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  1. #1
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    Default Mutual aid in question...

    Could a mutual agreement have saved homes?

    11:36 PM CST on Wednesday, December 28, 2005
    By BRETT SHIPP / WFAA-TV

    Questions have begun to arise concerning mutual aid agreements among local fire departments after fires in Kennedale destroyed several homes Tuesday.

    The wind-driven fires proved destructive throughout Texas leaving four people dead and three people missing, and burning at least 13,000 acres.

    However in the town of Kennedale, some said they believe much of their loss could have been prevented. Residents and neighbors expressed anger as the said they saw Fort Worth firefighters Tuesday doing little to help the neighboring town of Kennedale that was in desperate need of assistance.

    "It was scary, that's for sure," said Scott Carruthers, a Kennedale homeowner.

    Carruthers said he credits the neighboring Arlington Fire Department with saving his home from burning to the ground as wildfire scorched 600 acres around him.

    "We probably had 33 pieces of equipment out here plus Arlington," said Scott Raven, Kennedale fire chief. "They had a large amount of their department out here."

    Chief Raven said he got critical help from nearly a dozen fire departments from all over the county, including some on the other side of Fort Worth.

    However, the Fort Worth Fire Department was noticeably absent because they are prohibited by city officials from responding.

    "I definitely would have called Fort Worth for assistance," Chief Raven said. "They've got an extremely large department, the largest in Tarrant County, and they have the resources available and that would have been beneficial for us to directly tap into..."

    Carruthers, who nearly lost his house, said he's shocked to learn the damage might have been minimized with additional help.

    "That's unbelievable, I didn't know that," he said.

    The reason Fort Worth City officials said they did not respond to help the neighboring area was because they said Kennedale will not enter into a mutual aid agreement with them.

    Officials declined an on camera interview, but issued a statement that said, "The city of Fort Worth has eleven mutual aid agreements and two contracts involving 14 neighboring jurisdictions."

    It also read, "We are willing to talk to any of our neighboring cities about a mutual aid agreement so long as the terms protect our firefighters, their families, the property and equipment of the Fort Worth Fire Department."

    The city's stance was believed to have evolved after a 1999 tragedy in which off-duty Fort Worth firefighters were killed fighting a church fire in neighboring Lake Worth.

    Chief Raven said he understands those concerns, but believes when a whole town is threatened only one rule should apply.

    "You've got to be able to tap in to assist each other," he said. "And that's what it's all about, is working together."

    Technically, the Fort Worth Fire Department sent seven units in the Kennedale area. However, the only reason they came in was because the City of Arlington, who have a mutual aid agreement with Fort Worth, decided to take on the liability and call on behalf of Kennedale.

    E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com


  2. #2
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    Chief Raven said he understands those concerns
    Then Chief Raven, why have you not addressed them?

    A little bit of talking beforehand is much easier than lots of explaining afterward.
    "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?

  3. #3
    Forum Member MemphisE34a's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RadRob
    From the article he posted: The reason Fort Worth City officials said they did not respond to help the neighboring area was because they said Kennedale will not enter into a mutual aid agreement with them.

    It also read, "We are willing to talk to any of our neighboring cities about a mutual aid agreement so long as the terms protect our firefighters, their families, the property and equipment of the Fort Worth Fire Department."
    Apparently its not Fort Worth thats dropping the ball. Their request seems absolutely appropriate.

    Quote Originally Posted by RadRob
    From same article: Carruthers, who nearly lost his house, said he's shocked to learn the damage might have been minimized with additional help.

    "That's unbelievable, I didn't know that," he said.
    Amazing. Anyone wanna bet that he is the mayor, counsel member, or alderman?
    Robert Kramer
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    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Sorry Gentlemen, I don't see a reason to jump on the Kennedale Chief, This is a lot bigger than just two jurisdictions in Texas. There is far too much interference in matters like Mutual Aid agreements by politicians who think they have to have control over everything. We don't have that problem in the Mid-Atlantic much, except for a tiny minority of idiots. We have worked on legislation in the past to make Mutual/Automatic Aid as seamless as possible. We are now at a point where apparatus from all 23 Maryland Counties, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and the Federal Government respond back and forth into and out of each other's areas without a lot of BS from the political idiots. We still have a legislative proposal on the back burner to Require Participation in Mutual/Automatic Aid responses by all Maryland Departments. Right now, everyone is working together pretty well, so it's not a big issue, but if problems arise, we'll move forward with it. Emergency Response Decisions MUST be made by the responders, no one else.
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    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    Emergency Response Decisions MUST be made by the responders, no one else.
    Exactly why I question Chief Raven.
    "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?

