Monday, February 23, 2009

Gawker: City Might Want NYPD and FDNY to Curb Early Retirement

Photo with arrows pointing to the Statue of
Liberty/coat drive ad by PirateJenny on flickr

With the grim state of the city budget a hot topic these days, questions are being raised about how long we can continue to sustain the heavy financial burden that comes from the city's pension system for municipal retirees. Last year the city paid out a total of 9% of its budget ($5.6 billion total) for its pensions and analysts project that percentage is only expected to rise. Former NYPD officer and current State Senator Martin Golden told the Post, "Everything's got to be explored...The bottom line is everything's on the table."

What Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Paterson would specifically like on the table is the "20-and-out" retirement plan for municipal workers. Bloomberg said, "Right now, we are paying full retirement benefits to people in their 40s. As people are living longer, we simply can't afford to do it forever."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Great Old Photo

Click the image to get a high-res version of the image, "Engine Company 15, Washington DC, 1910".
Source: Shorpy

Guest Blogger

I'm negotiating with a friend of mine to guest-blog here, add his views occasionally. 

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tragic Fire, Great Photo Essay

Posted by Picasa
Click image for photo essay.

Don't Wanna Check Hydrants?

Click image for story.

Been checking your hydrants like you should?

Source: Newsday

Sunday, February 15, 2009

"Two Hat Rule" Strikes Again

Dave Statter covers implications of enforcement of the "Two Hat Rule" in Jamestown, New York. (Click image.)
Posted by Picasa

Here's the original article.

Monday, February 9, 2009

CCTV/TVCC tower fire in Beijing (HD version)

TVCC building, China on fire, Beijing on Fire, 北京失火,中国失火

Most fire in a high-rise that I've ever seen. Amazing.

Another view:


Talking back to the Houston Seven.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Union Influence

At Firefighter Nation, Mike Ward has an interesting piece on the sometimes-hostile relationships between volunteer and paid firefighters. He cites a resolution that some committed IAFF members presented at a recent IAFF convention.
Resolution 2 directs the IAFF to delete Article XV, Section 3 and insert a new subsection to the list of defined misconduct as “working a secondary job part-time, paid on call, volunteer or otherwise as a firefighter, emergency medical services worker, public safety or law enforcement officer, or as a worker in a related service, whether in the public or private sector, where such job is within the work jurisdiction of any affiliate or which adversely impacts the interests of any affiliate or the IAFF.

Upon a finding of guilt…it is recommended that the penalty include disqualification from holding office in any affiliate and/or expulsion from membership for the period that the misconduct persists. Charges filed for the misconduct described…shall be preferred by a member of the charged party’s local and/or member of an adversely affected affiliate.”
In other words, some of the union members want to prevent professional firefighters from volunteering (or working part time)  in nearby areas because they fear it might infringe on their labor monopoly in firefighting. We all know how well this kind of exclusionary, union rule-making has done in other areas of our economy

I love when our union leaders try to run firefighters lives away from work--like telling them to vote for far left-wing candidates, or donating union dues to candidates and causes that many firefighters despise. We all know that, while the IAFF leadership tends to support radical left-wing candidates and causes, most rank-and-file firefighters are moderate to conservative in their personal beliefs. Likewise, most professional firefighters see no conflict of interest between their paid jobs in bigger cities and their volunteer or part time work in smaller communities nearby. 

I am a dues-paying IAFF Member and, for the most part, we haven't faced this kind of nonsense in my part of the country. But most things, --race relations, union issues, disaster response, etc.--are less dramatic and more rational and efficient around here (with some exceptions ).

This growing divergence of the IAFF leadership and its rank-and-file will continue to be an hot button issue in the future.

Update: Mike Ward justifiably objected to use of the term "thugs" above. He was right. Poor choice of words. That and other harsh terms have been corrected. My apologies to any I might have offended.

You can click here to see the original, offensive version.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Mitchieville On The 7 Black Houston Firefighters

Mitchieville blogs about the 7 litigious black firemen, and their quest.

Two Years Ago Today

Two Year Anniversary of one of the deadliest fires in Kentucky History...

Clip image for story with video.


Thursday, February 5, 2009


Yesterday I talked about Jay Lowry and his podcast comments about maintaining a calm voice during radio transmission. 

Well, here's the ultimate example of that: Captain Chesley Sullenberger, at the wheel of an Airbus A320 with both engines gone, 155 souls on board and his own ass on the line. 

Cool. As. Ice. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

He May Have A Point

“We don’t do as well on these multiple-choice tests,” said Capt. Otis Jordan, president of the Houston Black Firefighters Association. Jordan and the HBFA are not part of the suit. “I compare fighting a fire, riding an apparatus, to playing football. Your best athlete might not be the straight-A student.”
Posted by Picasa
Click image for story.
Source: Houston Chronicle

I think OJ (Otis Jordan) has a point, though it's not what he intended, and it's something that white firefighters would get pilloried for mentioning. The main point is not that blacks are less intelligent than whites; it's that multiple choice tests are probably the least effective means of selecting competent fire officers, especially at the lower ranks.

I've done well on competitive multiple choice examinations, but I admit that the skill set they test has almost nothing to do with whether or not you'd be an effective fire officer. What they test are the skills of rote memorization, dogged perseverance and a certain ability to mindlessly digest mounds of trivia and regurgitate it on command--i.e. a skill set that rewards a certain thick-headed personality type. Consider it a form of affirmative action for bovine bureaucrats.

What makes a good fire officer? Things like: *courage, * quick decision-making ability under pressure,* strong ethics, * people skills, * leadership charisma and, * especially at the lower ranks, raw physical fitness. This is the same skill set that makes a good football quarterback or an infantry platoon leader in the Army.

