01-31-2006, 07:21 PM #1
Detroit Captain scapegoat for City's cuts
The Detroit FD has been cutting manpower and companies, now when the expected results happen they find a scapegoat. Hope some of the DFD brothers chime in on this one.
Mother questions why son had to die
Firefighters too late for man in a burning car
January 27, 2006
DETROIT FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
For more than a month, Deborah Walker of Ferndale has suffered.
Her oldest son, Curtis Bigham III, died in a burning car on Christmas Eve in Detroit, in an incident that left street-hardened cops in tears. He was so badly burned it that took the medical examiner a few extra days to make a positive identification, so his mother had to have the funeral without his body.
She has refused to enter his bedroom since the night he died, and she can't stop reliving the moment in the middle of the night when she learned Bigham was dead.
"Why couldn't they save my baby?" she asked recently. "What took them so long, and why were they so unprepared?"
There are many unanswered questions about the death of Bigham, 25, but one thing is clear: Something went wrong that night with the Detroit Fire Department's response.
Reaction to the incident has shaken the ranks. This week, fire administrators accused a veteran captain and a dispatcher of the rarely used departmental charge of neglect of duty. Another dispatcher also faces at least one unidentified charge.
The fire union says those being charged are scapegoats, and the real problem is Detroit's public safety cutbacks.
Fire Commissioner Tyrone Scott did not return phone calls regarding the charges. Scott said earlier that the inquiry into Bigham's death was continuing, and "any comment I make might prejudice the investigation."
In the seven hours before Bigham's crash, firefighters responded to 30 calls, 11 of which were false alarms. That qualifies as a busy night for Detroit's department, which suffered layoffs and cutbacks in 2005 and has struggled with equipment problems in recent years.
Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's administration, meanwhile, plans to trim the department further while it deals with a budget deficit that some fiscal analysts estimate is more than $100 million.
Despite the cuts, Scott has insisted that residents and visitors can count on firefighters showing up, any time there is a call, in 5 minutes' time.
Curtis Bigham had to wait longer than that.
"There are too few resources for this many incidents," said Dan McNamara, president of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association. "We're stretched past thin, and firefighters are complaining there are problems dispatching companies."
A crash, then a call for help
Bigham and two friends were traveling westbound on East 7 Mile near Shields about 2:40 a.m. when their 1984 Chevrolet Caprice was struck by a 1996 GMC van that had crossed the center line.
Police said the van was driven by Andre Gibbons Curry, a 31-year-old Detroiter who they say left the scene and walked more than 6 miles to his home near Cadieux and I-94, where he was arrested. He has pleaded not guilty to vehicular manslaughter, negligent homicide and leaving the scene of an accident.
Curry, police said, told them he had been drinking beer and tequila for several hours before the crash, though his lawyer contests that.
Bystanders helped Bigham's passengers out of the car. They suffered minor injuries. Bigham was pinned by the dashboard.
The fire appears to have grown slowly. Detroit police said they attempted to rescue Bigham and put out the blaze with extinguishers they carry in their cars. Some of the witnesses were said to have thrown snow on the flames.
Cops and EMS called for fire rigs on their radios. As time ticked on, some officers were screaming for help.
"Vehicle was not totally engulfed with fire," one officer from the Northeast District noted in his report. "No D.F.D. units were on scene with water at this time."
Bigham had fourth-degree burns over 90% of his body, on top of internal injuries from the crash. A fourth-degree burn eats through all the layers of the skin and down into muscle and bone.
Help arrives too late
The precise length of time involved is uncertain. The city has not yet released police, EMS or fire dispatch tapes, which would help clarify what happened and when.
But it's clear from interviews with police, firefighters and witnesses that it took longer than the 5 minutes guaranteed by the fire commissioner.
The Fire Department's Engine Co. 56 is stationed only 4 blocks from the accident. But Engine 56 was helping that night on a three-alarm alarm fire at East Vernor and Bellevue, about 6 1/2 miles southeast of Bigham's burning car.
In addition to Engine 56, the three-alarm incident drew nearly two dozen fire rigs from across the east side and central parts of Detroit. In such a case, the department has to reassign rigs to cover the areas vacated by their regular fire vehicles.
Around the time of Bigham's crash, a fire was reported at East Outer Drive and Mitchell, about 14 blocks from 7 Mile and Shields. Four pumper engines, one ladder truck, rescue Squad 5 and a chief responded, but discovered that it was a false alarm, according to firefighters.
