Federal fire department vacancies jeopardize security of federal military facilities

The International Association of Fire Fighters sent a letter to Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter, warning that security at critical military installations in the Washington, D.C., area is at risk because of more than a dozen vacancies in the fire departments responsible for responding to emergencies.

Federal fire departments at the Washington Navy Yard, the Naval Research Lab and Bolling Air Force Base are short at least 14 firefighters.

“Staffing Naval and Air Force facilities in the Nation’s Capital should be a high priority, national-security issue,” IAFF General President Harold A. Schaitberger said.

Naval District of Washington Regional Fire Chief Edward Stillwell said in a July 2 e-mail that 12 firefighting positions at the Navy Yard, Naval Research Lab and Bolling AFB will remain vacant because the department’s overtime costs are too high.

“Cutting overtime costs is easy–fill the vacancies so there are more people to cover the shifts. You don’t have to be a mathematician to understand that. The Naval District of Washington Regional Fire Department’s approach doesn’t add up, jeopardizes the safety of firefighters and places important federal facilities at risk,” said IAFF 16th District Vice President Jim Johnson, who represents firefighters at federal installations.

Nearly 90 percent of members of the National Capital Professional Federal Fire Fighters approved a vote of no confidence in Chief Stillwell in April because of his stubborn refusal to ensure the safety and health of firefighters and his indifference to the diminished emergency response to critical military facilities.

“Personnel shortages hinder our ability to protect our important federal facilities and make it harder for fire fighters to do our jobs safely,” said Greg Russell, president of the National Capital Professional Federal Fire Fighters Local 121.

The International Association of Fire Fighters, headquartered in Washington, DC, represents more than 288,000 full-time professional firefighters and paramedics who protect 85 percent of the nation’s population. More information is available at www.iaff.org

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