Posts Tagged Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford

Chicago Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

A woman has alleged that she had sex in a South Side firehouse with a veteran Chicago firefighter, triggering an internal investigation at a time of heightened awareness on the issue.

“The Chicago Fire Department has an ongoing investigation into these allegations and will determine if they are true,” Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford wrote in an email. “Such conduct will not be tolerated in our firehouses and any member guilty of such an event will face appropriate discipline.”

Langford refused to identify either the firehouse, the accused firefighter, or the woman who filed the complaint, nor would he say when the sex allegedly took place or how often.

Other sources said the complaint involved consensual sex in a South Side firehouse between a woman and a firefighter who, at the time, was her boyfriend.

The investigation has been going on for months in an attempt to verify the woman’s claims, either by interviewing co-workers or going through telephone and text messages provided by the woman. Firehouse sex is strictly off-limits. In addition, no visitors are allowed in Chicago firehouses after 10 p.m.

Earlier this week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed a change in city policy that would guarantee city employees who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault up to one month of paid leave to get their lives back together.

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CFD collecting bunker gear from paramedics

Excerpts from the

Two years ago, self-contained breathing apparatus were removed from all 75 Chicago ambulances. In addition, 70 paramedics graduating from the fire academy were not issued bunker gear. Now, the fire department is collecting bunker gear from all paramedics.

“Local 2 believes the removal of the bunker gear from our paramedics is not in the best interest of our membership,” Tom Ryan, president of the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 wrote in a text message.

The decision to strip paramedics of equipment bought just for them was announced in a May 4 memo signed by Assistant Deputy Fire Commissioner Mark Nielsen, who runs the Bureau of Operations.

The memo outlines a schedule of pick-up locations and dates starting May 15 and ending June 5.

“Items to be returned are: (1) bunker coat, (1) bunker pants, (1) bunker suspenders. In addition, paramedic field chiefs shall return their … face pieces,” Nielsen said.

“Members who are missing equipment shall follow current policies and procedure for lost/stolen equipment and shall submit a Form 2 through the chain of command to District Chief Juan Hernandez. Members shall be held accountable for the replacement cost of missing items per collective bargaining agreement.”

Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford acknowledged that the decision to collect bunker gear from veteran paramedics marked the end of an era for the Chicago Fire Department. But, he categorically denied that it was a dangerous decision.

“They have had it for a long time, but it’s clear they did not need it because they are NEVER sent into an area where they need to wear such gear,” Langford wrote in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times.  “If a situation comes up that requires a paramedic in a fire area or dangerous location, they will send in a fire/paramedic not a single-role paramedic. Since ambulance paramedics don’t go into those situations, they do not need that type of gear.”

Langford said there’s a big difference in role and equipment between paramedics and emergency medical technicians.

“EMT’s are firemen and they do have full bunker gear because they work on engines and trucks. Only paramedics now work ambulances. That has been the case for over a year. Paramedics have bunker gear, but do not use it because they do not enter fire areas. So, we opted to replace bunker for paramedics after the current stuff expired,” Langford wrote.

“They will now get clothing that is better suited to what they do. Stuff that is lighter in weight and designed to be protective against fluids and such. Ambulance paramedics never go into fires or nasty areas.. so why put them in full bunker gear?? Same goes for breathing tanks. Ambulance paramedics did not have a need, so that was eliminated as well.”

A veteran paramedic, who asked to remain anonymous, argued that the policy change means that paramedics “can no longer go near a fire building or car extraction. A few years ago, a single-room [occupancy] hotel at Jackson and Kedzie caught fire. People were jumping and paramedics had to go the building to get them. Glass was falling along with other debris.”.

The veteran paramedic called the policy change evidence of the second-class status paramedics have been forced to endure under the four-year regime of Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago. That’s even though two-thirds of the calls are for emergency medical services.

Two years ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel hammered out a new, five-year contract that 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.

The agreement also called for a dramatic upgrade in ambulance care. All 15 of Chicago’s basic-life-support ambulances were converted to advanced-life-support, giving Chicago 75 ambulances capable of administering the most sophisticated level of care.

The contract helped Emanuel win the surprise endorsement of Local 2 four years after the union endorsed mayoral challenger Gery Chico over Emanuel.

