power. They still call me for advice and that makes me feel really, really good.”

Two of the women who call Ciara for advice are lesbians. She explained that the CFD doesn’t have many lesbians or gay men in their ranks because there’s still a level of homophobia there.

As far as involvement in LGBT organizations, Ciara was a member of LGPA/GOAL Chicago—the LGBT police and fire association. The organization has participated in the Pride Parade in the past and Ciara noted that the reception they got from the crowd was very positive.

“I never really came out to my family or anyone at the fire department,” said Ciara. “I really didn’t have to because, as they say, I’m a hundred footer. I’m very butch-looking.”

Ciara’s brother Michael followed in her footsteps and joined the CFD seven years after she joined.

While working, Ciara said that she talked about her wife the way anyone would talk about their spouse and both women were always included when her co-workers would have social gatherings.

“In 2003, we had a civil-union ceremony in Vermont and got married in Provincetown, Massachusetts, on Aug. 28, 2010, with Michael serving as my best man,” said Ciara. “Since we were already married, all I had to do was send my marriage license to the firefighters pension board to have my status updated when it became legal here.”

thanks Dan

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Chicago inspector general attacks CFD uniform allowance

Excerpts from the

Chicago taxpayers are shelling out $5 million-a-year to provide a uniform allowance to firefighters that’s more like an automatic cash bonus because it’s completely unmoored from any determination of actual need or use, Inspector General Joe Ferguson concluded Wednesday.

Four years ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel took aim at treasured union perks that included the clothing allowance; holiday and duty-availability pay; pay grades; premium pay; non-duty lay-up coverage; a physical fitness incentive and a 7-percent premium paid to cross-trained firefighter-paramedics.

The mayor subsequently backed away from all of those concession demands in a pre-election contract that won him the surprise endorsement of a Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 that had endorsed mayoral challenger Gery Chico over Emanuel in 2011.

The new, five-year contract called for Chicago firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians to get an 11-percent pay raise over five years, but ends free health care for those who retire between the ages of 55 and 65.

Now, Inspector General Joe Ferguson is taking aim at that uniform allowance in an audit that examined the “issuance, exchange and repair of uniform items” at the Chicago Fire Department’s Commissary.  That’s a storefront run by an outside contractor that issues and sells uniforms under a five-year, $11.7 million contract that expires in 2019.

The city provides free uniforms and free replacements on an exchange basis, unless items are lost or stolen, damaged beyond repair due to employee negligence or excessive weight fluctuations.

The uniform allowance — $1,250 or $1,500, depending on the assignment — is supposed to be used for the maintenance and cleaning of uniforms.

In his audit, Ferguson compared uniform issuances, exchanges and allowances at the Chicago Fire Department to similar spending in New York City, Philadelphia, Toronto, Dallas, San Diego, and Indianapolis.

The Chicago Fire Department issued fewer dress and work uniform items to new hires than most other cities and spent less per-employee than any other city surveyed. But, that comparative advantage is more than offset by an annual uniform allowance that is among the most generous in the nation, Ferguson concluded.

“Purportedly provided to pay for the annual maintenance and cleaning of uniforms, the allowance is completely unmoored from any determination of actual need or use,” Ferguson wrote.

“In addition, CFD does not monitor or audit how [or for what] members spend their allowance once it’s disbursed. As a result, this substantial annual stipend, one of the most generous in the nation, more closely resembles an automatic cash bonus. It therefore merits rigorous scrutiny and reassessment in the context of the city’s 2017 bargaining round with Local 2. … The sizable uniform allowance given to CFD personnel represents an additional opportunity for improved budgetary transparency, accountability and savings.”

In the audit, Ferguson examined 58,257 transactions valued at $1.7 million over a one-year period ending on June 30, 2015 and found that 99.9 percent of those transactions adhered to department policy and management practices.

But, he also found that $535,757 — or 10.5 percent — of commissary expenditures made in 2012 and 2013 “came from a grant source that was not included in the budget proposal or appropriation” for the vendor-run store.

