Monday, January 11, 2010

Mayor and Chief say Fire Union Making False Claims

Backstory: Executives of IAFF Local 1590, Wilmington Firefighters, claim that Chief Willie Patrick denied firefighters an important resource during an extra alarm blaze, which occurred on New Year's Eve near 22nd and Washington Streets. The union has been actively reporting that such activities are a clear, ongoing danger to citizens and firefighters alike.

Local 1590 is attempting to end the current practice of "rolling bypass" which places an Engine Company out-of-service each day, leaving just 8 companies to protect the city.

Today, Mayor James Baker fired back at the IAFF Local issuing a scathing press release that calls the union's claims false and irresponsible.

News Release
Monday, January 11, 2010

Mayor Baker Says Firefighters Union is Making Unprofessional,

Irresponsible and False Claims About Fire Safety in Wilmington

Mayor Demands that IAFF Local 1590 Stop Disseminating
Information That the Union Knows to be Untrue and Misleading

Wilmington Mayor James M. Baker today demanded that the leadership of the union representing Wilmington’s firefighters stop telling citizens that Wilmington’s highly respected fire fighting system, a hallmark of the Wilmington Fire Department for generations, has been compromised and that citizens are in danger.The Mayor said he has rarely been as angry as he was this past weekend when he read a false and misleading letter from IAFF Local 1590 President Kevin O. Turner to Wilmington Fire Chief Willie Patrick containing numerous inaccuracies about the state of readiness of the Fire Department to protect lives and property. The Mayor said the union is using scare tactics to misinform citizens through flyers and appearances at community meetings alleging that the Wilmington Fire Department can no longer carry out its mission of protecting lives and saving property.

IAFF Local 1590 claims in a letter to Chief Patrick that insufficient fire apparatus is being made available to adequately suppress fires and that Chief Patrick and Deputy Chief Joseph Kalinowski have denied requests to bring additional units to the scenes of fires.

Chief Patrick said these claims are totally false and the union leadership knows they are not only false, but outrageous. The Chief, a 29-year veteran of the Department, said he would never do anything to compromise fire safety for citizens or for firefighters. Chief Patrick said he has never denied and would never deny a request from a Battalion Chief or incident commander that additional equipment or personnel be called to the scene of a fire.

Chief Patrick said he recently had a courteous and professional discussion with union President Turner about the union’s concerns with regard to the “rolling bypass” that was instituted on July 1.

“The union doesn’t like it because it helps us control overtime costs without compromising safety,” said the Chief, “It is very unprofessional for the union leadership to make false claims when they know the information is untrue and even more frustrating when the union starts misinforming and frightening citizens,” said the Chief.

Chief Patrick said many fire companies around the United States have successfully instituted a rolling bypass process to help control costs while not compromising the safety of citizens or firefighters. A rolling bypass means that one piece of equipment per shift is deactivated as are the four firefighters needed to operate that equipment. Mayor Baker and Chief of Staff William S. Montgomery said today that the Chief and his staff have complete authority to lift the rolling bypass whenever they choose to address changing conditions as they did in late December during a major snowstorm.

Mayor Baker expressed his confidence today in Chief Patrick and his continuing disappointment with the union leadership’s efforts to misinform the public.

“This union leadership has once again demonstrated its utter disregard for citizens, its disrespect for Chief Patrick and for the mission of the Wilmington Fire Department,” said Mayor Baker. “This is the same union leadership that six months ago, during one of the worse economic periods facing our City, chose to sacrifice seven of its own members to an unnecessary layoff rather than forego a pay increase that every other employee of City government had to endure,” said the Mayor. “The leaders of Local 1590 have now compounded their embarrassing and irresponsible maneuver that resulted in the layoff of firefighters by announcing a campaign to frighten citizens when the union knows that its claims are 100% false.”

Mayor Baker and Chief Patrick reassured citizens today that the safety of citizens and of firefighters is their ultimate goal and responsibility. They said that if equipment or personnel are needed in response to a fire it will be assigned to the scene of a fire without question.

The Mayor and Chief again asked the union to think about the negative consequences of their public misinformation campaign and to cease this type of action, which they said is a disservice to the public and to the proud tradition of the Wilmington Fire Department.

John Rago
Director of Communications and Policy Development

Office of Wilmington Mayor James M. Baker


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