Saturday, March 31, 2012

New York Post: Discrediting Firefighters Whenever Possible

by: Lou Angeli

Lewes, DE (March 27, 2012) -- I don't know where to start, but first allow me to make this personal statement. The New York Post, one of America's largest newspapers, is also one of its worst. It serves up yellow journalism on a daily basis and " best used to line the bottom of bird cages."

Yesterday, Monday March 26, 2012, The Post ran a story about a former FDNY firefighter, who the paper claims faked a medical condition in order to retire early and collect a disability pension. For the sake of this discussion we'll refer to the firefighter as Ray. This news piece hit home here in the First State, because not only is the story a total fabrication of the lifestyle and activities of a fellow Delaware volunteer, but the venerable NY Post lifted one of my photos, one that I shot 2 years ago, to illustrate a story on Track Safety at Dover International Speedway.

For the record, I been photographing firefighting and firefighters for 30 years, and those who know me understand that I would never allow any image or video clip to be used to disparage a firefighter, paramedic, EMT or law enforcement officer. Indeed, I never signed a license allowing the newspaper to use the photo -- and I instructed the writer NOT TO USE IT on three separate recorded telephone conversations.

Ray is a former FDNY firefighter who had a sterling career, so much so that officers of Rescue-1 (Manhattan) and Rescue-3 (The Bronx) fought over him. He served under Capt. Terry Hatton and learned the ropes from fellow firefighter Joey Angelini, who at 65 continued to hold an honored spot on Rescue-1's rig. But all of that came to an end on September 11, 2001. Hatton, Uncle Joe and most of Rescue-1's crew were lost to the towers that day. Ray was off, but responded from home arriving just before the north tower collapsed.

Although I'm not using the firefighter's true name, many of you will recognize him by his voice. When Jay Jonas, serving as Captain of Ladder 6 on September 11th, reported that he and his crew were trapped but alive, it was the Ray who responded by radio. "We're coming for you brother...We're coming for you." Those nine words remain one of the most chilling radio transmissions from that horrible day.

During Rescue and Recovery, Ray searched for his brothers day-in and day-out, spending many, many weeks on the pile. It was hard work but Ray was determined to bring his colleagues home. His decision to see the mission through had its ramifications though. Ray started suffering from pulmonary ailments and after testing, the city released him from service on disability at just 45 years of age.

Fast forward ten years: Ray, now living in downstate Delaware, became a member of his local volunteer fire company -- not so much to ride the apparatus, but to work with the department's junior members. Imagine the quality of education those kids have received!

Because of his rescue expertise, Ray was asked to serve as a consultant to Dover International Speedway's Track Safety Crew, where he worked with NASCAR safety personnel to come up with the SOPS for the extrication of drivers. During the races, Ray drove the utility truck that carried the rescue tools. But everything about NASCAR is fast, and by the time he would arrive, four other fast response vehicles were on the track with a total of 16 firefighters -- enough manpower to attack a well involved room and contents fire.

It must have been a slow news day for the New York Post yesterday. Working on a single tip from a angry individual who didn't care for Ray, the newsrag ran the following headline "Disabled FDNYer with 95K Pension Now a NASCAR Rescuer." The writer was Creepy Carl, as he's known by some, a Mr. Carl Campanile. One individual who has been following Campanile's career notes, "Carl one time was an idealistic journalist, but after years at the Post he has become nothing but a mindless, brainless robotron who does the bidding for his master Rupert Murdoch."

The story is written in the first person narrative as if Carl knows Ray personally. In reality he's speaking for a single individual who called the paper with a tip -- actually a series of tips, all of which are hearsay.  The tips deal with Ray and Campanile ran with the story because the Post seems to discredit firefighters (and law enforcement) whenever possible.

Campanile claims that Ray "may have received his disability...(because) he was overweight." Well, anyone who knows Ray would never describe him as overweight at 6' 5" and 200 pounds. Just check out the picture that I shot -- and the Post ripped off. Curiously, the information and research regarding Ray comes from a sole source -- a whistleblower claims the journalist. Unfortunately, the whistleblower wouldn't allow the newspaper to release her/his name. Perhaps Campanile should have done a background check on his source before ripping into Ray and ruining his life.

The issue of firefighter salaries, pensions and disability benefits are currently being taken to task by the press, citizens and citizens organizations. But how can one fault Ray? It wasn't his decision to leave the FDNY!  His salary, pension and other benefits were determined before he came on the job. And who could have predicted the events of 9/11 and the long term medical issues suffered by tens of thousands of responders? It was the City of New York who gave Ray his walking papers. His preference would have been to remain on the job and work into a command position in special operations. But once a firefighter has been dropped from the roles, there is no appeal process -- no back door to the firehouse.

As for any firefighter or police officer who was forced to retire on disability, what does the Post and unnamed sources of information expect them to do? Sit in a wheelchair in front of the TV? Perhaps have them monitored by webcams 24x7?  Any individual, ill or healthy, should be given the opportunity to pursue a lifestyle that makes them happy, healthy and whole. That's all that Ray wants. And what better way then by serving the community by sharing his incredible knowledge of firefighting and rescue -- whether it's with the young people of Lewes Fire Company, or the Safety Crew at Dover Speedway.

Ray won't be defeated by a nameless accuser that's for sure. He's a Firefighter -- a member of the brotherhood. And if ever a brother needed a lift, Ray is the guy and today is the day.

Photo of "Ray" which was used illegally by the New York Post.  The writer said that "...without the photograph I don't have a story."



Monday, March 05, 2012

Fire Station Lost To Tornadoes

Milton (KY) Fire-Rescue Station-2 Leveled by Twisters

Milton, KY (March 2, 2012) -- The National Weather Service confirms a EF3 and an EF2 tornado touched down near Milton, Kentucky. Fire chief Jason Long's dash cam video captured the moment he arrived at Milton  fire station 2 only to find it destroyed. 2 firefighters rode out the tornado in the men's room of the firehouse

The lone fire engine at station 2 took a beating and though the winds walloped every inch, it seems to be no match for the spirit in Milton. "When it rained and hailed they were putting flags up there," says Vicki McQueary. "We will make it through this. We will rebuild."

Video from Chief Long's dash cam can be found on CNN at:

The Department needs to replace the engine and equipment that was housed in Station 2, including a fish fryer trailer which generates most of the department's income for the year. If you can help, contact Chief Long through the department's Facebook page


Minquadale Firefighters Welcome Their NEW Ride

Rescue-Engine 22

Minquadale, DE (March 1, 2012) -- This 2012 Pierce Velocity/PUC is now in service with the Minquadale Fire Company of New Castle County, DE. It will soon become one of the busiest rescues in the State of Delaware, with the department protecting I-95, I-295, I-495 and US Route 13 in addition to mutual aid response both south and north of the city.

For the members of Station 22, this is a landmark occasion. This Pierce is the first NEW apparatus that they've purchased in 20 years. The company also received delivery of a new Type-1 ambulance on a Dodge chassis.


photos by: Lou Angeli