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Week in Review: April 6, 2009

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Tue, 7 Apr 2009|

Fire Engineering Editor in Chief Bobby Halton discusses the major stories of the week, including a report on fire department finances that caused an outcry in Boston and Columbus, Ohio.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

I am chief Bobby -- and welcome to fire engineering as we can review. This week that we can review is being brought to you by FDIC. The fire department instructors conference which kicks off. On April 20 and it runs through that's -- -- fifth this year. Registration is still open for FDIC so don't miss out on your opportunity to attend 160 of the finest -- -- -- America 38 workshops and -- over 22. Hands on training revolutions. Registration still open -- and FDIC dot com and register today and don't forget the FDIC fund run will be held Saturday. At the canal registrations only twenty bucks if you go to the FDIC site. Click on courage and -- -- run. And I'll see you all there. And now to the news. Firefighters in Columbus and Boston lashed out yesterday at a recent report on the city's finances saying a mathematical error and a comparison. A big city budgets calls the entire document into question. Columbus finance director Joel Taylor whose office prepared the section on fire department spending in the nation's 25 -- is so amazing knowledge that a mistake. Inflated the Boston budget by 100 million dollars. The reported become fodder dispute over stepping in spending between Boston's budget officials and the city's firefighter union. The Columbus report released in early march by a team will pointed advisers concluded that Boston spent far more per capita are on fire protection and any other city. And it -- Columbus is third highest. Report recommended the Columbus officials move some jobs. From the division of fire. Into the civilian ranks and that the city developed delve deeper into fire stations staffing policies that they claim exceeded national standards. Taylor did apologize the -- and Boston Globe story yesterday. But he told the dispatch that its conclusions stands Columbus spends more per person on -- -- division and all but two other big cities. Corrected figures with San Francisco to the top of the spending spot and Boston to second. But keeps Columbus at third. Taylor said finance employees double -- all their figures and found no other errors Jack real president of the international association of firefighters local 67. Which represents Columbus that the errors disqualifies all of the report's conclusions. Firefighters -- question reports and -- conduct over the past nine years by Michael Coleman's administration mayor Michael Coleman's administration. Because cities can -- and population size and many other factors. All of Columbus firefighters for instance are trained paramedics. Some cities separate the duties and to different departments. The significance of this administration errors disqualify this entire report real -- statement. Is concerning that three key city leaders responsible for the city of Columbus -- finances. Signed off on a report that had financials now admitted to be incorrect. Real also said the Columbus division of fire perform services that are part of other cities fire budgets. Taylor served on the economic advisory committee along with the city auditor. Columbus has been in the news lately over several Aqua acquiescence is they made in their contract in order help keep firefighters. On the job. We'll keep you posted on any further developments in the proposed cuts against the Columbus fire department. Staffing continues to be the major issue in the American fire services the budgets get tighter and city officials look for places to cut. This next story comes to us from Delray Beach imagine being stranded inside a fiery building outside only -- firefighters available -- -- the building. It's an extreme case scenario but that's what the -- fire department. Could have faced the past two years and it's beast beach station fire station. Station number two which is one block west of the main stations -- step with -- -- to firefighters. One for the engine to paramedics rescue truck. This means that the rescue truck was being used those elsewhere one firefighter would stay behind me in the engine the other one would have to -- into the building without back up. But no longer the -- Department has recently come up with a new plan to fully staff the station. This is the chief Charles Trevino said there have been several incidents in which the truck arrived with only one firefighter. To perform rescue operations which is against fire department rules in one case a police officer had to go inside. With the firefighter to rescue victim having only one firefighter rescue victims -- fight a fire is a risk that the city of -- -- no longer wants to take. The new solution is that rescue personnel who were also firefighters to ride with the engine to a fire or an accident. While another rescue trucks deployed from the nearest fire station. According to del -- fire department officials I do you leave the station would have three firefighters on the engine and two of the rescue truck. Fully staffing station is important because it serves the nearby town of gulf stream and contract. The plan is temporary -- -- you know our hope is the -- you'll find the funding to have three people on the engine. -- engineering applause the city of Delray for increasing its staffing however this is not an FDA compliance staffing. Four persons belong on all fire engines and any city that can afford to have. Adequate fire protection. Our engineering strongly recommends the -- of Delray. That the consider running a four person paramedic equipped engine company and staff their rescue companies with two. Coastal Pennsylvania's in the news again January 2001 police this responded to a domestic dispute. Involving a man wearing camouflage gear and waving a semi automatic pistol. As a two officers approached the -- township residents a shot was fired in such a manner as to place individuals and dangerous according to court records. Less than four years later the person shot the gun Kevin Johnson. Was hired as assistant chief and coats -- The hiring an example -- falls weakness to screen its firefighting personnel. According to Richard Paulson an attorney for the -- thirteen paid firefighters and four full time firefighters. In the latest incidents he said that involved Robert Tracy Tracy recently recommended for a job by Johnson now the chief. Was charged Monday with setting. Two of the -- fires that have left dozens of residents homeless and caused