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Thread: Changing Role of the Urban Fire Chief?

  1. #21
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    I'd be very curious to hear what the firefighters in Dallas thought of him. Dallas is a pretty good size city with twice the population and 3 times the land mass of Boston. Was there a great sigh of relief in Dallas when he announced he was leaving, disappontment or a great meh, whatever?


  2. #22
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    While it appears most of us agree that the COD need not take command at most incidents, a few points have been brought out that seem to speak to this particular type of administrative organization. As noted by Captnjak, the COD at BFD is a uniformed position, he has an elected politician in the Fire Commissioner. Taking command does not mean taking over every duty on the scene, it means that when someone asks who's in charge your the person they look to. The mayor, the commissioner and the COD are touting how "progressive FD's" are run, but fail to note that at an incident like this, a progressive COD would ensure there was a unified commend and would take direct part in it. No one is implying he be operations section chief (using NIMS for progressive people). Taking command doesn't mean directing tactical operations when the incident gets to this level, it means ensuring your people have the resources to do their jobs and aren't subject to the high up politics that sadly seem to rear up far too soon. From what it sounds like, the DC's believe Mumbles hired a deputy commissioner, not a Fire Chief.

  3. #23
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    Here is a story from today's Boston Globe that will put the matter into perspective...

    So Rod Fraser, the Boston fire commissioner, thinks his 13 deputy chiefs are unprofessional dinosaurs.

    Nice.

    It was so refreshing to watch the Boston police brass — Commissioner Ed Davis, Chief Dan Linskey and Superintendent Bill Evans — go out of their way to praise the men and women of the police department who performed so heroically after the Patriots Day bombings.

    But you didn’t see Fraser or his MIA chief Steve Abraira jumping at cameras and microphones to praise their department, the firefighters who, with their police and EMS brothers and sisters, performed herculean acts of bravery.

    That’s because they don’t want us to think Boston firefighters are worth much. That would make it harder for them to dismantle the department, to change the practices that these so-called dinosaurs have perfected so that Boston has a ridiculously low death rate from fire.

    Boston firefighters are far from perfect, and the department does need to change in some areas, but the way the brass is going about it is wrong.


    I never saw Commissioner Fraser and Chief Abraira stand before the cameras and praise the firefighters of Engine 7 and Tower Ladder 17, who dove into a sea of wounded people and saved lives. I never heard them praise Sean O’Brien, who knelt over the body of Martin Richard, knowing it was the boy who was so kind to his daughter in their third-grade class. O’Brien put aside his emotion and helped friends and strangers alike that day.

    I never heard them praise Tommy Campbell from Tower Ladder 17, who carried a little boy who lost his leg to safety, whispering soothing words into the frightened boy’s ear while he and an EMS paramedic put a tourniquet on the boy’s leg to save his life.

    I never heard them praise Mike Materia, a great firefighter from Ladder 15 who ran down Boylston Street and swept up Roseann Sdoia from the sidewalk and saved her life.

    I did hear Fraser call his deputies “dinosaurs” at a City Council hearing Thursday. He’s mad at them because they had the temerity to write a letter and say they have no confidence in Abraira. Fraser said the deputies were unprofessional because they leaked the letter.

    Fraser’s beef with the letter is not with his deputies but with his boss, Mayor Tom Menino, whose office received the letter but didn’t tell either the commissioner or the chief about it. The deputies who gave the letter to me on Tuesday said no one from City Hall would respond to their concerns. The deputies sent copies of the letter to Menino at City Hall, the Parkman House, and his home in Hyde Park last week.

    But Fraser wouldn’t back down, saying the deputies should have met with him first. I told Fraser the deputies went over his head because he won’t listen to their complaints about Abraira, that he won’t fire Abraira because that would mean admitting he made a mistake in hiring him in the first place.

    Abraira, meanwhile, admitted to me that he has not visited Sean O’Brien or Tommy Campbell or Mike Materia or any of the firefighters who performed so heroically on that horrible day.

    “I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to interject myself into that situation,” the chief said.

    Why not just visit the firehouses and shake their hands?

    “That’s a shortcoming on my part,” he acknowledged.

    I told the chief that firefighters don’t think he respects them. For example, firefighters resent that he never attends retirement dinners. His predecessors routinely did.

    “I’ve never been invited,” he said. “How am I supposed to know when and where they are?”

    Um, actually there are no invitations. They just put fliers up on the bulletin board at Fire HQ on Southampton Street. There’s one there right now advertising a time at Florian Hall this Saturday for a bunch of firefighters retiring out of the Broadway firehouse down in the South End. Abraira walks past this bulletin board every day.

    The reason the brass of the Boston Fire Department didn’t emulate the brass of the Boston Police Department and praise their members to the hilt is that they and their masters at City Hall believe doing so might make it harder for them to gut the department.

    Because that’s what Fraser and Abraira, with Menino’s blessing, want to do.

    So they will chalk up the letter from the city’s 13 deputy chiefs, expressing no confidence in Abraira, as just the bleats of narrow-minded, parochial jakes who are digging in their heels against any changes to their ranks or working conditions.

    Boston firefighters are far from perfect, and the department does need to change in some areas, but the way the brass is going about it is wrong. Punishing firefighters because they do their job too well seems a pretty stupid management philosophy.

    So what happens the next time there’s a disaster?

    Well, presumably, you won’t see Chief Abraira. He was MIA the day of the bombings. That’s one of the reasons the deputies are so furious. Abraira said he didn’t assume command on the street after the bombings because everything was under control.

