Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Firefighters' Union Responds To City Press Release

In yesterday's blog post, I posted a scathing press release issued through John Rago's office. In their comments, Mayor Baker and Chief Willie Patrick say the Firefighters Union is making unprofessional, irresponsible and false claims about fire safety in Wilmington.

In order to provide well-rounded coverage of the debate over fire department staffing and resources here in Wilmington, Delaware, I'm publishing an open letter to Chief Patrick, written by Kevin Turner, President of Local 1590 of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

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Chief Willie J. Patrick Jr., EFO
Wilmington Fire Department
22 South Heald Street
Wilmington, Delaware 19801


Chief Patrick,

On behalf of myself, the Executive Board and the membership of the Wilmington Firefighter’s Association, I am writing to you to express our grave concerns regarding the continued rolling engine company bypass and the negative impact it continues to produce, including at the recent fire in the 2200 block of West Street.

Last year during Labor Management Meetings, you stated that you would not limit the on-duty Battalion Chiefs from being able to perform their jobs. Over the last several months however, the Union has witnessed repeatedly that you or the Deputy Chief of Operations have responded to working fire scenes to ensure that additional resources are not requested or on-scene units are not committed “unnecessarily.” We see this as a clear undermining of the Battalion Chiefs.

While the Union can appreciate the City administration’s efforts to reduce personnel costs and other department expenses due to the economic climate, we can no longer stand by silently and allow the Fire Department administration to jeopardize the safety of our members or the public that we serve.

For example, the decision at the West Street fire scene to limit the on-duty Battalion Chiefs from calling for additional Fire Department resources had a negative impact on our members working the fire and the public that we took an oath to protect. This was not a sound operational decision. It was a financial one.

The short staffing of responding companies due to New Year’s Eve celebration activities affected fire ground operations and fire department efficiency. Two of the first responding Engine companies were short staffed in order to provide an ambulance to stand by at First Night activities. While we recognize the need for public safety at these events, it should not come at a cost to on-duty personnel and apparatus. This was not a sound operational decision. It was a financial one.

We believe that the Director of Public Safety played a role in your decision to fail to send a call-back engine to cover a vacant City fire station or to assist units already on the fire ground. Rather than support these important fire activities, the engine was directed to the New Year’s Eve Fireworks Show instead. This was not a sound operational decision.

These decisions cause us, as a provider of public safety, to question the Department’s priorities. When the decision to support public entertainment over active fire scene activities affects the safety of our firefighters and the public we serve, we have surely deviated from our true mission of protecting lives and saving property.

Since the inception of rolling bypass, firefighter injuries have increased, overall company responses and response times have increased and your administration has callously ignored repeated requests to end the engine company bypass, even when only one or two overtime positions were needed to restore the engine company that was placed in bypass.

This minimum expense would have allowed the Fire Department to return to its fully staffed strength of six engines, two ladders, rescue squad and two on-duty battalion chiefs for a total of 38 firefighters on duty.

In the coming days, the Union will be making public notice throughout the City to inform our citizens of the danger they have been placed in by the City Administration.

We will seek to educate our citizens on the dangers that face them and ask them to demand that their Fire Department be appropriately staffed at all times to handle the emergency needs of all who live, work or visit the City of Wilmington.

Sincerely,

Kevin O. Turner – President
Wilmington Firefighter’s Association


CC: The Honorable Mayor James Baker
William J. Montgomery – Chief of Staff
All Honorable Wilmington City Council Members
All City of Wilmington Civic Associations
Kevin Turner is a Fire Lieutenant assigned to Engine Co. #6 on the city's west side.

1 comment:

Té la mà Maria - Reus said...

very good blog, congratulations
regard from Reus Catalonia
thank you