millions of dollars of damage in the last thirteen months in the coastal area. Paulson also accuses Johnson a severely under reporting the number of fire calls in the city. Johnson denied that saying that the list included fires that -- not require history that did not involve a structure of the we'll put out quickly. He also said he would not discuss the decision to hire Tracy. As for his own criminal history Johnson 44 -- he passed the city's background check it's over and done with he said. Johnson originally charged with aggravated assault accepted a plea deal a five years' probation on the charges of reckless endangerment possessing an instrument of crime documents show. Johnson who admitted to sometimes drinking a to a case of beer -- a time. Committed himself to Paoli hospital after the incident according court records. His plea bargain included a provision that he forfeit his handgun and follow any recommended mental health treatment. Three years later -- they'll consider Johnson for paid position within its fire department. On November 2004 Paulson sent a letter to city urging officials delay hiring Johnson's -- his background could be reviewed further. Obviously mr. Johnson's oral history -- apparent lack of judgment. As a matter of grave concern for local 39333790s. Members especially in light of is intended role -- fired -- supervisor. Four days later Johnson was unanimously approved for the job City -- minute show. Christian diversity spokesman said all candidates for police and our positions are subjected to assist psychological evaluation of drug and alcohol testing and a check of criminal history. She said the blemishes on a candidates record do not make them unemployable it depends on the type of conviction in the position they're applying for. Tracy was hired on February ninth court records show and he had a march 2000 conviction. For passing bad checks citations for driving -- -- Russian vehicle and disregarding a traffic control device as well as two citations. For operating a vehicle without a -- inspection. Tracy is the seventh and arsonists -- -- -- such. Tracy is the seventh arson suspect in custody. Investigators that's as seen him linked 24 fires to the south. A final story may be one of the most important decisions but the US Supreme Court in recent history involving labor. It involves firefighters. Frank -- a firefighter from New Haven, Connecticut spent months listening to study tapes as he drove to and from work preparing for promotional test. It was a once a decade chance to move up to a command rank in the fire department. Ritchie -- -- top score but no promotion. The city -- the test takers by race. The top fifteen scores fourteen were white and -- was Hispanic because they're only fifteen vacancies in the top ranks the fire department. It looked like no blacks would be promoted after racially charged debate that stretched over four hearings the city -- civil service board. Rejected the test scores five years ago and promoted no one. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- The -- case due to be argue that the US Supreme Court this month. Is the first -- to come to come before the court Chief Justice John Roberts that brought the raises the issue of race in the workplace. The outcome could reshape the hiring and promotion policies for and millions of the nation's public employees as well as for private employers as well. And Roberts leading a five justice majority. Has made it clear that he believes it's time to forbid the use of race as a factor in government's decisions. The Obama administration taking its first stand on race and civil rights sided with the city. Saying that they were justified in -- the test if it had gross exclusionary effects on minorities. While blacks make up about 31% of new havens 200 -- -- firefighters. 15% -- officers -- -- the 48 of 42 lieutenants and one of eighteen captains. At issue in the case is whether employer can weigh the racial impact of a hiring a promotional standards. Lawyers for the firefighters say that the city violated the constitution's guarantee. Of equal protection of the laws as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. When it throughout the test scores. The white firefighters ask for nothing more than the basic right to be judged by who they are and what they have accomplished and not by the color of their skin. But the president of the NA CP. Legal defense fund said that the claim ignores the history of discrimination -- excluded blacks from fire police departments in many cities including New Haven. The fire department was the preserve of white males -- John Payton was also legal counsel for the LT -- African Americans were virtually excluded. Last month in Chicago however. Quietly -- city of Chicago -- six million dollar settlement to 75. White firefighters. Who said they lost promotions -- test scores were scrapped in 1986. It was very similar to what went before the court in the Connecticut case said Linda Freeman a Chicago lawyer for the firefighters there. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- They thought they could be sued by blacks if they use the exam. These cases highlight the conflict in federal rights law on one hand the constitution title seven Civil Rights Act of 9064. So -- players may not discriminate against people because of their race. However -- players have also been told that they may not use hiring or promotional standards including test. That have a disparate impact on the basis of race unless it's required by business necessity. For example it's not certain that the knowledge that's the by the -- from an exam was required to be a lieutenant in the fire department. And you -- reasons the New Haven city's lawyers cited this as disparage it impact rule in their reason for scrapping the test scores. I understand the disappointments adaptable -- the city's corporation counsel. Referring to -- white firefighters but this test -- adverse impact on minorities the city did the right thing. Lawyers for the white firefighters and that's one Hispanic by -- racial politics. And cronyism or behind the city's decision. Citing Obama's record -- citing the volume this record in this case the Obama administration. Says the court should send the case back to the -- in Connecticut to consider whether the white firefighters were the victims of racial politics. Fire engineering is closely following this case due to its widespread impact on the American fire service and labor in general. -- Bobby -- and that's the news remember FDIC's just two weeks weeks away and we're looking forward to seeing you all there. And remember. Be careful out there.

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