But a newly-formed political action committee created by 100 paramedics endorsed Jesus “Chuy” Garcia after the vanquished mayoral challenger promised to bolster Chicago’s fleet of 75 advanced life support ambulances, create an emergency medical services commissioner on par with the fire commissioner, and make the job of paramedic officer a tested position.

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Man steals CFD buggy

Excerpts from

Chicago firefighters were responding to a routine drill in a Loop high-rise hotel Saturday when a West Side man allegedly took advantage of their distraction and stole a Chicago Fire Department SUV from the scene, authorities said Monday.

Joseph Gunn, 43, of the 4200 block of West Cermak Road, allegedly made off with the first battalion chief’s SUV that was left running outside the Hilton Chicago at 720 S. Michigan Ave.

The chief, who was one of the most senior officers on the scene that day, discovered the vehicle was gone when he got out of the building.

“It was red and black. … It had Chicago Fire Department all over it,” said Larry Langford, spokesman for the department.

Police spotted the vehicle about 10 minutes after it was discovered gone and stopped Gunn near 15th Street and Homan Avenue. All fire department vehicles are equipped with tracking devices.

Gunn was charged with possession of a stolen motor vehicle and impersonation of a firefighter, both felony counts, as well as misdemeanor driving on a revoked license, according to police. He appeared in bond court Sunday and was ordered held in lieu of $25,000 bail, according to records.

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CFD will limit gear for paramedic graduates

From PoliticEarly&Often:

On the eve of a dramatic upgrade in ambulance service, the Chicago Fire Department is making changes that, union leaders warn, could put the lives of paramedics and the public in danger.

Self-contained breathing apparatus are being removed from all 75 Chicago ambulances. In addition, roughly 70 paramedics graduating from the fire academy on Sunday will not be issued fire helmets, boots and protective clothing, known as bunker gear, that are standard issue for firefighters.

Without breathing masks and oxygen tanks, veteran paramedic Pat Fitzmaurice said paramedics will no longer be able to go into a burning high-rise–or subway after a derailment, collision or explosion–to rescue victims or firefighters in distress.

It also means that, instead of being right in front of a fire scene or in close proximity to a chemical spill, they may be staged a block away, Fitzmaurice said. That could add seconds and even minutes to the time it takes to rescue and treat victims.

The decision to strip paramedics of equipment specifically purchased for them was announced in an order signed Thursday by Deputy Fire Commissioner John McNicholas, who runs the Bureau of Operations.

“On Sept. 20, SCBA units will be removed from service on all ambulance units,” McNicholas wrote, spelling out the turn-in process without explaining why.

The Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 has filed a grievance to protest changes that, the union contends, violate its contract with the city and put Chicagoans at risk at the worst possible time.

“With the real threat of terrorism worldwide at its highest level in years, Chicago is considered to be a prime terrorist possibility along with also being recognized as a city with multiple high-target hazards,” Ryan wrote Friday in a text message to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“The timing of this change in response protocol is suspect. As firefighters and paramedics serving a large city like Chicago, we need to be prepared for any and all emergencies…[and for] the worst-case scenario.”

Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford countered that Chicago was the “only major department in the nation” that outfitted “single-role” paramedics in fire gear and is simply “falling in line” with its counterparts.

“Single-role paramedics do not respond in burning structured or in hazardous location fires and they do not need the tanks or fire-resistant clothing,’ Langford wrote in an e-mail.

As for the bunker gear, Langford said new paramedics will be issued “more comfortable clothing better suited to EMS operation.” It will include a “traditional helmet,” waterproof utility boots and clothing tailor-made to “block transmission of patient body fluids.” Existing paramedics will keep their bunker gear until it needs to be replaced, he said.

“Single-role paramedics do not operate in a fire or hazardous situation. Patients are brought to them,” Langford said.

Mayoral spokesman Adam Collins added, “The city has deep respect for the men and women who protect residents and we will continue to ensure they have the equipment they need to help them do the job they were hired to do.”

Fitzmaurice argued that the changes make no sense at a time when fires are down and the overwhelming majority of 911 calls are for emergency medical service (EMS).

“If we don’t have self-contained breathing apparatus, we can’t be anywhere near a toxic environment. That means precious seconds are lost,” Fitzmaurice said.

