International Association of Fire Fighters General President Harold Schaitberger issued this statement today on the report of the independent panel investigating the June 18 Sofa Super Store fire in Charleston, S.C.:
“Mayor Joe Riley’s characterization of this report as a ‘management review’ minimizes the significance of the June 18 tragedy, the loss of nine dedicated lives, and the need for immediate and real change. This is a landmark report that highlights hundreds of problems and failures in a fire department whose policies and procedures contributed significantly to the deaths of nine fire fighters.
“The findings of the independent panel are significant because this is the group that Mayor Riley hand picked to investigate the June 18 tragedy.
“The mayor’s own panel is recommending that the fire department be completely rebuilt from the ground up. The mayor’s hand-picked chief developed the dangerous policies and programs implemented over the last 15 years in CFD — the very policies that have been identified by OSHA as willful and seriously negligent violations. Clearly, with this as his legacy, the mayor and his chief are not qualified to rebuild CFD.
“The question is: How could this mayor let the leadership of CFD get so far out of control that an independent panel would find hundreds of failures with the policies and procedures of the department?
“The claim by the mayor that this is a new day, a new era, by definition, requires new leadership. This is the third official condemnation of the way the Charleston Fire Department has been built and is run, and the report provides over 200 reasons for new, fresh, qualified leadership at the top.”
The International Association of Fire Fighters, headquartered in Washington, DC, represents more than 281,000 full-time professional fire fighters and paramedics who protect 80 percent of the population in the United States. More information is available at www.iaff.org.