DIANA BALDWIN
The Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK)


"U.S. Homeland Security officials are questioning the firefighters' use of more than $40,000 worth of equipment bought with federal funds and intended for regional technical rescue operations.

Fire Chief Gil Harryman said he began his inquiry about the Aug. 20 incident at the home of injured firefighter Brian Nipper after questions by The Oklahoman. He said he didn't know about the work before then.

"I know whenever dealing with public employees on city time and the beneficiary is another city employee, one of their own - a fellow firefighter - there's a potential for a perception problem," Harryman said. "There's no doubt about that."

The chief this week said he is instructing his officers to only do what he calls "random acts of kindness" while off duty in an effort to avoid any negative perception.

City Attorney Stephen Murdock said he has requested a report from the fire chief to determine if it is a law enforcement or a personnel matter.

"We will see what issues need to be resolved," Murdock said.

Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security Director Kerry Pettingill said the equipment is for official use authorized by the city.

Pettingill said he will contact Harryman about the use of the equipment before determining his agency's response.

"I will be interested to know the city's position," Pettingill said. "There are limitations. We may need to send out a reminder that the equipment use is not to benefit for personal gain."

Homeland security officials granted Edmond $40,000 worth of equipment such as nail guns, air hoses and a shoring hammer to be used in emergency situations within the region and for training, the director said.

Capt. Greg Westermier said Nipper needed help finishing his deck after he'd had two surgeries, so he asked Battallion Chief Johnnie Gibbon for permission, which was given.

Westermier said the firefighters thought they were doing a good deed."

MY QUESTION IS, WHERE COULD YOU POSSIBLY GET BETTER TRAINING AND PRACTICE ON THE USE OF THE EQUIPMENT?