“When victims come out of a fire, they’re wet. Some are not breathing. It’s a wild, rushed scene. Now, there won’t be a stretcher there. Paramedics will no longer be near fire scenes. If there’s a high-rise fire, they’ll no longer be in the lobby or evacuating the stairwell. If there’s an incident in the subway, you can’t send paramedics down there. They’ll be staged at a distant location. People can die.”

Fitzmaurice pointed to two recent incidents where firefighters went into cardiac arrest at fire scenes and were resuscitated by  paramedics wearing breathing masks.

He also recalled an incident that occurred on Valentine’s Day, 2013. Ambulance 52 was returning to quarters from a run that ended at Loretto Hospital when civilians jumped in front of the ambulance in the 100-block of North Central.

A house was on fire and victims were trapped inside, paramedics were told. According to Fitzmaurice, the paramedics were then able to put on their helmets, protective clothing and breathing apparatus and go into the house to rescue someone who had gone in to search for a child.

The decision to strip paramedics of a breathing device they campaigned long and hard for—and that ambulances have special compartments to carry—comes as the Chicago Fire Department ends its 15-year experiment with a two-tier system of ambulance service.

Starting next week, all 15 basic-life-support ambulances will be converted to advanced-life-support, giving Chicago 75 ambulances capable of providing the most sophisticated level of care.

The decision to end a two-tier emergency medical system that paramedics have called a dismal failure follows investigations by Inspector General Joe Ferguson, WBBM-TV and the Better Government Association. All three concluded Chicago needs more advanced life support ambulances to consistently meet response time standards.

The newly-approved firefighters contract calls for the appointment of a six-member committee to study the need for even more ambulances.

And yet another study is under way to explore the possibility of relocating existing ambulances. That has Northwest Side aldermen fearful of losing ambulances campaigning against the change before a final decision has even been made.

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CFD firefighters rescue four from south side fire

The Chicago Tribune has an article about a south side fire where four civilians were rescued:

Four people, including a young girl, were rescued from a suspicious fire in a large apartment building in the Jackson Park Highlands neighborhood [yesterday] afternoon, fire officials said. Firefighters were called to the building at 7020 S. Jeffery Boulevard about 2:40 p.m. after a woman called 911 to say she was trapped in her apartment by the fire, fire officials said.

A still and box alarm and an EMS Plan 1 were called for the building, a high-rise apartment with several stairwells. Firefighters arrived at the building and saw the woman at the window of her second-floor apartment. They couldn’t reach her by going through the hallway because of the strength of the fire in the hallway, said Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford.

Firefighters from Engine 126 rescued the woman’s young child, who appeared to be about 3 years old, and the woman, using a ladder to get her out of the front of her apartment. Firefighters from Truck 49 also rescued a man and a woman from another apartment, said fire spokeswoman Chief Verdi Allen.

A quick response to the fire kept any of those who were rescued from requiring hospitalization, Langford said. They were checked by paramedics at the scene and declined further medical treatment, Allen said.

The fire was unusually intense for an apartment fire, starting in a hallway near the front door of the woman’s apartment and burning through the apartment door, Langford said. It required firefighters to use two fire hoses to put out, he said. The fire is suspicious, and the fire department’s Office of Fire Investigation and police Bomb and Arson detectives will be investigating, Langford said.

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Two Chicago firefighters injured at fire scene

The Chicago Tribune has an article about a fire on the far south side that injured eight, including two firefighters.

It took a minute for the man standing on the front porch of the West Pullman home to realize what was going on when his neighbors started yelling to him that his house in the 11600 block of South Michigan was burning … eight people, including a two firefighters and a police officer, were injured Tuesday evening.

Seeing two boys in the upstairs windows, [police] officers shouted instructions to break the windows and jump into their arms, Police News Affairs Officer Hector Alfaro said. It was a team effort, with … other people nearby helping direct the boys, who are 15 and 8 years old, to a side window. The officers and neighbors then prepared to catch the boys and urged them to jump. One of the officers suffered a minor injury catching one of the boys, police said.

The group of neighbors and officers then tried to run upstairs to rescue a man trapped inside but were blocked by thick smoke …

Fire crews arrived soon and found a police officer attempting to force her way inside the building to reach whoever was trapped inside, Deputy Chicago Fire Cmsr. John McNicholas said. Seeing people fleeing the building and hearing reports of people trapped, firefighters called an emergency medical services plan 1 for the fire, sending at least six ambulances to the scene.