    Is he serious? Firefighters and police officers were still searching for other potential explosive devices when Abraira was on Boylston Street.

    If Boston firefighters followed Abraira’s policy of prioritizing firefighter safety over that of the public, then they should have run away when the bombs went off.

    But because they are firefighters, they ran toward the danger, because that’s what real firefighters do.

    Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeCullen.
    By the way.. the Police Commissioner also came from out of town... about 26 miles out of town... he was the Chief of the Lowell (MA) Police Department.
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  4. #24
    Forum Member MemphisE34a's Avatar
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    Would you want the highest ranking person in your department to be the IC if they had held no other rank in fire suppression?
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    Management is making sure things are done right. Leadership is doing the right thing. The fire service needs alot more leaders and a lot less managers.

    "Everyone goes home" is the mantra for the pussification of the modern, American fire service.


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  5. #25
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    I know nothing of Boston Fire, or the politics surrounding that excellent department. But it speaks volumes when the core group of line officers, to a person, express the same thoughts about Commissioner Fraser and Chief Abraira.
    But like Memphis says; no, I don't want my COD to assume command of a major incident. Not be cause he is incapable, inexperienced or couldn't do the job, but because he wasn't there at the beginning. If an incident has evolved to something that large, I want the street commanders that have do this day in and day out and have been following the incident from the beginning. Why screw up an intact, seamless chain of comment?
    Do they need to be there-yes.
    Do they need to be visible-yes.
    Do they need to be kept in the loop-yes. Not only for their sake, but who better to to run interference on the Mayor and pushy council members, or any other politician or self important individual.
    Last edited by SPFDRum; 05-17-2013 at 10:49 PM.
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    Past practice for Boston was the Fire Chief was appointed from the ranks. The idea being He is the advocate for the OPERATIONAL aspect. He also had to live in the City. The Commish is/was a political appointee. This is the same tactic Jayne Byrne used in Chicago when she brought in William Blair from California. It's just another crack in the wall. It has nothing to do with the job. It's Just Mumbles trying to beat down the BFD.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MemphisE34a View Post
    Would you want the highest ranking person in your department to be the IC if they had held no other rank in fire suppression?
    While I understand your sentiment, at an incident of this magnitude, the IC would not likely make single tactical assignment, he/she becomes the figure head who advocates for his department in the strategic decision making process. Escpecially true when by the time he arrives 99% of the actual rescue effort will have concluded. I guess there must be too many FD's out there hiring managers and not leaders. We should expect more from the top or expose them for what they are: political pawns to do the City Councils bidding.

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    SPFDRum, Ihave to disagree. In a large department like Boston's I'm sure it's routine to "pass off" command to higher ranking chiefs as they arrive. It is not necessary for the IC to have been there from the beginning. It does not screw up the operation. I also disagree that it would be the role of the COD as the highest ranking uniformed member to be "running interference" during a major incident.

  9. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by MemphisE34a View Post
    Would you want the highest ranking person in your department to be the IC if they had held no other rank in fire suppression?
    I'm curious - how many fire chiefs in the US, who head urban departments, haven't held previous rank in a fire department?
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  10. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by BoxAlarm187 View Post
    I'm curious - how many fire chiefs in the US, who head urban departments, haven't held previous rank in a fire department?
    To be clear, I said rank in fire suppression. I am not intimately familiarly with many fire departments, but I can name one.......

    Never a Driver, Company Officer, Battalion Chief, Division Chief, or Deputy Chief.
    Robert Kramer
    cell #901-494-9437

    Management is making sure things are done right. Leadership is doing the right thing. The fire service needs alot more leaders and a lot less managers.

    "Everyone goes home" is the mantra for the pussification of the modern, American fire service.


    Comments made are my own. They do not represent the official position or opinion of the Fire Department or the City for which I am employed. In fact, they are normally exactly the opposite.

  11. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by MemphisE34a View Post
    To be clear, I said rank in fire suppression. I am not intimately familiarly with many fire departments, but I can name one.......

    Never a Driver, Company Officer, Battalion Chief, Division Chief, or Deputy Chief.
    I believe I understand what you mean. Are you familiar with a fire chief, in a suburban or or urban fire department, who either held strictly EMS positions prior to appointment, or was appointed from the private sector?
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  12. #32
    Forum Member MemphisE34a's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BoxAlarm187 View Post
    I believe I understand what you mean. Are you familiar with a fire chief, in a suburban or or urban fire department, who either held strictly EMS positions prior to appointment, or was appointed from the private sector?
    At present, not really. I say that because currently the Shelby County, TN (Memphis) Fire Department has a Fire Chief that came up through the ranks. The fire department however, falls under General Services which has a Director, Manager, Supervisor, or whatever thy call him that is charge of the entire GS bureaus who has no clue about the fire department. Ido not know how much actual oversight or direction he has over the fire department, but there is some there.

    A longtime ago, Memphis Mayor Wyeth Chandler appointed a career City garbage man as the Director over the fire department. He was a "yes" man who got rid of some things the Mayor wanted eliminated from the fire department - primarily the Captain rank.
    Robert Kramer
    cell #901-494-9437

    Management is making sure things are done right. Leadership is doing the right thing. The fire service needs alot more leaders and a lot less managers.

    "Everyone goes home" is the mantra for the pussification of the modern, American fire service.


    Comments made are my own. They do not represent the official position or opinion of the Fire Department or the City for which I am employed. In fact, they are normally exactly the opposite.

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