Frustrated Charleston Firefighters Come Forward

The three firefighters are part of a uniform committee put together by Chief Rusty Thomas.

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CHARLESTON, S.C.-- They say they've been fed up for months and now for the first time three Charleston firefighters come forward.

The three are part of a uniform committee put together by Chief Rusty Thomas.

Their job was to select the specific style and materials for the departments new uniforms in the aftermath of the Sofa Super Store fire, but the firefighters say that's not what happened.

They say the uniform agreement Chief Thomas unveiled last week is not what they recommended. Instead they say it is a compromise they felt forced to make and one they fear all committees will encounter.

Together they have more than 36 years on the job, but they're willing to put their jobs on the line for the truth.

"We want the truth to be told and to be known," said Capt. Jamie Greene of Engine 6.

The issue at hand: new uniforms. Last week, Chief Thomas unveiled the Department's future look.

"This is what they wanted. This is what they wanted. They're excited about it, really excited about it," said Chief Rusty Thomas at a news conference on December 5.

"Are these the uniforms you agreed upon?" asked WCIV reporter Sarah DeMarco. "No ma'am. This is not what we agreed upon," said Eng. Brian Rivers of Engine 8.

In late October, members of the uniform committee along with the majority of firefighters voted for a uniform consisting of fire wear pants, jackets and all cotton golf shirts.

Committee members say the recommendation made its way to Chief Thomas, then sat unresolved.

"We were guided to withhold and not release until after the election," said Capt. Jamie Greene of Engine 6.

They say days later Thomas proposed his idea of t-shirts instead of golf shirts. This was not what the committee wanted, but what they felt they had to accept.

"It's time for somebody to step up and say, hey look, this is wrong. All you had to do was say, OK. Great job on this recommendation. Ok, we'll try this recommendation you came up with," said Eng. John Cole of Charleston Ladder 5.

They're bothered, but the uniform battle isn't their biggest concern. Instead, they fear the issue only exposes trouble they've yet to face in correcting the Department's larger problems.

"If the first committee crumbles, you might as well crumble the whole committee idea all together," said Eng. Rivers.

Chief Thomas says the reason he chose t-shirts is comfort, which he says is the firefighters goal. Firefighters tell me the Chief always talks about looking professional and they believe the golf shirt is more appropriate.

The city has scheduled incident command training, a South Carolina Fire Academy instructor will begin training the command staff next week. Firefighters will be trained by early February. The course to be taught is 2147 NIMS/ICS for fire serve.

Republished with permission of WCIV-TV.

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