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  1. #1
    Forum Member Weruj1's Avatar
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    Default Bad news..................from the front page

    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...Id=46&id=31599

    Man Critical of Houston, Texas Firefighters After Losing Home


    BECKY PURSER
    Macon Telegraph via Associated Press

    A Houston County man whose home was destroyed by a fire in March says confusion and miscommunication by firefighters allowed the blaze to burn unimpeded for 60 to 90 minutes.

    Clyde Mathe Jr. said he collapsed in hopelessness on the ground shortly after he arrived at the fire scene at 9:50 p.m. March 26 to find his home engulfed in flames and a firefighter standing nearby with a hose pointed at the fire and no water coming out of the hose.

    "I pretty much said in my mind there's no hope of saving anything because there's no water on the fire," said Mathe.

    But Houston County Fire Chief Jimmy Williams said the home, located at 113 Sherry Lane, was already too far gone to save when the first fire truck arrived eight minutes after the fire was reported to 911 at 9:19 p.m. March 26. He disputes Mathe's claim that no water was on the fire for a period of 60 to 90 minutes.

    However, Williams did say there was a 5- to 15-minute window when there was no water on the fire and that may have contributed to the loss of nearby storage sheds and a vehicle on Mathe's property. Firefighters had trouble locating the closest hydrant and ran out of water stored on the first two fire trucks responding, he said.

    Mathe, 55, a computer specialist at Robins Air Force Base, said the storage buildings and his girlfriend's car were not on fire when he arrived. Distraught over the situation, Mathe said he moved away and watched the fire from a distance. When he returned 30 or 40 minutes later, firefighters were putting water on the grass of a neighbor's yard but there was still no water on the main fire.

    Mathe, a ham radio operator, said he suffered a total loss - his house and several storage buildings and their contents burned, as did his garage, a camper inside and his girlfriend's car parked outside. He said the damage was estimated at more than $350,000, and that his insurance covered less than half of that.

    A review of the 911 center's tapes, which recorded radio traffic the night of the fire, indicates that at least 30 minutes lapsed between the arrival of the first Houston County fire truck and connection to fire hydrants on Crestview Drive and Booth Road.

    Williams said when he arrived on the scene 18 minutes after the fire was reported, water was still flowing from two trucks capable of dumping 1,500 gallons of water combined. At some point, Williams said the trucks did run out of water and there was no water on the fire because the hydrants were not yet connected.

    Williams said firefighters had difficulty locating the nearest fire hydrant, which was not on the direct route to the fire. When it was located on Crestview Drive it was one-fifth of a mile away. Hoses had to be connected, which meant responding fire trucks had to be moved and realigned in order to string the connecting hoses.

    Mathe complained that firefighters also did not have enough water pressure. Williams said there was initially not as much water pressure as firefighters would have liked but there was not a problem with the water lines. Water pressure was lost from stringing hoses from the fire trucks to the two fire hydrants, but the fire trucks are equipped to boost water pressure, which was done, Williams said.

    Mathe also said the fire department did not respond to the fire with the proper manpower and equipment. Williams noted response was immediate and that only three full-time firefighters were on duty. Williams acknowledged that it took time to mobilize the primarily volunteer force, but he said that isn't uncommon because volunteers do not staff the stations 24 hours a day. Ten firefighters were on the scene within eight minutes of the fire being reported, according to the fire incident report.

    Also, firefighters were battling multiple problems - from a fallen, live power line to explosions of diesel fuel stored on Mathe's property and a 50-foot radio communications tower that toppled during the fire, said Williams.

    Sherry Gilliam, who lives across the street from Mathe at 114 Sherry Lane, said she believes at least part of Mathe's house could have been saved and certainly the storage sheds and vehicle.

    Gilliam questioned whether the first truck dispatched was the appropriate size because it was small. Williams said the first truck to arrive actually carried more water than the second truck that arrived. The first truck carried 1,000 gallons and the second 500 gallons, he said.

