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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Roanoke Fire-EMS Department being led down a path fewer are taking

I have had a lot of time to think about the events which have unfolded in Roanoke in relation to the Budget cuts. The thoughts I have often turn to realization that the people we have talked to about this situation do not grasp the issue at hand.

The remembrance of September 11, 2001 is lost to our local politicians down to our Fire Chief. The understanding that it is not possible to comprehend the worst disaster ever has been shaken off by even the media. September 11th stands for a lot of things, the point I would like to make is that not even the FDNY (which has close to 12,000 members) could not even prepare for what happened. I am not saying that a situation like what happened on September 11th in NYC could happen here, however most forget what happened only 3 hours away at the Pentagon. Could we have handled that situation. The disaster at the pentagon is easily overshadowed by the World Trade Center incident, but lest we forget about it.

It is unfortunate that the ones who pull the strings have forgotten about the potential disasters in which we must be ready for at any given moment. I am sick of those people living life playing the odds with the citizens and visitors we are sworn to protect. Shame on them.

Kyle Wilson died in the Line of Duty doing his job searching for people who his crew thought were trapped in a residence. This is how we work. We don't sit outside and call their phone number to see if anyone is home, we react. This reaction we train for. The painful realization of the outcome because of that trained reaction by Kyle Wilson and his crew could have happened to any one of us. Were there problems? Of course there were. I have never been on a fire that didn't have problems. Even the ones we call bread and butter are not that easy.

The point is that if we screw up, someones life could hang in the balance. We don't get to play the odds. When we show up on a house fire, we don't roll the dice to see if someone gets to live, we do our jobs...and we do it damn well.

The Charleston FD is going through changes much like after Kyle Wilson's untimely death. Charleston FD lost 9 Firefighters in a fire. We have a system put in place to investigate incidences such as these and report the findings. Kyle Wilson's fire has been very beneficial to his Firefighters he left behind. That is a hard pill to swallow. It took his death for the string pullers to recognize the need for reform within the Fire-EMS Department. I wonder if that gives Kyle's friends and family closure? I can tell you that if something happens to one of my brothers or sisters and reform is mandated due to the investigation it will not sit well with me. Especially after we tried our best to show that the budget cuts are putting the odds against us.

Charleston's events have created a report which calls for reform in the department. That same department which the firefighters said it was only a matter of time, yet the Chief stood by the system.

Do you see what I am getting at. Anything can happen anywhere at anytime...and we will be called to unf^%$ it. Do you feel prepared?

A message to the news media. You guys missed this event by a long shot. I was there, I was interviewed. If you truly wanted the story, you would not have reacted the same way City Council did. You should have interviewed the Chief and then interviewed us. However, you decided to take the high road. Do you really think that 250+ Firefighters who are sworn to protect you while you are at work, the citizens and visitors in Roanoke would just make this up.

We may not all have degrees, or spend weeks away fattening up our resumes, but we know what is going on. We are the ones on the front line. We are the ones who train to react and allow our actions to be led by experience, training, and knowledge.

This job is being ruined by people who are not in touch with our reality. This job is being ruined.

It is unfortunate that our firefighters seem to have lost all respect for our Fire Chief and others near. The Fire Chief's position was created to manage the department. This person was almost always promoted from within and new the rank and file of the department. That closeness created a checks and balances system so that the Fire Chief would not lead his subordinates astray. Nowadays, Fire Chiefs have become the middle man between Downtown and the Fire-EMS Department. This should not have been allowed, yet it is a product of our City Council and City Management.

A lot of people have brought up the fact that our Fire Chief came from the EMS Department. I really could care less. The problem I see is that if our EMS system failed, we have a larger EMS Department in town who would be more than happy to help out. That department is Carilion Clinic Patient Transport. Their system has more ambulances and more personnel who are EMT's or Medics. However, if our Fire Department crapped out we are screwed. Sure, during the day we could get some help from Roanoke County...but at night we are pretty much it.

I don't like to dwell on what if's or worst case scenarios, but we are being managed by the mentality of "That will never happen". HUH? To me, in my line of work, the mentality which will keep us ready for the next emergency wins.

On top of all that...All during the budget cuts I got phone call after phone call after phone call about how the Chief did not want to make the cuts. Even to the point of insinuating where to find the information to prove that the budget cuts could not and should not be made. It amazed me at how many people believed that the Fire Chief did not want to make the cuts. What interviews were they watching? I do not blame them for wanting to error on the side of the Fire Chief. I believe that they truly wanted to believe that their Fire Chief did not want to make the cuts. But I watched, and I listened, and I worked diligently to prove that the budget cuts were wrong, dangerous, and irresponsible. Yet, even the City Council members who doubted it asked him if it would change anything and he said no.

What does this mean? Well it means that one of two things are going to happen. 1) Nothing will happen and our Firefighters will continue to make up for deficiencies in our department. These same deficiencies which we have been supplementing for who knows how long. OR 2) Something will happen to shock our leaders in the Department and Roanoke City to understand that we were right all this time. That we were not making this up and that it was wrong.

That something could be many things.

I assure you one thing. It has changed...everything has changed.


Anonymous said...

The chief is an appointed position. He has to do what he is told. He is not going to stick his neck out for us. Grigsby and Darleen have never supported the fire department. She robs Peter to pay Paul. Terrible at manageing money I'd say. Who pays? We and the citizens do.
Unfortunately they see us as a necessary evil. They, like Hoback are only concerned with EMS. All their decisions and actions are based on how things pertain to EMS. They intend to cut even more apparatus and personnel. They don't care about us or what we say. The public needs to be educated. These folks need to leave Roanoke. They've made a mess that will take years to undo. Shame on them and their arrogance.

