Fire Service Battled Blazes, Controversy in 2010

In 2010, the U.S. fire service battled its share of fires; both literal and figurative.

2010 Year In Review

Boston saw two nine-alarm blazes -- one at a condominium building on April 7 and another at a vacant warehouse on Aug. 22.

The latter spurred the city to crackdown on vacant buildings after 147 empty or abandoned properties were deemed dangerous by the fire department.

FDNY crews responded to a seven-alarm blaze that tore through Chinatown on April 11.

Baltimore firefighters were kept busy late in the year when they battled two five-alarm blazes in a12-hour span. The fire first occurred in the area known as The Block at approximately 4 p.m. on Dec. 6 while the second began in the Mount Vernon area at approximately 1:30 a.m. the following day.

On Sept. 9, a destructive gas line explosion leveled a San Bruno, Calif. neighborhood, killing eight people and injuring close to 50 others.

Some of the more controversial stories of the years dealt with responses to fires and behavior issues.

One of the most-read stories on Firehouse.com this year was about a Spalding County firefighter who recorded a video showing a victim's dead body with his personal cell phone at the scene of a July crash and shared it with other people.

The victim's family saw the video months later, and the incident led to the termination of the firefighter.

A story written by Firehouse.com Senior Staff Writer Susan Nicol in March take a look at a report focusing on ethics issues in the fire service.

It wasn't a "rouge" firefighter that stirred controversy in late September, but a Tennessee fire department's policy that got people talking. South Firefighters refused to fight a mobile home fire on Sept. 29, citing an annual $75 rural fire subscription service the homeowner failed to pay.

The story gained national attention and several stories posted on Firehouse.com received well over 100 comments from readers. Following the incident, the fire chief was attacked, the IAFF chimed in and Firehouse.com contributor Dr. Harry Carter gave his take on the incident.

While it didn't stir up as much debate, the resignation of Kelvin Cochran from the post of U.S. Fire Administrator in June to become chief of the Atlanta Fire Department -- a position he previously held, came as a shock to many. He was just 10 months in his tenure as the head of the U.S. Fire Service.

Susan Nicol caught up with Cochran at the NFPA conference in Las Vegas hours after the news broke. She spoke to him again as he prepared to leave his office at the National Fire Academy in Emitsburg, Md. later that month.

The fire service as a whole experienced tough times in 2010 as department's across the country were forced to make budget cuts, close stations and layoff firefighters.

Firehouse.com Staff Writer Ed Ballam explored this issue earlier in the year as he detailed struggles faced by departments big and small.

One bright spot though was the ability for departments to hire back some of those firefighters lost to budget cuts through the use of SAFER grants. It was announced late last year that department could apply and use these grants to rehire laid off personnel for the first time.

Flint, Mich., Alameda, Calif. and Akron, Ohio were just a few of the cities to take advantage of the grant funds.

While many departments were dealing with budget issues, some dealt with much more tragic circumstances: suicides.

The Phoenix Fire Department created a task force after four active firefighters and one retired firefighters took their own lives over a seven-month period.

Phoenix's situation is very similar to the Chicago Fire Department -- which lost seven firefighters to suicides over the course of 18 months between the beginning of 2007 and the middle of 2008.

Dan DeGryse, director of Local 2's employee assistance program, spoke with Firehouse.com during Health & Safety week about steps taken by the department to prevent further incidents within its ranks.

Former Hinsdale, Ill. Fire Chief Patrick Kenny was well aware of what was going on in Chicago and shared his own struggle with the suicide of his son at Firehouse Expo in Baltimore.

A few months later, Kenny spoke to Firehouse.com about how his former department dealt with the line-of-duty death of Deputy Fire Chief Mark Johnson and the importance of counseling in the coping process.

Looking forward to this coming year, Firehouse.com will be there to tell you about all of the big stories affecting the fire service. Sept. 11, 2011 marks the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the staff of Firehouse.com will offer exclusive content covering the events honoring those killed in the tragedy.

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