    Gilliam said there are not enough hydrants in the neighborhood, which is a mix of residential homes, trailers and apartments. The neighborhood, which is partly in the county and partly in the city of Warner Robins, was in existence before the county's development regulations went into effect, said Tim Andrews, the county's planning and zoning director.

    Mathe's property, where he has lived for about 30 years, is in the county. The closest hydrant is 1,060 feet away on Crestview Drive. The county now requires fire hydrants to be placed no more than

    1,000 feet apart. The regulation went into effect in 1976 when the county adopted development regulations, said Andrews.

    The state does not regulate the location of fire hydrants but leaves that up to the local governments, said Wayne Whitaker, spokesman for state fire marshal's office.

    Mathe said he doesn't understand why new areas of the county are afforded hydrants at closer intervals, but none has been added to his and older neighborhoods over the years.

    Steve Engle, Houston County administration director, said the water lines in the neighborhood are city water lines and not county water lines. He said the county has no jurisdiction over the lines or hydrants. But Engle said it's not unique for older developments to have infrastructure that does not meet newer guidelines established by the Houston County Commission or the Warner Robins City Council.

    Warner Robins Mayor Donald Walker said it wouldn't make sense to place hydrants on the 2-inch lines that dominate the neighborhood because there isn't enough water pressure or volume to support hydrants.

    However, the Crestview hydrant is on a water line large enough to support a hydrant, said Walker.

    While Walker said he's sympathetic to the county residents, he said they also chose to live in the county and not the city, which funds a full-time firefighting force. Walker noted that the city was "gracious" to allow the developer of the subdivision to connect to city water lines when a lot of areas of the county are still on wells.

    Nonetheless, Walker said there have been discussions among himself and Houston County Chairman Ned Sanders since the Shirley Lane fire about the possibility of allowing the city to respond simultaneously with the county to areas that are a mix of city and county property.

    Onita Page, who lives next door to Mathe at 115 Sherry Lane, expressed confidence in the county firefighters who responded to the fire. The fire set part of her yard ablaze.

    "I couldn't see anything that they did wrong," said Page.

    Mathe said he thinks that someone ought to be held accountable so that the same situation doesn't happen again. But Williams said firefighters could not have responded differently - unless the department was full-time and had a full staff at every station and the neighborhood had fire hydrants every 1,000 feet. While he said it's unfortunate that Mathe suffered the loss, firefighters did the best they could.
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    http://www.firehouse.com/forums/show...60#post1137060post 115


  2. #2
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    Yea, obviously this guy is the all knowing expert. As usual, the news media took it and made a sensational and idiotic story out of it, catering to all this moron's ramblings. This is why we cancelled out newspaper subscription at home. For example, the other day some doctor went nuts and started running around another doctor's office shooting the other doctor. The police arrived and had no choice but return fire, killing him. They probably saved coutless people this guy would have also shot. The newspaper headline:
    COPS KILL DOCTOR

    It makes me sick. They did the best they could. I have never known a firefighter that would intentionally stand there for over an hour doing nothing. That is assinine. Screw ups? Sure. Not planning ahead? Yep. But none of that lasts for an hour. 5 minutes maybe, but 60-90 minutes? Give me a break.
    Last edited by nmfire; 06-13-2004 at 10:27 PM.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  3. #3
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    Sounds like this guy might have a few legitimate complaints.

    1. How do you not know where hydrants are, and why would it take 30 minutes to find one?

    2. Paid on call. Sounds like 3 on call FF's isn't enough here during the day. Perhaps the powers to be need to hire some more daytime help.

  4. #4
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    Originally posted by tlsmith083
    Sounds like this guy might have a few legitimate complaints.

    1. How do you not know where hydrants are, and why would it take 30 minutes to find one?

    2. Paid on call. Sounds like 3 on call FF's isn't enough here during the day. Perhaps the powers to be need to hire some more daytime help.
    I can agree with you on point 1, seems like some better pre-planning for this neighborhood is in order. There aren't many other things that make a department look inept than running out of water (not to mention the fact that it can severely endanger the members.)