The Chicago Fire Department said that was an historical practice that it intends to change in the future to provide more transparency.

Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago has also made other changes in response to the audit. They include prohibiting firefighters and paramedics from procuring uniform items for other members and modifying the point during training at which candidate paramedics are measured for an receive uniform items to reduce spending on candidate for subsequently drop out.

In addition, the commissary vendor is now required to review past usage of individual members at the time of new transactions to reduce the risk of excessive purchases or exchanges.

Earlier this year, Ferguson concluded that the fire department could save at least $1.2 million a year and potentially millions more in overtime by hiring civilians to perform 34 administrative jobs that have nothing to do with firefighting or emergency medical service.

One of the positions targeted for civilianization was the job of commissary liaison charged with resolving uniform exchange disputes between members and the outside vendor. The job is currently filled by a CFD captain, the new audit states.

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CFD Deputy Commissioner McNicolas resigns after crash (more)

Excerpts from the

The third-highest ranking member of the Chicago Fire Department has resigned after failing a Breathalyzer test, but questions linger about why he has not been charged with driving under the influence.

Chicago Fire Department officials on Thursday night released a statement confirming that CFD Deputy Commissioner John McNicholas failed a sobriety test after a crash early Wednesday.

“The investigation thus far has found that McNicholas was operating his city vehicle outside of department policy, and that following a mandatory breathalyzer test that morning, McNicholas was driving under the influence of alcohol,” CFD spokesman Larry Langford said in a statement. “Yesterday, McNicholas opted to resign his position as Deputy Fire Commissioner and has since agreed to full separation from the fire department.”

Langford confirmed McNicholas also was issued a citation from police for negligent driving.

But sources tell the Chicago Sun-Times that McNicholas is unlikely to be charged with driving under the influence because the test was not administered by police responding to the crash. McNicholas was instead administered the test by the internal affairs division of the fire department … and police are not allowed to use a fire department test because it is measured on a different standard.

Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi on Thursday confirmed that McNicholas was ticketed for negligent driving, but he said the investigation remains open. He did not comment on whether police administered the field sobriety test and said he could not comment on any pending charges.

Police said initially that no citations or charges had been issued just after the crash, but police and fire officials were conducting a joint and active investigation.

McNicholas tendered his resignation to department Commissioner Jose A. Santiago on Wednesday and is “fully cooperative with the Internal Affairs Division,” Langford said.

According to the fire department’s last chance policy, which is in their contract, anyone caught for an alcohol or drug offense can be placed on a type of probation where they are tested randomly for alcohol or drugs for a year. If they test negative during that period, their probation is lifted.

McNicholas will not be given that opportunity, sources said. But McNicholas will still receive a pension for his 36-year career with the fire department.

thanks Dan

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CFD Deputy Commissioner McNicolas resigns after crash

Excerpts from

The deputy commissioner of the Chicago Fire Dept has resigned after he was involved in a car crash early this morning.

John McNicholas was in a department vehicle when it crashed near Lakeshore Drive and North Ave, according to the Chicago Fire Dept.

The department spokesperson said in a statement  “The Deputy Commissioner has been fully cooperative with the Internal Affairs Division of the department. The investigation has thus far found that McNicholas was operating his city vehicle outside of department policy.”

Photos of the accident obtained by WGN News shows the Ford Explorer with severe front-end damage and the airbag deployed. The vehicle is said to be a total loss.

Police say McNicholas was behind the wheel. They say McNicholas was cut off by another motorist, swerved trying to avoid an accident and crashed into a utility pole. In a statement, police say no one was injured and that no citations were issued.

McNicholas handed in his letter of resignation this afternoon.

The investigation is ongoing, the department says.

Excerpts from the

The third-highest ranking member of the Chicago Fire Department resigned Wednesday after crashing a city-owned vehicle near Lake Shore Drive in Lincoln Park.