As Squad 5, Engine 35 and Engine 40 neared East 7 Mile and I-75 while returning to their station from the false alarm, the department's dispatcher told Squad 5 to respond to the car accident, according to Darnell McLaurin, a Squad 5 firefighter and union director. They were less than 2 miles from Bigham's burning car.
Engine 40 asked the dispatcher whether it should also go. Then, radio traffic became confusing, firefighters say, when yet another fire was reported and the dispatcher had to assign other rigs to that blaze. Engine 40 was not told to respond to Bigham's car, despite being nearby.
For most car fires, departmental policy calls for a squad, a vehicle with rescue gear but no water, and an engine, which carries water. Ladder trucks, some of which carry small amounts of water, could also be sent.
Squad 5 arrived at the scene and found the car engulfed in flames and Bigham apparently dead. The numerous police officers and EMS technicians on the scene were frantic, said McLaurin, who was there.
"EMS was crying. Police was crying," McLaurin said.
The Squad 5 supervisor called for an engine.
Several minutes after Squad 5 arrived, Ladder 30, from Mt. Elliott and Davison, pulled up to the scene.
An earlier vehicle designated as Ladder 30 was damaged in an accident Sept. 21, and was still in the repair shop, firefighters said. Ladder 30's replacement, in use Dec. 24, had a broken pumping mechanism and was unable to put water on the fire. The department had known about the broken pump since the replacement vehicle was pressed into service three months ago, according to department records.
Charges, cutbacks and shock
Several minutes after Ladder 30, a pumper arrived. It was Engine 44, from John R and 7 Mile, about 2 1/2 miles away. It put out the fire, but it was too late for Curtis Bigham.
This week, the Fire Department administration charged the captain, who was commanding Ladder 30 and one dispatcher, accusing them of neglect of duty in the incident.
The department alleges that the captain should have made provisions for the faulty water pumps. It also accuses the dispatcher of failing to follow procedures, causing a delay in the response.
Both employees will go through the department's judicial process. Punishment could range from a reprimand to dismissal.
Last year at this time, the Fire Department had 71 fire vehicles. In July, because of the city's financial problems, Scott laid off 63 firefighters and took five vehicles out of service. In September, he announced 65 more layoffs and the termination of five more rigs. A judge has put the September cuts on hold while the city and the union hash out safety issues.
While Kilpatrick and Scott have maintained that a scaled-back department can protect the city, the fire union officials say that is illogical, given Detroit's heavy fire load and its large number of vacant homes and commercial buildings.
That discussion is academic to Deborah Walker. She is struggling without Curtis.
"I go to sleep listening to worship and praise tapes," she said. "It's soothing. Someone told me I'm still in shock. It's moment by moment."
Contact BILL MCGRAW at 313-223-4781
Detroit suspends 3 in man's death
Employees to have hearing in car fire
January 31, 2006
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Firefighters protest a suspension stemming from a car fire. They blame faulty equipment.
Detroit Fire Department officials have suspended three employees accused of neglect in a Dec. 24 incident in which a Ferndale man died in a burning car on East 7 Mile.
Two dispatchers received 30-day suspensions for neglect of duty and ignorance of department rules. A captain received a 29-day suspension for neglect of duty. Their names have not been released.
The suspensions are not the end of the disciplinary process, officials said. The employees will go to a trial board hearing at which they can present evidence on their behalf, and the board can uphold, rescind or reduce the punishments.
Curtis Bigham III, 25, was killed after his car was rammed by a van that had crossed the center line on 7 Mile near Ryan. According to authorities, Bigham suffered internal injuries from the crash and fourth-degree burns over 90% of his body when his vehicle caught fire, trapping him inside.
Some critics have complained that firefighters took too long to get to the scene and that, when they did, they did not have the proper equipment needed to put out the fire.
Firefighters have said Bigham was dead before the first fire vehicle -- which did not carry water -- arrived. The second vehicle, Ladder Co. 30, carried water, but its pumping mechanism was broken.
01-31-2006, 07:57 PM #2
- Join Date
- Sep 2003
They may not have working pumps on thier rigs, but Kwame's $40,000 navigator sure is looking sharp.
01-31-2006, 08:13 PM #3
WTF? The Captian on the truck should have "made provisions for the faulty water pumps"? Are they out of thier f***ing minds? What, should he have paid for the repairs out of his own pocket?Fire Marshal/Safety Officer
"No his mind is not for rent, to any god or government"
Success is when skill meets opportunity
Failure is when fantasy meets reality
01-31-2006, 08:28 PM #4
from the very front page of the site .........