    I would disagree on your number 2 point. They had 10 firefighters on scene within 8 minutes. I would bet that this is better than many volunteer or combination departments can do during the day. Maybe some automatic mutual aid is called for but without knowing the specifics of this department in regards to geographic area and number of fires, that's hard to say.
    FTM-PTB-DTRT

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    sounds like a little bit of murphys law mixed in with the media. I can't imagine a 1/4 mile 5in lay! To do that by hand would take nearly a half hour.
    Bucks County, PA.

  6. #6
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    Interesting.

    A review of the 911 center's tapes, which recorded radio traffic the night of the fire, indicates that at least 30 minutes lapsed between the arrival of the first Houston County fire truck and connection to fire hydrants
    Williams said when he arrived on the scene 18 minutes after the fire was reported, water was still flowing from two trucks capable of dumping 1,500 gallons of water combined
    Given 8 minute arrival time, that's 10 minutes worth of water flow. 1500gals avail, 10 minutes, = flowing 150gpm....for a fully involved house.

    stcommodore, 1000' ft of 5inch is not that big a deal.


    We had something similar happen to us a few years ago. SFD, residents watching, saw a hoseline with no water coming out. Big article in local paper. They did forget to mention the 3 hoselines that were actually inside the house, but no, let's focus on the one that's in the street out of the way.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

  7. #7
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    Angry More bad news!

    From the front page of Firehouse.com on Monday 6/15, though the article it reprints is from a week or so earlier... I don't know yet if the JTFD is career, volunteer or a mix, but how about the decision to sue the individual firefighters? Want to help people on your spare time? Be prepared to loose you life savings as well as your life!

    ============================== ============================== ======

    A Baltimore, Ohio-based insurance company was forced to pay after a 2003 house fire.

    Apparently, the company believes the Jefferson Township Fire Department is to blame.

    Farmers Insurance, of Ohio has sued the Jefferson Township Fire Department for its handling of a Thursday, Dec. 4, fire at the home of George and Beth Staton, 6118 North Road, West Jefferson.

    "The owner or the insurance company was apparently not happy with our performance," said Jefferson Township Fire Department Chief Bill Houk.

    The suit, filed Thursday, April 29, alleges that "defendants (JTFD and 12 firefighters individually named in the suit) failed to perform their services at subject property in a professional manner including, but not limited to, failing to take adequate steps to ensure that damages were minimized, running out of water to extinguish the blaze and failing to utilize close resources as an alternative water supply."

    The fire started in the attached garage, where George Staton was welding on a car about 4:30 p.m. The day after the fire, JTFD Chief Bill Houk said George Staton believed a spark flew from the welder onto a car seat.

    George Staton attempted to use a fire extinguisher to douse the fire, then went outside to get a garden hose to continue the effort, but was unable to enter the garage again, Houk said.

    The garage was fully engulfed in flames and the fire was spreading to the house when firefighters from JTFD arrived at the scene. The car in the garage was destroyed. A car in the driveway also was destroyed. A third vehicle, also in the driveway, was heavily damaged.

    The house and its attached garage were heavily damaged. Firefighters remained on the scene three hours and returned an hour later in response to a report that the fire had rekindled. They returned to the scene shortly after 7 a.m. the following day to deal with another rekindle.

    Houk was contacted about the suit. He would not comment about the specifics of the fire.

    Personnel from eight area fire departments assisted units from JTFD.

    Farmers Insurance provided coverage for the Statons at the time of the fire. The company filed suit, seeking a minimum of $185,000, from the fire department and the individual firefighters.

    "Jefferson Township Fire Department knew or should have known that the individual firefighters dispatched to Mr. and Mrs. Station's home did not possess the necessary and/or requisite skills to extinguish the fire and minimize the amount of damages sustained to the Staton home," according to the suit.