Defenders of written tests say, "Well, they're fair." To which I say: drawing names out of a hat would be fair. There must be a better way to pick effective fire officers. 

What I Did Wednesday Night

Click image for slideshow.

Actually, I was only an observer (which was fun; I got to take these pictures). District 19B ran this fire. It was the second in a series of (probably arson) fires that District X responded to within a period of maybe twenty minutes. Engine A arrived on scene first, initiated offensive attack, was withdrawn after District X ordered defensive attack. 

This was first time acting engineer on E-A pumped on a working structure fire. He had supply line laid and attack lines properly pressured upon our arrival (about five minutes after dispatch).

District X's defensive attack brought the fire under control in about 15 minutes.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Trouble Recruiting Black Firefighters

Click image for story. Source: Denver Post

This is a puzzling problem* seen throughout the country. Blacks have been very successful in the military. You would think they'd be as good a fit in municipal fire departments. There are a number of black fire chiefs nation wide, but departments consistently have trouble with black rank-and-file recruitment. 

In my own department race relations are a mixed bag, though probably more positive than in most departments or other organizations. I've worked (fought fire and made EMS responses)  with some outstanding black firefighters and paramedics through the years. We have blacks in our command staff (no black fire chief yet; though a likely future candidate is African American) and a black union president. Race relations in the stations is generally good, with some strange examples of self-segregation at specific stations.

Blacks in the fire service, and race relations within departments, are important topics that I intend to blog more about in the future. 

* If relatively few blacks are interested in fire service careers, is that really a problem? Not sure. There are very few Asians in the fire service, but you don't see newspapers running hand-wringing stories about that.

Private EMS Driver Critically Injured

Click image for story.

Many of us paid/municipal/volunteer FFs/EMT(P)s don't much care about private emergency providers, don't consider them "one of us." 

We should. Private EMS can be valuable allies in providing emergency services. 

Source: WPBF

Monday, February 2, 2009


Jay Lowry has great thoughts on maintaining a calm voice in radio transmissions. (At about 10 minutes into the podcast.)

I comment: OUTSTANDING comments on maintaining a calm voice in radio transmissions. Couldn't agree more. Whether you're rolling up first on-scene, or in command, a calm voice on the radio creates a positive feedback loop. Even if you don't feel calm, if you sound calm on the radio, those responding are more likely to react that way--and so will you as things run smoothly.

EMT Shot and Killed By Patient

I'm a little late on this, but...

Northern NY police: patient shot and killed EMT

CAPE VINCENT, N.Y. - Police in northern New York are investigating the death of a 25-year-old emergency medical technician who they say was shot and killed by a patient he was trying to help. 

Mark Davis died after he was shot in the Canadian border town of Cape Vincent late Friday. According to police reports, Davis and two others responded to the home of 25-year-old Christopher Burke and were treating him when he became agitated, got a high-powered rifle and fired two shots, hitting Davis. 

It wasn't immediately clear who called for the EMTs or why. Davis was working with the with the Cape Vincent Volunteer Fire Department. 

Burke was arraigned Saturday morning on charges of second-degree murder and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon. 

Source: Newsday

111 Earn Coveted Darwin Prize in Kenya.

"Molo, Kenya - At least 111 people died in Kenya when an overturned petrol tanker exploded as people swarmed over it to scoop up leaking fuel in one of the region's worst such accidents, officials said on Sunday..."

"Some witness accounts said the spill may have been started when someone lit a cigarette..."

CNN: Five stations in Atlanta close after firefighters call in sick.

Five Atlanta, Georgia, fire stations had to close Sunday after firefighters called in sick.

Five Atlanta, Georgia, fire stations had to close Sunday after firefighters called in sick.

Five stations in Atlanta close after firefighters call in sick
  • 27 firefighters call in sick Sunday; five stations forced to close in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Union president says budget cuts have left firefighters 'beaten down and run-down'
  • He says he doesn't believe call-ins were part of organized effort
  • Fire chief says Super Bowl Sunday historically contributes to absenteeism

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- So many Atlanta firefighters called in sick Sunday that five understaffed fire stations closed for the day, according to the city's fire chief.
    Five Atlanta, Georgia, fire stations had to close Sunday after firefighters called in sick.
    Chief Kelvin Cochran told CNN affiliate WGCL that 27 firefighters called in sick, more than double the usual number.
    Atlanta fire union President Jim Daws said a hiring freeze and city-imposed work furloughs as the city tries to cut costs have left firefighters "beaten down and run-down." But Davis said he did not think the situation Sunday was an organized effort.
    The Fire Department has been on a four-day work week since December, according to the department's Web site. The site lists 40 stations in the department.
    The fire chief said he did not think firefighters were trying to make a political statement, and he pointed to a possible Super Bowl effect on employees calling in sick.
    "Historically, payday weekends and Super Bowl Sunday also contribute to absenteeism," Cochran told WGCL.
    Some residents in areas where fire stations were closed Sunday said they were nervous.
    "It's nothing less than governmental malpractice on the part of Atlanta's elected officials," said 26-year-old resident Dan Dean.
    A dispatcher with the department said calls had been routine Sunday. 

We all know that, given the fiscal problems Atlanta has been having recently, this is at least indirectly related to the economy. 
How common will stories like this become as this recession/depression worsens?
Historical question: How were "essential" city services affected in big cities during the depression of the 1930's?    

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Google Street View Catches House On Fire

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Big fire. One supply line. Long lay.

Ironic Paint Job

Fatal Church Collapse Caught On Video

Churches collapse other places besides my territory. Here in Brazil, nine died, a hundred were injured.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bronx Firefighter Recalls Jump During Testimony

Source: NY1

Comments from FDNY firefighters who know more about this incident would be appreciated. 

Update: Fire(fighter) Behavior has a discussion of the incident here

Monday, January 19, 2009