With a man still trapped on the second floor, firefighters swiftly made entry.  Firefighters found heavy smoke and fire in the home, and a firefighter attempting to reach the second floor was pushed back by the heat, causing him to fall down the stairs, McNicholas said.  The trapped man was rescued from the rear of the second floor, he said.

The man was taken in serious-to-critical condition to Advocate Trinity Hospital, officials said. Four other people were taken in good-to-fair condition to Roseland Community Hospital, Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said.

The firefighter who fell and another injured firefighter were both taken to hospitals as well. Neither firefighter’s injuries were believed to be life-threatening. The injured police officer was taken to Metro South Medical Center in Blue Island in good condition, Langford said.

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Chicago 2-11 Alarm fire on 1-8-14 was incendiary

The Chicago Tribune has an article about the cause of the 2-11 Alarm fire on Wednesday at 5800 N. Sheridan Road.

A fire in an Edgewater Beach neighborhood apartment building that left eight people injured, one critically, was started by someone, and the investigation has been turned over to police, officials said Thursday.

The Chicago Police Department’s Arson Unit is investigating the fire in the 5800 block of North Sheridan Road. The Chicago Fire Department’s Office of Fire Investigations determined Thursday that the fire was “incendiary,” meaning that a person was somehow involved in the fire starting, Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said Thursday.

Arson investigators will determine whether the fire was criminal in nature, said Officer Jose Estrada, a Chicago Police Department spokesman. No one had been questioned as a suspect or was in custody related to the fire by Thursday evening, he said.

The blaze, reported at the five-story apartment building about 10:30 a.m., sent one woman, 31, to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in critical condition. Her condition had stabilized Thursday morning, Estrada said.

Seven others hurt in the fire were treated and released from area hospitals, including a Chicago firefighter who was cut and needed stitches, officials said.

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Fire deaths in Chicago in 2013 declined to lowest number ever

The Chicago Tribune has an article about 2013 being the year with the fewest fire deaths in Chicago’s history.

Sixteen people died in fires in Chicago in 2013, the lowest number of such fatalities ever recorded in one year in the city.

“It’s been … moving in that direction for the past several years,” said Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford, who credited the use of smoke detectors, advancements in medical technology and quick response of fire crews. The lowest total had been 18 in 2008.

“Generally in the mid-1990s, around 50-plus a year was not uncommon,” Langford said. “If you go back in to the 60s and 70s, more than 100 was not uncommon. So it’s been dropping over a long period of time.”

The passing of a smoke detector ordinance about 15 years ago “has a lot to do with it” with the death toll going down, Langford said.

Other factors include “our response and rapid search and rescue progress. And we can’t minimize the EMS part … getting a person out of a building — a lot of times we’re able to revive them,” Langford said.

The largest loss of life in one fire remains the December, 1903 blaze that erupted during a Wednesday matinee performance of “Mr. Blue Beard” at the Iroquois Theater in the Loop, killing more than 600 people. “Most were trampled to death,” Langford said.

Langford said the department will continue its program of distributing smoke detectors. “We give out thousands each year when people need them and when they can’t afford them,” he said. Another ongoing effort is teaching people how to escape from a fire and what do to during a high-rise fire.


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NIOSH report released on LODD of CFD Captain Herbie Johnson (more)

The Chicago Tribune has an article about the NIOSH Report on the LODD of CFD Captain Herbie Johnson:

Chicago firefighters failed to properly coordinate and communicate their strategy for extinguishing a blaze that killed a 32-year veteran of the department last year, a federal investigation found.

The report marks the second time in as many years that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has cited poor communications as a contributing factor in a Chicago firefighter’s death. Though not as scathing as the findings from a December 2010 blaze that killed two firefighters, the latest NIOSH report indicates there are still questions about how the department communicates while battling fires.

The report also describes the harrowing scene inside a burning Gage Park neighborhood two-flat on Nov. 2, 2012, where Capt. Herbert Johnson repeatedly ordered his men to safety after suffering severe burns to his hands, face and the inside of his mouth.

“He was trying to get us out but he couldn’t get himself out,” said firefighter-paramedic Mike Imparato, who yelled “mayday” — he had no radio — after Johnson fell to the floor.