    Friday, Madison County Court of Common Pleas Judge Robert Nichols ruled to dismiss claims against the actual fire department, but did not dismiss claims against the firefighters, including Houk and Assistant Fire Chief Paul (Buck) Van Horn.

    According to the Ohio Revised Code a political subdivision, such as a township, in most instances is immune from liability in civil cases. Individual employees of the political subdivision are not immune.

    The suit alleges the firefighters handled the fire improperly and that their handling of the fire increased the amount of the claim the insurance company was forced to pay.

    "Defendant firefighters... individually and/or as employees of the Jefferson Township Fire Department, performed their professional firefighting duties/services in a reckless, willful and or wanton manner through their actions or omissions," according to the suit.

    "As a direct and proximate result of the reckless, willful and/or wanton actions and/or omissions of the defendant firefighters, individually and/or as employees of the Jefferson Township Fire Department, Plaintiff's insured sustained substantial damages."

    W. Charles Curley, attorney for the fire department, also represents the individual firefighters. He declined to comment about the specifics of the fire, but said he is confident the court will find his clients did not act with malice, recklessness or wanton neglect.

    He filed a letter with the court, seeking sanctions against the insurance company for having sought damages against the township.

    "We believe that it (the township's immunity) is so clear in the law, that we believe the suit against the township was a frivolous lawsuit and the insurance company and their attorneys ought to have to reimburse the township for attorney's fees and costs," Curley said.

    Curley said he is not seeking a specific dollar amount.

    No court date has been set for the suit.

    Repeated calls to the homeowner and the insurance company's attorney, Andrew Malone, were not returned.

  8. #8
    Forum Member firenresq77's Avatar
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    I saw that too, 683. That just irritates the hell out of me...........

  9. #9
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    Oh right. They all willfully and intentioanlly allowed his home to burn. Maybe things were screwed up. Maybe some more training is needed. But I'm insulted that an insurance company owuld sue the firefighters who in all likelyness, did the best they could given the circumstances. Would the a-hole lawer have done a better job?
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  10. #10
    Forum Member FiftyOnePride's Avatar
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    http://cms.firehouse.com/forums2/sho...threadid=60527

    Post on the story 683 posted here, it makes some great points about how the FF's should have never been there in the first place for various reasons and stuff like that...
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  11. #11
    Forum Member gunnyv's Avatar
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    Looks to me that the guy got the amount of fire service he was willing to pay for. The guy lived there 30 years and didn't know the difference between county and city services. In those 30 years, he probably never considered the capabilities of his FD. Maybe they would have been better if he had served as a volunteer member-I'd bet they could have used the help. Another sad example of the lack of civil involvement and the "let someone else do it" mentality.

  12. #12
    Forum Member CAPN22's Avatar
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    I hate people like this. This is the same guy that would have screamed bloody murder if the would have upgraded the hydrants and raised taxes. Same guy that threatens you with trespassing when you walk on his driveway to discuss the fire smart program. Don't dare try to place a hydrant on his property.. those things are ugly!!

    Oh and have we determined the cause of the fire. Hmmmm maybe someone overloaded the electrical system with all that Hamm radio equipment. Or the ashtray was seriously overloaded from those late night sessions.

    But lets blame Emergency Services cause I'm a moron...


    But on the other hand.. 1st due 1000 gallons 2nd due 500. It appears only 2 units, to a very involved and large fire. Why the heck did the 2nd in unit not locate and lay in a line from a hydrant. Mutual Aid could have been called in. Or Hot Dog Dept?

    Come on. I mean a fully involved structure fire and you show up with out a water supply plan?