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    Forum Member FyredUp's Avatar
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    Mutual Aid can be a very hot political topic.

    On my career FD, a suburb of Milwaukee, actually bordered by Milwaukee on much of the city limits, we have mutual aid agreements with the all of Milwaukee County, except Milwaukee, and FD's in Waukesha County too.
    Milwauke charges per truck and per FF for a response outside of the city so noone uses them.

    My volly FD has a written mutual aid agreement with all the FD's in my county. But my volly FD was called up to travel 2 counties west for the tire fire in Watertown. Unfortunately they were cancelled because the fire was controlled before they were needed. We will go where called and worry about the other stuff later.

    Unfortunately in today's world liability and legal issues cloud the reality that NO ONE is so big that they won't need help someday.

    I think a decision could have been made for Fort Worth to respond with the stipulation that this is it. If no agreement is signed after this we ain't coming again.

    FyredUp

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    I believe some of this has evolved from the issues FW faced after 2 of their firefighters were killed while acting as vol's for the River Oaks FD. The situation is different in the respect that it was not a mutual aid issue then, but FW had a lot of public/political pressure to be the ones to pay out the full LODD benefits to the firefighters because River Oaks apparently had little to no benefits available. It received a lot of media attention locally and FW often looked like the bad guys.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp
    Mutual Aid can be a very hot political topic.

    On my career FD, a suburb of Milwaukee, actually bordered by Milwaukee on much of the city limits, we have mutual aid agreements with the all of Milwaukee County, except Milwaukee, and FD's in Waukesha County too.
    Milwauke charges per truck and per FF for a response outside of the city so noone uses them.
    What department are you with?
    FF/NREMT-B

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    Quote Originally Posted by kayakking
    I believe some of this has evolved from the issues FW faced after 2 of their firefighters were killed while acting as vol's for the River Oaks FD. The situation is different in the respect that it was not a mutual aid issue then, but FW had a lot of public/political pressure to be the ones to pay out the full LODD benefits to the firefighters because River Oaks apparently had little to no benefits available. It received a lot of media attention locally and FW often looked like the bad guys.
    You are correct. This is precisely the reason for their unwillingness to help.

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    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Angry That's It...................

    Quote Originally Posted by kayakking
    I believe some of this has evolved from the issues FW faced after 2 of their firefighters were killed while acting as vol's for the River Oaks FD. The situation is different in the respect that it was not a mutual aid issue then, but FW had a lot of public/political pressure to be the ones to pay out the full LODD benefits to the firefighters because River Oaks apparently had little to no benefits available. It received a lot of media attention locally and FW often looked like the bad guys.
    This is the situation that I was thinking of. And Rob's reply to your post is also correct. This kind of attitude, putting money first (Yes, I noted Money in the remarks about Milwaukee) is exactly why we have taken the steps to get Fire/Rescue matters beyond the grasp of politicians, here in Maryland. Can 49 other states follow our lead? Or, should we here in this area start work on Federal legislation to force compliance on those who will not help their neighbors?
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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods
    This is the situation that I was thinking of. And Rob's reply to your post is also correct. This kind of attitude, putting money first (Yes, I noted Money in the remarks about Milwaukee) is exactly why we have taken the steps to get Fire/Rescue matters beyond the grasp of politicians, here in Maryland. Can 49 other states follow our lead? Or, should we here in this area start work on Federal legislation to force compliance on those who will not help their neighbors?

    I'm not sure I'm following you. FW has a good relationship with its surrounding cities. Another city's unwillingness to participate in a mutual aid agreement (preincident) leaves the FW firefighters, their families, and the city at risk...financially and otherwise. I'm not sure we have enough information on here to throw stones. Are you suggesting that the crew be the final say so in where and how they respond or just that it should not go outside the fire department to city managers and council, etc?
    Last edited by kayakking; 12-29-2005 at 06:23 PM.

  12. #12
    the 4-1-4 Jasper 45's Avatar
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    This is the situation that I was thinking of. And Rob's reply to your post is also correct. This kind of attitude, putting money first (Yes, I noted Money in the remarks about Milwaukee) is exactly why we have taken the steps to get Fire/Rescue matters beyond the grasp of politicians, here in Maryland. Can 49 other states follow our lead? Or, should we here in this area start work on Federal legislation to force compliance on those who will not help their neighbors?