Both the Fire Department and the firefighters union have reviewed the report, which does not specifically state which, if any, issues had a direct bearing on Johnson’s death. Instead it lists a series of “contributing factors” that include poor communication, staffing shortages and inefficient coordination at the scene.

A union official said the report, while an important learning tool, also shows that fires are filled with hidden dangers beyond anyone’s control.

“They got on the scene and there was minimal fire showing from the first hole in the roof,” said Thomas Ryan, president of Chicago Fire Fighters Union Local 2. “It looked as though they had it under control, then all hell broke loose. Johnson’s first instinct was to tell the members to get out. He looked out for the safety of his fellow firefighters. Unfortunately he didn’t make it out.”

Johnson, who had been promoted to captain that summer, was in the house for only six minutes when things went terribly wrong, according to investigators. As Johnson carried a hose inside, the scene commander announced over department radios that other firefighters were ventilating the building and blasting water into the attic.

Johnson, who was carrying a radio, never confirmed that he got that message. But the plan proceeded anyway. The report specifically chastises scene commanders for failing to confirm that Johnson knew the plan to attack the fire.

“Everyone has to know the strategy that is being implemented and understand their role by acknowledging via radio their position and role,” the report states.

The federal investigators also took issue with the strategy employed that day, saying that firefighters on the scene failed to consider that horizontal ventilation — doors were opened on either end of the building, and there was a hole in the roof — would cause the fire and heat to intensify and become dangerous, federal investigators said.

Around the same time as the ventilation plan was enacted, Johnson ordered firefighters on the second floor to get out of the building. His order was followed by a loud noise, as Johnson collapsed on the second floor.

The report confirms that the firefighter-paramedic who found Johnson did not have a radio and was reduced to screaming “mayday” to call attention to Johnson’s injuries, according to federal investigators. The report notes that on the day of the fire the city was still awaiting a shipment that would have provided a radio to every member of the department.

Those additional radios were recommended by NIOSH after an investigation into a December 2010 fire in a vacant South Side building that killed two firefighters. The lack of radios was cited as a contributing factor in that blaze.

Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford on Monday initially insisted that all firefighters involved in the Gage Park fire had radios. After reading the report Monday, he conceded that some firefighters at the scene did not have radios but said it would have made little difference.

“That had nothing to do with this incident,” Langford said. “Communication was not the issue in this incident from what I determined.”

Every Chicago firefighter now has a digital radio, Langford said. Most were distributed on Nov. 18, 2012, about two weeks after Johnson’s death.

Imparato, who made the mayday call without a radio, told the Tribune he yelled for about 10 seconds before help arrived. He tried to grab Johnson’s radio to call for assistance but couldn’t reach it, he said.

“Ten seconds seemed like an eternity,” he said. “I could hear footsteps on the stairs, so I knew others were coming. I was screaming ‘mayday’ the entire time.”

Imparato said he doesn’t believe a radio would have changed Johnson’s fate.

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CFD Commissioner again at odds with city IG has an article about the City of Chicago Inspector General (IG) trying to dictate disciplinary measures within the Chicago Fire Department … again. At issue this time is a CFD battalion chief (BC) that allowed his adult son to ride-along and bunk-in. The IG wanted a 20-day suspension for the BC, while Commissioner Hoff dispensed a verbal reprimand.

The article quotes CFD Spokesman Larry Langford and a column on Huff Post Chicago by Alden Loury the publisher of The Chicago Reporter.

Introduced by the IG is an opinion that the commissioner’s stance has to do with his childhood. (from Huff Post Chicago):

In the opening scenes of the 1991 Ron Howard filmBackdraft, two young brothers are horsing around in the Chicago firehouse where their father works when an emergency call comes in. As firefighters ready their engine to answer the call, the younger brother beams when his dad asks if he wants to ride along.

The movie is loosely based on the lives of Chicago Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff and his older brother Raymond Hoff, third-generation Chicago firefighters whose father was killed fighting a fire in a South Side apartment building in 1962, according to media reports.

The film came to mind recently because Commissioner Hoff — presumably depicted as the younger brother in Backdraft who rode along with his firefighter-father — is now at the center of a controversy involving fire department “ride alongs.”

The Statter911 article can be found HERE, and the Huff Post Chicago article can be found HERE.

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