Investigation of Dallas Firefighter Death has Stirred Old Tensions

Dallas firefighter Stanley Wilson died battling a fire more than a year and a half ago. But some of his former colleagues say an internal rift that has formed since his death dates back much further to long-standing departmental politics and a tinge of racial tension within Dallas Fire-Rescue, reports The Dallas Morning News.

Two reports on the May 2013 fire that killed Wilson faulted Deputy Chief Bobby Ross for giving an order that led to Wilson’s death, though the reports showed conflicting accounts on the extent of Ross’ order. Many white firefighters say they are upset now because they believe that Ross, who is black, lied to investigators by denying he gave fateful commands to Wilson and others that day.

But some black firefighters contend Ross, a 30-year veteran of Dallas Fire-Rescue, is under attack because he has long been disliked by white firefighters who thought he was undeservedly promoted by Eddie Burns, the department’s first black chief.

Burns, who resigned under pressure in 2011 after serving five years, was beloved by the Black Fire Fighters Association but despised by other groups.

Retired Lt. James Hunter, a former head of the Dallas Black Fire Fighters Association, said Ross is being made a scapegoat.

“I heard from someone else that if it wouldn’t have been Chief Ross, and would have been another person from a different nationality, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” Hunter said. “That shows you right there it’s race-based.”

The Black Fire Fighters Association has come to Ross’ defense and asked for an investigation into the statements of the other firefighters who contradicted Ross. The group’s request preempted that of the Dallas Fire Fighters Association, whose leaders promised one or more of its members would ask for an internal investigation into whether Ross was truthful.

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