    Iím willing to cut you slack, only because you donít know anything about the situation here; however, money IS NOT the primary issue.
    For you to insinuate that it is, is offensive, and implies we are only concerned about our own pocket books. We as a department will respond anywhere, and at anytime; the fact that suburban departments donít call is not our fault, itís their own.
    What it really boils down to is staffing, and the suburban departments lack of it. The city here used to run mutual aid quite frequently, the problem is that we would send a fully staffed engine or ladder company into the suburban departments, but in return would receive a 2 or 3-person company, not a fair trade off, especially when tactics used are based on the department staffing levels.

    Instead of trying to force everybody to imitate you, and your department, maybe you should try to force all departments to properly staff their companies.
    Last edited by jasper45; 12-29-2005 at 04:37 PM.

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    This is precisely the reason for their unwillingness to help.

    No, the precise reason for their unwillingness to help is for some reason this community can not reach a mutual aid agreement when it seems many, many other communities can with Fort Worth.

    Hwood's on the right track, it's just not reality everywhere. Until then you suffer with these situations.

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    Ft Worth did actually help out in this situation. They backfilled for a department that FW did have a mutual aid agreement with so they could assist Kennedale w/ their fire - you never hear the whole story

    What is so hard to understand about FW wanting some assurance that they aren't left holding the ball when it's all over & done?

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    Talking Sometimes they do get it right ....

    Quote Originally Posted by cowtown
    Ft Worth did actually help out in this situation. They backfilled for a department that FW did have a mutual aid agreement with so they could assist Kennedale w/ their fire - you never hear the whole story

    What is so hard to understand about FW wanting some assurance that they aren't left holding the ball when it's all over & done?


    From the article, at the very end



    Technically, the Fort Worth Fire Department sent seven units in the Kennedale area. However, the only reason they came in was because the City of Arlington, who have a mutual aid agreement with Fort Worth, decided to take on the liability and call on behalf of Kennedale.
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    Jasper...

    You and I have discussed this issue here before. Unfortunately some people took advantage of the mutual aid situation. My career FD does not. If a member of our mutual aid agreements calls for an engine or a ladder they get a 4 person crew EVEN if we have to short another rig left in the city to do it.

    The facts are simple. In order for Milwaukee Fire to respond mutual aid, other than special teams, the requesting FD pays per truck and per FF for that response. The last figure I heard, and it has been years, was $25K for an engine and so much an hour per FF. Is that the right amount? I can't say for sure. But if it is would there be any wonder why the "Suburban" FD's call other FD's from all around Milwaukee instead of calling Milwaukee?

    By the way, I am not blaming you, or any other line firefighters for that decision. The ironic part is this...when and if Milwaukee is ever hit with a major incident such as a terrorist attack or multiple large incidents at the same time, more than likely we and the rest of the "Suburban" FD's will rally around our bigger next door neighbor and respond in to help you without regard for the fact that you would charge us for the same.

    By the way, I agree on proper staffing. But and this is the kicker, who is big enough that they can guarantee that they will NEVER need help? I seem to recall an FD with some 12,000 firefighters accepting mutual aid. Is Milwaukee better prepared, or staffed, or equipped, than they are?

    Again, this is NOT an attack on the Milwaukee Fire Department. I have lots of repsect for you guys and have several friends on your FD. I just think this is a situation that needs to be addressed with things like what is proper staffing for mutual aid companies.

    Take care and stay safe Brother.

    FyredUp

    Quote Originally Posted by jasper45
    Iím willing to cut you slack, only because you donít know anything about the situation here; however, money IS NOT the primary issue.
    For you to insinuate that it is, is offensive, and implies we are only concerned about our own pocket books. We as a department will respond anywhere, and at anytime; the fact that suburban departments donít call is not our fault, itís their own.
    What it really boils down to is staffing, and the suburban departments lack of it. The city here used to run mutual aid quite frequently, the problem is that we would send a fully staffed engine or ladder company into the suburban departments, but in return would receive a 2 or 3-person company, not a fair trade off, especially when tactics used are based on the department staffing levels.

    Instead of trying to force everybody to imitate you, and your department, maybe you should try to force all departments to properly staff their companies.

  17. #17
    MembersZone Subscriber cowtown's Avatar
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    Doh!! Slaps forehead

    Here's a question for everyone: What would you consider to be the threshhold size of incident for a department to respond w/o a mutual aid agreement? 60% of a department's units committed? 90%?
    Last edited by cowtown; 12-29-2005 at 10:18 PM.

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    Smile OK, I'll Try Again.............