Thanks for posting this Gunny ...I was going to but wasnt sure how much crap it was going to sitr vs being worth it. Also this article didnt really give ANY details.
Detroit Captain Suspended In Fatal Car Blaze
A Detroit fire captain was suspended Monday in connection with a car fire that killed a 25-year-old man on Christmas Eve, according to Local 4.
The Detroit firefighters' union staged a protest Monday morning outside the Detroit Fire Department's headquarters regarding charges that were expected to be issued from the fatal incident.
Fire officials said dispatch problems led to a delayed response to the car fire, Local 4 reported. The fire truck that eventually arrived at the scene had malfunctioning equipment and could not pump water, the station reported.
The fire captain -- whose name was not released -- was issued a 29-day suspension Monday in connection with the investigation, the station learned. Two dispatchers were previously suspended, according to Local 4. All three were expected to file appeals.IACOJ both divisions and PROUD OF IT !
Pardon me sir.. .....but I believe we are all over here !
ATTENTION ALL SHOPPERS: Will the dead horse please report to the forums.(thanks Motown)
RAY WAS HERE 08/28/05
LETHA' FOREVA' ! 010607
I'm sorry, I haven't been paying much attention for the last 3 hours.....what were we discussing?
"but I guarentee you I will FF your arse off" from>
01-31-2006, 08:34 PM #5
- Join Date
- Feb 2004
Wouldn't you like to know all the TRUE details? Sounds like this Captain will be unjustly taking one for the city. . .Sad.
01-31-2006, 08:44 PM #6
- Join Date
- Sep 2005
30 runs ....sounds like those boys really earn their money
01-31-2006, 09:02 PM #7
- Join Date
- May 1999
- Here, There, Everywhere
Another sad testement to what has become of what was once the United State's 5th Largest City!
PS-I just found some fat bag of sh*t's web page that argues for a fully private Detroit FD! Most of his rationale based on the idea that it has worked elsewhere (like Scottsdale, Arizona!!! where they see a fire every two weeks and not every two hours!?!?! )
Stay safe brothers.
01-31-2006, 09:03 PM #8Originally Posted by columbusfire
01-31-2006, 09:13 PM #9Originally Posted by FFFRED
01-31-2006, 09:17 PM #10
Originally Posted by gunnyv
- Join Date
- May 1999
- Here, There, Everywhere
PS-How many Engines, Ladders, Battalion Chiefs..etc. are there now left in the DFD?
01-31-2006, 09:33 PM #11
Nowhere near enough!"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY
01-31-2006, 10:30 PM #12
- Join Date
- Nov 2005
This is a case where the Fire Commissoner/Fire Chief and the Mayor should be taken outside and flogged. The Chief for not standing up for his people and fighting the cuts and **** poor equipment they supposively have to the end. And the Mayor for making all of these cuts to public safety. You would think that in a city known for catching a lot of fire and having a large amount of crime that public safety would be the last thing to be touched. What a bunch of mutts.
01-31-2006, 11:36 PM #13
- Join Date
- Dec 2000
02-01-2006, 07:27 AM #14
The Captain is being used as a scape goat, pure and simple. I was told that a lawsuit has been filed over the incident and that the city is looking to put the whole thing on the backs of the dispatchers and officer. This is nothing new here.
After the last 5 company closings and the closing of 1 battalion Detroit is left with 8 Battalions with 38 Engines, 19 Ladder Trucks, 2 Platforms and 6 Squads for 140 sq miles, high fire load and a population of around 890,000. The city wanted to close another 5 companies (injuction issued by court on safety concerns) before the Super Bowl.
This is one of the many reasons I decided to retire. The administration hasn't cut their end and has stated that they won't. All appointed (political) positions are to be kept. The administration has been screwed up for over 30 years. Politics as usual in Detroit!!!!! The administration has a commissioner, deputy commissioner, 1st deputy commissioner, 2nd deputy commissioner (BIG money and benefits here), chief of department, 2 deputy chiefs along with their drivers and secretaries. This is not even mentioning the BIG TIME perks that are given with these jobs.
Captain Green (great person and firefighter) will more than likely fight this on appeal and I believe will prevail in arbitration and have the decision overturned although it will take 3 years to do so.
On another note. The city actually wants to do away with the Battalion Chiefs as IC's and just have the company officers act as IC's. Battalion Chiefs would only respond on multiple alarms. This would be a reduction from 28 BC's to 12. There is also serious talk of closing as many as 12 more fire companies before July. In the last 5 or 6 years the administration has been putting pressure on the IC's to just call for extra companies rather than ask for a multiple alarm assignment but then again the city has tried to skew the numbers for years. As they close companies the injury rates are beginning to skyrocket and the city is crying about the costs for these injuries, DUH go figure!