John McNicholas, who ran the Bureau of Operations, was involved in a crash off Lake Shore Drive near North Avenue early Wednesday, according to an emailed statement from Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford.

He was driving a CFD vehicle westbound on La Salle Drive just off Lake Shore at 12:50 a.m. when another vehicle cut him off, according to Chicago Police.

The CFD vehicle swerved to avoid a collision, went over a curb and struck a utility pole, police said. No one was hurt.

No citations or charges have been issued, but police and fire officials are conducting “a joint open and active investigation,” police said.

McNicholas tendered his resignation to department Commissioner Jose A. Santiago Wednesday and is “fully cooperative with the Internal Affairs Division,” according to Langford.

Chicago Deputy Fire Commissioner resigns after crash

The city-owned vehicle that was driven by former Deputy Fire Commissioner John McNicholas at the time of a crash on Lake Shore Drive early Wednesday. | Provided photo

Excerpts from

One of Chicago’s top firefighters has resigned after a crash that sources say may have involved alcohol.

Deputy Fire Commissioner John McNicholas may have been drinking before he crashed his city issued SUV early Wednesday morning, yet no tickets were issued.  McNicholas was in charge of operations, the third highest in command. He also handled discipline.

Sources say he was on Lake Shore Drive and hit a pole tree and say any employee in such an accident in a city vehicle should be tested immediately.

CBS 2 has been told there were special exemptions given and there was a delay of several hours and he still tested over the legal limit.

CFD Capt. Carmelita Wiley-Earls said, “Here we go once again, a professional courtesy given to a brother firefighter…If anyone was driving drunk then they would have been arrested.”

Wednesday evening, fire department spokesman Larry Langford said in a statement, “Chicago Fire Department Deputy Commissioner John McNicholas was involved in a traffic accident in the early hours of April 20, 2016 near Lakeshore Drive and North Avenue in a department vehicle. The deputy commissioner has been fully cooperative with the Internal Affairs Division of the department. The investigation has thus far found that McNicholas was operating his city vehicle outside of department policy. Late this afternoon McNicholas tendered a letter to Fire Commissioner Santiago resigning his position as deputy fire commissioner for operations effective today. The investigation is ongoing.”

It is not clear if he only resigned his position as deputy fire commissioner or if he resigned from the department.

The Chicago Police Department says it is conducting a joint investigation with the Chicago Fire Department into the specifics of the accident.

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New engines for Chicago (more)

Updated photos from the E-ONE website showing production of the new engines for Chicago

fire truck being built

E-ONE photo

fire truck being built

E-ONE photo

fire truck being built

E-ONE photo

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CFD to fill 32 jobs with civilians

Excerpts from

 Following in the footsteps of Chicago Police, the fire department has agreed to move civilians into positions currently filled by firefighters at an estimated saving of more than $1 million a year.

Inspector General Joe Ferguson stated in his quarterly report released Monday that the fire department was squandering $4.5 million a year in overtime by having firefighters fill 35 positions that did not require firefighter or paramedic training and experience. Ferguson estimated the city could save $1.2 million a year by civilianizing 34 of those positions, returning firefighters to active duty, and eliminating the other.

According to Ferguson, the fire department has agreed on 32 of those posts, but defended two others and the one to be eliminated.

Ferguson previously discovered 300 positions in the police department three years ago that could be filled by civilians, an idea immediately embraced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel as he moved to put more officers on the street.

thanks Dan

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Electronic – biometric system to replace paper time-keeping system for CFD and CPD

Excerpts from the

The Chicago Police and Fire Departments will make the switch from a paper-based time-keeping system to an electronic system that uses biometrics, as part of a citywide crackdown on absenteeism with a $10 million price tag.

The police department spent a record $116.1 million on overtime in 2015 — up 17.2 percent from the previous year — to mask a manpower shortage that has mushroomed under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, with police retirements outpacing hiring by 975 officers.

