"In order to maintain our staffing levels, in a collaborative effort with the union, our department was able to increase efficiencies, increase revenues and gain support from city leadership."
Firehouse: The City of Denver doesn’t have a significant wildland/urban interface (W/UI), but how have the recent Colorado wildfires affected the department?
Tade: The Denver Fire Department maintains a significant-size wildland team, which has been deployed most of the summer due to the numerous wildfires, resulting in extensive backfill hiring to maintain staffing levels. In addition, we have deployed a five-engine strike team on two different occasions.
Firehouse: Has the financial crisis affected the fire department?
Tade: Like many departments across the country, the Denver Fire Department has been affected by considerable budget cuts. In order to maintain our staffing levels, in a collaborative effort with the union, our department was able to increase efficiencies, increase revenues and gain support from city leadership.
Firehouse: Are you planning to hire new recruits?
Tade: Yes, 20 recruits were hired in July and a recruit class has been budgeted for 2013.
Firehouse: Are there any plans to recruit and hire minorities?
Tade: Yes. The department maintains a full-time recruiter and continues to look for new and innovative ways to enhance our recruiting and outreach plans.
Firehouse: Do you accept lateral transfers?
Tade: At this time, we do not accept lateral transfers; however, we intend to propose a ballot measure to change the City Charter, which would allow for lateral transfers.
Firehouse: How have you been able to keep in tune with the city and the rank-and-file?
Tade: The department diligently maintains strong collaborative and communicative relationships with other city agencies and city leadership. The department fosters this by maintaining good labor-management relationships, transparency and the willingness to answer the “why” questions as they relate to policies and decisions. In addition, we have made a concerted effort to ensure all command staff members make regular station visits.
Firehouse: Please describe your commitment to training.
Tade: In addition to regularly scheduled training through our Safety and Training Division, we are currently striving to instill a culture of Operations Division-initiated training. This training will provide for the continual evaluation and enhancement of company standards. All Operations Division companies are evaluated on basic standards annually and provide a variety of hands-on specialized training opportunities. In addition to hands-on training, the department is engaging in ongoing professional development/standard training program that will focus on the following:
• Developing an understanding of diversity that acknowledges both its role as a resource and a challenge
• Providing skills and experience in basic conflict resolution practice, specifically as it involves diversity issues
• Creating a common standard of professionalism as it relates to human resource issues and underscores the role of leadership in maintaining this professional standard
Firehouse: To be eligible to take an exam by Civil Service for promotion, you need to get a certification in an officer development course. Is this helpful?
Tade: Yes, because this prepares the candidate to begin thinking about all aspects of fire service and not just emergency incident preparation.
Firehouse: Do you continue to work to improve your ISO Class 2 rating?
Tade: Yes, the department is constantly evaluating ways to improve our rating.
Firehouse: Please explain the Fit for Fire Program.
Tade: The Fit for Fire Program is a compilation of various activities that are designed to increase the physical wellness of our members and provide a greater understanding of the importance of wellness. The program serves as a starting point for a more comprehensive program.
Firehouse: You have plans to hire a physical therapist in 2013. How will that help the department?
Tade: A physical therapist will provide the department with the next evolution to our wellness program. Based on the experience from other local departments, an in-house physical therapist will improve the quality of rehabilitation services to injured firefighters and also significantly reduce the amount of time off for injuries. Rehabilitative services will be available five days a week, similar to the manner in which professional athletes are rehabilitated. This position will be the department’s wellness coordinator and will develop additional programs to enhance wellness and take preventive measures to help reduce member injuries.
Firehouse: How has the department addressed its apparatus purchases and repairs?
Tade: The department has aggressively pursued standardization of our fleet both in regards to manufacture and apparatus configuration. With the support of city leadership, we have drastically reduced the age of our fleet by maintaining a structured replacement cycle.
Firehouse: Are you building any new expansion stations or rehabbing others?
Tade: Through recent bond initiatives, the department has been able to rehabilitate numerous stations. Currently, we are constructing a new station in the Lowry neighborhood with a scheduled opening of late 2013.
Firehouse: Are you doing more mutual aid and automatic aid with surrounding departments?
Tade: No, we are actually experiencing less mutual aid services due to the recent merging of several smaller fire departments into the Denver Fire Department. As a result, the Denver Fire Department is providing fire service to three cities and one fire district.
Firehouse: Because nearby departments are consolidating and having financial trouble, is the Denver Fire Department protecting other areas like never before? Will this continue?
Tade: Yes, the Denver Fire Department currently protects the cities of Glendale, Sheridan and Denver; the Skyline Fire Protection District; and portions of unincorporated Arapahoe County. The Denver Fire Department is continually evaluating additional opportunities to provide emergency services to neighboring communities in a cooperative and collaborative nature.
Firehouse: Currently, there is a two-tier EMS system – the Denver Fire Department and the Denver City Health Service. Will this continue?
Tade: EMS services are constantly being evaluated and, at this time, there are no plans to change the current structure.
Firehouse: Will the fire department dispatch EMS?
Tade: Currently, the department does not dispatch EMS and, at this time, there are no plans to change the current structure.
Firehouse: Are false automatic fire alarms a big problem to the department?
Tade: Like many metro city departments, Denver experiences its share of false alarms. Our very active and engaged Fire Prevention Division has worked hard to be proactive in addressing these issues. Our Fire Prevention Division works diligently with all stakeholders to implement best practices regarding education and enforcement of the relevant regulations.
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