For the Record 4/12

Closing After 128 Years

Santa Ana Fire Chief David Thomas will be switching out his collar ornaments on April 20. That’s because his 128-year-old fire department will no longer exist, a victim of the struggling economy. Thomas will be a division chief in the Orange County Fire Authority, the service chosen to take over fire and rescue service. The move, officials said, will save the city $10M annually.

“We won’t have any lay-offs that were very possible had we stayed with the city. And, all 10 stations will remain open,” Thomas said during an interview at Firehouse World.

All 192 Santa Ana Fire Department personnel, including dispatchers, fire prevention and fire marshals, are being included in the move. “In anticipation of the outsourcing possibility, Orange County left 45 vacant positions open so they could be absorbed,” added Thomas. Some of the firefighters will see leaner paychecks, but Thomas said they’d rather have that than none at all. The number of firefighters on duty daily will go from 63 to 48. And, the department will no longer be transporting BLS patients. A third-party agency will be contracted to do that, he said.

While he is upset to see the oldest fire department in the county abolished, Thomas says he understands it’s a win-win for all – firefighters, the city and residents.

Thomas, who joined the department in 1984 and rose to chief two years ago, says he is upset about the closure but understands nonetheless.

“For a 128-year-old department just to go away is really sad. We have a lot of history,” he said.

One of the original fire trucks is on display at the oldest firehouse, and there are no plans to move it. Some type of event to mark the end of the Santa Ana Fire Department is in the works. Thomas added that he and other personnel are working to make a smooth transition.

– Susan Nicol


L.A. Gets Arson Training

In light of the recent spate of arson attacks in Los Angeles, CA, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), in partnership with the Downey Fire Department, Los Angeles Fire Department and The City of Los Angeles Emergency Management Department, set up a four-day arson training school for active investigators in the Southern California region.

This training provided arson investigators with updated scientific analysis of the different types of electrical fires, fire patterns and arson-related fires that investigators are finding in the field. ATF’s Fire Research Lab taught the classes along with certified fire investigators from across the nation. Training featured firefighters aggressively attacking a live, controlled burning cell followed by a demonstration of evidence recovery and a review of fire dynamics.


Health & Safety Rules to Live By

The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) announced that Rules You Can Live By will be the campaign theme for the 2012 International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week, to be held June 17-23.

Fire departments are encouraged to suspend all non-emergency activity during Safety and Health Week to focus on safety and health training and education allowing all shifts and personnel to participate. An entire week is provided to ensure each shift and duty crew can spend at least one day focusing on these critical issues.

”Safety and health are two of the most critical issues facing firefighters and EMS personnel today, regardless of whether you are volunteer or career,” said NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg. “The entire fire service community must join together to create a culture where health and safety are a priority every day. The NVFC is pleased to partner with the IAFC to work towards this goal and make it a reality.”

The IAFC and NVFC will provide planning resources on the Safety and Health Week website ( and encourage the community to submit links to additional resources, articles and SOPs that can help other departments.


NFPA Offers Wildfire Risk Workshops

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is offering a Two-Day Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone Workshop (HIZ) at several U.S. locations in 2012. The curriculum is aimed at fire service professionals, urban and state foresters, developers, community planners, insurance professionals and others who are committed to understanding and learning about ways to reduce losses from these fires, and increasing wildfire risk awareness among residents and communities.

As part of the two-day course, the HIZ workshop incorporates NFPA 1141, Standard for Fire Protection Infrastructure for Land Development in Wildland, Rural and Suburban Areas and NFPA 1144, Standard for Reducing Structure Ignition Hazards from Wildland Fire as the basis for assessing these hazards and recommending appropriate mitigation measures to reduce damage and losses of homes, developments, communities and subdivisions.