On Thursday, Budget Director Alex Holt acknowledged that both the police and fire departments, where overtime has also been a problem, are still using a paper system for tracking hours worked. That’s about to change, thanks to changes recommended by an absenteeism task force tied to Emanuel’s tax-laden 2016 budget.

It calls for the two departments to move from their paper-based timekeeping system to the automated system in place for all other city departments. The transition is expected to be completed by the winter of 2017 for the fire department and one year later for the police department.

“We need to put them on the city’s main time-keeping system so we can have a centralized record. Everybody swipes. We know when people show up to work. We know when people leave. It allows the city . . .  to better manage the police and fire work force,” Holt said.

The electronic timekeeping system uses biometric time clocks and hand geometry technology. Employees swipe their identification badges, then put their hands on a palm reader that reads their fingerprints. Without that system, Holt was asked how taxpayers can be certain the $116.1 million in police overtime hours billed were legitimately worked.

The report also recommends that the city adopt a common working definition of absenteeism across all city departments critical to tracking, policy-making and effective discipline.

An excused absence must meet several conditions: sufficient notice to and approval by a supervisor; a reason acceptable to that supervisor, and sufficient accrued paid time off to cover that absence unless otherwise compensated for things like jury duty, administrative, family or bereavement leave, or duty disability.

Other recommendations include developing a comprehensive swiping policy, streamlining attendance codes, establishing a dashboard that publicly displays lost work-time rates and trends for each city department, reforming and streamlining progressive discipline for absenteeism, and providing departments with actionable monthly reports that identify absenteeism by employees and holding mangers accountable for fair and consistent enforcement.

The report also calls for increased training for both employees and supervisors.

The Departments of Streets and Sanitation and Fleet Management have used all of those measures and more to reduce what was once chronic absenteeism. Now, those two departments lead the city with the lowest absenteeism rates of 4.5 and 3.5 percent respectively.

Every year, as much as 7 percent of the time that should have been worked by city employees is lost to absenteeism. Up to 15 percent of that is, what Holt calls overt absenteeism.

“That’s really what the task force suggested we concentrate on because that’s lost time. That’s work that doesn’t get done. It’s services that aren’t provided, and we really need to focus on getting that number as small as possible.”

Holt said it’s tough to compare city absenteeism to the private sector because Chicago has such a generous sick pay policy. It gives city employees 12 to 13 paid sick days each year with the ability to carry those sick days over from year to year.

Does the mayor intend to use the collective bargaining process to try to reduce the number of sick days? Not right now, Holt said.

The electronic time-keeping system is tailor-made to prevent employees from swiping each other in and out.

thanks Dan

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Four injured during apartment fire in Chicago, 4-15-16

Excerpts from the

Jessica Johnson woke to the sounds of screaming but thought it was just a Cubs fan straggling home late from Wrigley Field six blocks away. She went to the window anyway. “He was yelling, ‘Get out. Get out. Get out,’ ” said Johnson, who dressed, grabbed her keys and ran outside barefoot.

“Once in the front, I saw flames shooting out of the side of the building,” she said. The man she heard yelling was on the sidewalk, bleeding.  Neighbors were running outside and calling 911.

Two people inside the three-story apartment building in the 3400 block of North Janssen Avenue in Lakeview jumped to safety and two others were rescued by firefighters, according to Deputy District Fire Chief John Shehan.  All four were taken to hospitals in serious-to-critical condition.

The fire started about 1:50 a.m. in a rear apartment on the third floor of the six-unit building, Shehan said at the scene. The fire department was initially called to an address in the 3400 block of North Southport Avenue, a block east.  Firefighters lost a minute or two while searching for the building that was on fire until they got a second call with the right address.

“A minute or two (can make) a big difference,” Shehan said. “There was a lot of fire venting from the apartment.”

A 22-year-old man and a woman, whose age was not available, were taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, police said.  A 35-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman were taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, police said.

The cause of the fire was under investigation. The police Bomb and Arson Unit was inspecting the site as part of standard procedure.

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