    One of the problems with not being too articulate is different folks have different interpretations of what I said, or meant. Couple of points: I have absolutely no beef with the folks who ride the rigs, when I have a problem with something it's Management, and quite often, management BEYOND the Fire Department. That seems to be the case around Ft. Worth, as best I can determine. The item about Milwaukee specifically mentioned money. I have no doubt that money was mentioned by some bureaucrat elsewhere in the local Government, NOT someone in the FD. Staffing: I could care less. Here's where we are here: We go anywhere, anytime, to help anybody. Period. No other questions. You Call, We Haul. I am of the opinion that EVERYONE in this great nation should get the closest help in an emergency, no matter what. That's the premise that drives our system, we wouldn't have it any other way. After posting earlier today in this thread, I went to the station to work on some projects. I ran a call to cover for another Chief who was tied up, and my call was in the Northern end of the County. A Box Alarm brought 4 Engines, 2 Trucks, a Heavy Rescue, a Couple of Chiefs and a BLS Ambulance. Normal for Downtown Big City, but this is the Suburbs, with mostly Volunteers. This apparatus ran as it does day in, day out, in this area. What's worthy of mention was that the Box Alarm was made up of apparatus from 6 different VFDs IN FOUR DIFFERENT COUNTIES. No one had to ask permission, no agreement was rushed over to the Lawyers for review, Money was not even considered. NOTHING got in the way of neighbors working together. And that's the way it should be. Everywhere.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dalmatian190
    This is precisely the reason for their unwillingness to help.

    No, the precise reason for their unwillingness to help is for some reason this community can not reach a mutual aid agreement when it seems many, many other communities can with Fort Worth.

    Hwood's on the right track, it's just not reality everywhere. Until then you suffer with these situations.
    The reason was because the firefighters were lost while volunteering in another city previously. Therefore, the paid department not only lost some of their personnel, their insurance (underwritten in Ft Worth with the purpose of covering the men while on Ft Worth duties) had to foot the bill for everything. This is why a lot of paid departments will not let their employees volunteer (from a business perspective, their first priority should be the one that pays the bills). Regardless of what you think the situation is, this has been stated on several accounts by the administrations in question. Do other circumstances exist? Of course, but this is the driving factor. This has been an issue in our area for quite some time. Do I agree with it? On some points yes, others - no. This is why professional athletes are restricted in the extra-curricular activities they are allowed to take part in. If they are injured, their team/sponsor/etc.. is out a lot of money.

    Another factor was with all the fires popping up around town, Ft Worth fire crews did not want to commit their resources out of their district leaving their own at risk. This is a very dangerous time for fires here, as there are massive fires all over. To commit to someone else without keeping your own town covered would be plain stupid. I don't fault Ft Worth at all. As it were, they provided "some" help while keeping most of it in their own district. My question is why did it take Arlington to request the help before it was given. That is the only decision that was "political". If you look at the mutual aid agreements, Arlington and Ft Worth have one, therefore the insurance and coverage are not an issue.

    Political or not, Kennedale administration should review their reasons for not entering in a mutual aid agreement with Ft Worth because they obviously need help as they only have 16 firefighters. Not using a city with hundreds of personnel just doesn't make good sense.

    Bottom line - looking at it from the city's (ft Worth's) perspective, I feel they are doing what they need to do by assuring their area is covered. However, if they had seven units to send in the first place, while still maintaining adequate coverage, they should have sent them before Arlington had to ask for them. Inter-department relations has been, and always will be, an issue. That's where the emphasis should be, improving relations.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RadRob
    Bottom line - looking at it from the city's (ft Worth's) perspective, I feel they are doing what they need to do by assuring their area is covered. However, if they had seven units to send in the first place, while still maintaining adequate coverage, they should have sent them before Arlington had to ask for them. Inter-department relations has been, and always will be, an issue. That's where the emphasis should be, improving relations.
    I agree with everything you said except this...most mutual aid (as opposed to automatic assistance) would have to be requested. I believe this is a good thing to prevent the problems generated with self dispatch. Additionally, Arlington is not a small department either...FW probably wouldn't know they needed fill-ins unless Arlington called and asked for them.

    Hwoods...as a firefighter, I understand completely where you're coming from. I can't imagine not helping if I knew someone nearby needed the assistance, but mutual aid agreements are important. If you look at Tarrant County (the county FW is in), you will see many small town's all around and some even islands inside of FW and Arlington. Most of these towns already have automatic assistance with either FW or Arlington, but if they didn't have that or mutual aid agreements they wouldn't even need to bother funding a fire department at all or adequately if I understand you correctly. If the closest units had to respond, FW and Arlington would be flipping the bill to provide fire protection for several cities in that area. Mutual aid agreements are not the problem. They can be worked out in advance and really serve to protect all parties involved (including the individual firefighters and their families). I don't know what the issue is with Kennedale. I would like to hear what there position is.

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