Workshop dates include:

  • May 15-16
    Hilton Ontario Airport Hotel, Ontario, CA
  • September 11-12
    Crowne Plaza Austin, Austin, TX
  • October 16-17
    DoubleTree Hilton Hotel, Aurora, CO

For more information and to register for the workshops, visit


February Line-of-Duty Deaths

Nine U.S. emergency service personnel died in February. Five volunteer firefighters, four career firefighters and one paid-on-call firefighter died in nine separate incidents. Four deaths were health related and five were the result of accidents.

SENIOR FIREFIGHTER/PARAMEDIC DOUG HAASE Sr., 60, of the St. Charles, MO, Fire Department died on Feb. 1. Haase was found deceased in his bed at the fire station. Haase was a 27-year veteran of the department.

CHIEF DAVID M. FLINT, 49, of the Franklin Township Volunteer Fire Department in Edinboro, PA, died on Feb. 2. While returning from a fire call in his personal vehicle, Flint’s vehicle was struck head-on by an oncoming vehicle on Route 6N, west of Edinboro. Flint was transported by ambulance to UPMC Hamot Medical Center, where he later died. Assistant Fire Chief Sharon Petri was extricated from Flint’s vehicle and flown by medical helicopter to UPMC Hamot in critical condition.

PARAMEDIC JOSHUA WEISSMAN, 33, of the Alexandria, VA, Fire Department died on Feb. 9. A day earlier, while operating at a motor vehicle fire on Interstate 395 at Four Mile Creek, Weissman fell 20 feet from the highway into the creek. He was transported to Washington Hospital Center, where he died. Weissman was a seven-year member of the department.

FIREFIGHTER ZACHARY WHITACRE, 21, of the Gore, VA, Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department died on Feb. 13. Whitacre was a passenger in the department’s tanker responding to a fire call when the driver lost control of the vehicle on the ice-covered highway and crashed. The crash occurred on Route 50 West, just inside West Virginia. He was transported to Winchester, VA, Medical Center, where he died.

FIREFIGHTER JEREMY TIGHE, 18, of the McCutchanville Fire Department in Evansville, IN, died on Feb. 22. Tighe was a passenger in an apparatus that crashed on North St. Joe Avenue in Vanderburgh County while returning from a call. The apparatus left the roadway, struck a utility pole and overturned. It was reported Tighe was wearing a seatbelt.

FIREFIGHTER/FIRE MARSHAL MATT WALLER, 47, of the Memphis, TX, Fire Department died on Feb. 25. Waller suffered a stroke while on duty at the fire station on Feb. 16 and was hospitalized until his death. Waller was a 29-year veteran of the fire service.

FIREFIGHTER CHAD SETTLEMYRE, 25, of the Sawsmills Fire Rescue Department in Caldwell County, NC, died on Feb. 27. The previous day, Settlemyre suffered a medical emergency after leaving a work detail at the fire station. He was transported to Frey Regional Medical Center in Hickory, where he died.

FIREFIGHTER/EMT GERALD R. WETHERELL, 74, of the Denton Township Fire Department in Prudenville, MI, died on Feb. 28. Wetherell suffered a medical emergency while responding to a call involving a snowmobile accident. He was transported by ambulance to a hospital in West Branch, where he died. Wetherell was a 35-year veteran of the fire service.

CAPTAIN MARK G. RATLEDGE, 35, of the Cottonwood, CA, Fire Protection District died on Feb. 29. Ratledge was struck by another vehicle while working at a motor vehicle accident on Interstate 5. He was transported to Mercy Medical Center in Redding, where he died. Interstate 5 was reportedly covered with hail and snow at the time of the accidents.

A 2006 firefighter death was ruled a line-of-duty death. FIREFIGHTER J. DOUGLAS WALLER of the South King County, WA, Fire Rescue Department contracted HIV while providing assistance to a bleeding victim. The victim later notified firefighters that he was HIV positive and the firefighters were tested. Waller tested negative at the time and retired from the department in 2000. Six years later, however, he tested positive and died two months later.

Jay Bradish