Stay safe firefighers, and watch your back - from downtown.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Engine 5 is next on the chopping block. Open up a new station on Melrose Ave and then disband Engine 5. Let's see, we lost Engine's 1, 3, 12, 7, 13, and now 5 is next. The list just keeps on growing. How about cutting out the take-home chiefs cars!

Anonymous said...

"The public needs to be educated."
Hey ghost! The public don't care!

If the public cared, they would listen. They won't even vote. Check the last election turnout numbers.

Have you rode around Roanoke and looked at the public. 2/3 of the public in Roanoke are low or no income. They are to busy trying to make ends meet. They can't fight our fight, they are fighting to survive.

The ones that are left are scared to death of Darlene or working with her.

Anonymous said...

I think the public does care, but they are not informed. We needed to take out a full page add, include a map, have some hard numbers (response times, call volume...)I have spoken with several people in the Peters Creek Rd. area and they were amazed to hear where (and when)the second truck was coming from!
The only way to rid this fine city of the blight that has infected it (the "hired" people in charge)is with public outrage. I would vote for full page adds to be placed monthly calling them on the carpet. With the injuries to Officer Lawrence fresh on the PD's mind I bet they would be more than happy to be included.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that we have someone who is in charge of keeping the budget on track through the year but he can't seem to keep it in line. Maybe someone who was hired by the city to work in the department and keep the budget on track should stop trying to play fireman and stay in the office. We all manage our personal finances who is watching the departments?

Anonymous said...

I think it is odd that the Chief and Deputy Chiefs think they need to respond to every fire or incident. That kind of nonsense was started when Jim Grigsbo (micro manager extraordinaire) started doing it when he was appointed Chief. Before that time, you almost never saw the Chief at a fire. That was what the department had District Chiefs and Battalion Chiefs for. The Chief and Deputy Chiefs are administrative (managers, not micro managers), and the Battalion Chiefs are operations. i don't know why the Battalion Chiefs put up with it. If I were a Battalion Chief, and the Chief showed up on my scene, I would hand the command over to him. He has the highest rank on scene, let him do it. It is hard to believe the waste that the city endures with the chiefs having these new vehicles, driving them unnecessarily to and from home, and fire incidents. They don't need to be on fire incidents. They don't need to drive their city vehicles home, because they don't need to respond from home. If there is an incident large enough to demand their attendance, there will be plenty of time for them to drive their personal vehicle to the office, pick up their shiny Chiefs Car, and respond to the scene. And they have the gall to ask the fire personnel to minimize waste in the department. Well, I suggest that you start trimming waste at the top before you start asking everyone else.

Anonymous said...

we all have problems leave home crap @ home. his finacial issues may be bad but that doesn't mean he can't manage ours. try to keep things civil.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, didn't mean to ruffle your feathers, Ralph.

Anonymous said...

Please elaborate on finacial situation, in the dark on what is being talked about.

Anonymous said...

New rumor ,firemen only get paid if they go out at night for the second half of shift. Any truth prob. BS

Cut This said...

The one thing I have never figured out, is why would Hoback be so worried about his position? This city is relatively small and the powers that be all know each other. Hoback's family has political clout. At least that is what I have been told. If he does have this power or connections, why would he really worry about his job. Back a few years ago, before Gaskins came along, the police dept had a police chief "Hooper" that didn't take crap from downtown. Now I don't know what kind of police chief he was, but at least he wasn't worried about his job. Hooper knew where the bodies were buried and who had skeletons hidden away. If you don't think that Hoback doesn't have the same info on the whos who of roanoke after all these years, then your kidding yourself. My point is, I don't think Hoback ever really secretly supported us. I think he whole heartedly wanted to go along with this crap.

Anonymous said...

Sure most of us have lost confidence in our Chief. Unfortunately we are finding out he is not after our best interest but the painful truth is that our City Manager, City Council, and Grigs CANNOT manage this city. We are missing strong leadership to get us through these hard times.

The fact of the matter is that the citizens do not care. Let the facts be the facts....other than South Roanoke, this city has no voice or concern about anything really?? Its a blue collar city that is managed poorly. Makes for an all around disaster zone.
Salem is blue collar, but has good leadership and caring citizens. I say this and I dont even care for Salem. This trend of losing engines will continue and we, the firefighters, will be the only ones who know....or care.
-Sol Rosenberg

Anonymous said...

hurry up rex white post something

Anonymous said...

Maybe we can't strike but we can stop doing other things that make the city look good. Class teaching tech rescue, child saftey seat, haz-mat, just a few things. There are many things we do and do not get paid for if you think about it.

Anonymous said...

Congrats to the Craft family w/ their new addition. Hope everything is good at home.

The Ol Grumpy Guy said...

You couldnt hit the head any harder. You are exactly right about the fire chief and his position. He is a manager. Not a fireman. He dots his T's and I's with all his other managers. I see the same point as the Ghost. The fire chief never came out to fires before, he had confidence in his men on the scene, because he had worked with them in the field. Now the top 5 have never done it for any period of time other than T Rex, but we know his story. So his men (us) lack the confidence in him to do the job, and thats why he is at the fires anymore, he wants us to see him doing something. His lack of airpack time shows and he knows we know that. The game is not just doing it on a tabletop or playing in the office. I feel the list of followers is getting short, for now, but that will change shortly. So for all you a--kissers, Like Rhett said, "Dont drink the cool aid"

The Ol Grumpy Guy

Anonymous said...

I hear the county is hiring. We can leave here and be a Capt. in 2 yrs.

Anonymous said...

or deputy chief in 4 years. Just ask dustin. All it takes is a little yard work and car washing.