  13. #13
    MembersZone Subscriber ChiefReason's Avatar
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    If lawyers promise not to fight fires, I will promise not to practice law.
    If they promise not to chase the firetruck, I promise not to mistake their Beemer for a vehicle extrication exercise!
    As disgusting as it is, there are people hell bent on attempting to profit by any means from any circumstances and the sad part is that there are attorneys desperate enough to take them.
    This will stop when judges(ex-attorneys) starts throwing lawyers in jail for wasting time and money. Oh; and slapping THEM with a big fine.
    That will stop it.
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    QUOTE-Oh and have we determined the cause of the fire. Hmmmm maybe someone overloaded the electrical system with all that Hamm radio equipment. Or the ashtray was seriously overloaded from those late night sessions. --------------
    It started while he was welding on a car in the garage.
    Other than that I agree that the response could have been better. They had 3 paid men on duty and several volunteers backing them up. What about mutual aid? We have automatic mutual aid for a daytime structure fires. What about water supply? We also have several areas with 2 inch water lines where there are no hydrants. We respond with Tanker trucks and request mutual aid to respond from surrounding departments with additional tankers so that we can establish a shuttle.

    Quote-Looks to me that the guy got the amount of fire service he was willing to pay for. The guy lived there 30 years and didn't know the difference between county and city services. In those 30 years, he probably never considered the capabilities of his FD. Maybe they would have been better if he had served as a volunteer member-I'd bet they could have used the help. Another sad example of the lack of civil involvement and the "let someone else do it" mentality.
    ------------
    Ditto. We have the same situation with people who live here to avoid the high taxes and home prices in Baton Rouge but complain when they don't get the same services as offered just across the line in Baton Rouge.
    To bad this happened to a fellow Ham Radio Operator but it sounds like a BS lawsuit to me.

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    Forum Member CAPN22's Avatar
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    Thanks Cellblock but the 2 stories are unrelated. The welder is Ohio. (just thrown in to confuse the heck out of everyone).

    Hamm Radio Guy was with the original posting for Houston.

    Ohio did a good job and had the resources.. Just some Ins Co stirring it up again. Why not deny the policy as proper precautions were not taken by the home owner. Noooo can't do that cause people with cancle thier policies if word gets out. Plus the homeowner would sue them instead. Idiots.


    What about a frivolous law suit law. You sue some one and you loose. You go to jail for 30 days for wasting everones time. Plus you have to pay all court costs. Oh yeah, the bonehead ambulance chaser gets the cell next to you.

  16. #16
    Forum Member cellblock's Avatar
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    Originally posted by CAPN22
    Thanks Cellblock but the 2 stories are unrelated. The welder is Ohio. (just thrown in to confuse the heck out of everyone).

    Hamm Radio Guy was with the original posting for Houston.

    Ohio did a good job and had the resources.. Just some Ins Co stirring it up again. Why not deny the policy as proper precautions were not taken by the home owner. Noooo can't do that cause people with cancle thier policies if word gets out. Plus the homeowner would sue them instead. Idiots.


    What about a frivolous law suit law. You sue some one and you loose. You go to jail for 30 days for wasting everones time. Plus you have to pay all court costs. Oh yeah, the bonehead ambulance chaser gets the cell next to you.
    You are correct. I got the stories confused after reading them both.
    A simular lawsuit is going on here in Louisiana against the Alsen/St Irma FD in East Baton Rouge Parish near Southern University. A homeowner claims that the Alsen FD responded to his house fire with to few FFs and didn't do enough to keep his home from burning down. Alsen has automatic mutual Aid with the City of Baton Rouge FD wich sent several trucks and FFs to the call. Between Alsen and Baton Rouge there was plenty of manpower on scene that day. The homeowner claimed that the Alsen FFs didn't have the necessary training to do the job. What he didn't know is that the paid FFs who were working for Alsen FD were also Paid FFs for the City of Baton Rouge and all had the same training and skills as the City department. There is a very good chance that this lawsuit against Alsen will be thrown out but not after it has caused all kinds of upheavel.

  17. #17
    Forum Member Fire40man's Avatar
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    Default Hot coffee

    Sounds like someone wanting to make a few bucks (thousands or millions)just like the McDonalds lawsuit over hot coffee. Fire usually destroys property, just like coffee is usually hot.
    Although hydrant location should have been known and the department should have been prepared for such an incident. Knowledge is power.

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