Last edited by FireLt1951; 02-01-2006 at 10:50 AM.
02-01-2006, 08:59 AM #15Originally Posted by KingHippo
That new Navigator and the Excalade for his family. Typical scumbag politician."Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like." Will Rogers
The borrower is slave to the lender. Proverbs 22:7 - Debt free since 10/5/2009.
"No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session." - New York Judge Gideon Tucker
"As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government." - Dave Barry
www.daveramsey.com www.clarkhoward.com www.heritage.org
02-01-2006, 09:21 AM #16Funny you should mention that. That study was published by a conservative "think tank" in the Detroit News a few years ago. I got so mad I wrote a letter to the editor that was published about a week later.
02-01-2006, 09:50 AM #17
The MC5 had a song on their album that would be perfect for the background music...
"The Motor City's Burning'""The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY
02-01-2006, 10:38 AM #18
Ok so the DFD was delayed in getting there. HELLO could it be because the city officials have cut them so thin. Not to mention giving them apparatus with KNOWN faulty equipment on it. Thatís like blaming the car for not starting because you took the battery out of it. At what point does the city understand when you make the guys work like that with that kind of stuff this is the result. Itís bad enough that it had to happen. Let alone the DFD guys that where there have to live with the call. Now City Hall wants them to take the fall. BS let city council and the mayor hang for what they have done to serve the residents. I hope this works out and is seen by the public for what it is. Good luck to the brothers of DFD.Training does not make perfect. Training makes permanent!
02-01-2006, 12:41 PM #19Originally Posted by FFFREDA'int No Rocket Scientist's in The Firehall
02-01-2006, 02:03 PM #20
02-01-2006, 02:29 PM #21
I would like to know what this guy was smoking when he wrote this article. Besides all the BS on there, if DFD had enough money to pay outside people to do their job then they wouldn't be in this boat to begin with. People will find anything to gain a profit. It is sad that they have to prey on the fire service.
02-01-2006, 03:25 PM #22
- Join Date
- Jan 2003
This was an ex-rig Ladder 30 was using. They lost their regular rig in September when, responding to a working fire, a deaf driver pulled out in front of them on Six Mile Road near Shields (Shields must be cursed; this latest incident happened at 7 Mile and Shields). http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...r.jsp?id=44788
Ladder 30's driver did a great job of avoiding the deaf driver, but to the department he is the bad guy ... how 'bout that. (It was a DEAF driver!) Regular Ladder 30 went out for repairs and the tally will be close to $300,000. Even when it's ready, where will the money come from to pay for it? We might not see that sucker for a while.
After the deaf-driver-incident, Ladder 30 was given an ex-rig with an inoperable pump, among other issues. And that pump problem was soooo known. Soooo known.
I feel terrible for the young man who died in this car fire, and my heart breaks for his family. What an awful way to die ... on Christmas morning no less. But to pin it on the captain? An utter, total crock. It makes my blood boil just thinking about it.
By the way, fixing broken pumps became a high priority for the department after this incident. I guess they call that crisis management. Sadly, things will only get worse from here for our department and our city. But enjoy the Super Bowl.
02-01-2006, 03:31 PM #23
Lastr summer, someone on our local forum also came up with the idea of privatization of the Fire Department (this, of course after he "critiqued" a damn good save and said that we ran around beraking windows, cutting holes in the roof and causing "unnecessary damages" and I told "the other side of the story" )
He used an article about Rural Metro and Scottsdale and how successful they are and posted the link.
I posted the fact that Scottsdale voted R/M out and went to a municipal department and posted that link.
This went on and on, he defending his "position" and me defending my job and Department until a funny thing happened...
He had chest pains and called 911.
When the Engine in that district arrived, He was clutching his chest and could barely breathe. he coded right in front of the crew, who promptly zapped him with the defib and got a pulse back. He was placed on an NBR and transported by the medics once they arrived.
Turns out our staunchest critic has become our staunchest ally. Amazing what needing you does for a person's attitude!
Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY
02-01-2006, 05:16 PM #24
Unfortunately sometimes people need to be shown toward the light (no pun intended) before they can make rational decisions.
02-01-2006, 05:51 PM #25
- Join Date
- Oct 2005
They tried the private thing in Rye Brook, NY. Guess what? There out and a municipal FD is in place. Think there still working many details out, but it ain't private.
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