The City of Coos Bay has received 16 violations....but
then "they" also say the issues and failures discussed in the violations
were not responsible for the firefighters death. Hmmmm. I was not there
and may not have all the facts....but I will tellya that we have reviewed
some extremely in-depth videos and photos numerous times....and those comments
make us a lil'nervous.
CAN'T WE ALL JUST BE FRIENDS?
A followup to the Coos Bay Tragedy
Chief Billy Goldfeder
This is a followup to the Coos Bay fire
in which Lt. Randall Carpenter, 46, and firefighters Jeffery Common, 30,
and R. Chuck Hanners, 33, were killed Nov. 25, 2002 at the FarWest Auto
and Truck Supply fire.
OK, fine. If the violations that included
a breakdown in the command, control and communications at the fire, failure
to have fully enough trained firefighters (read: STAFFING) outside the
building to rescue firefighters inside, failure to properly maintain SCBA's
(and applicable training)....what then, was the problem?
WE NEED TO KNOW. Yeah-we know, the lawyers
are watch'n like vultures. So what-WE still NEED TO KNOW. The message of
what really went wrong at any FIRE is such a critical piece in reducing
our deaths. For example, you may or may not like the Phoenix FD, and that's
up to you-but I'll tellya this-when something goes wrong in Phoenix, they
investigate it, they get the facts, they evaluate it and then they not
only educate THEIR members-but we ALL get educated...and it doesn't take
forever. And keep in mind that Phoenix has plenty of "vultures" float'n
around as well. That doesn't matter-they still get the FACTS out to the
rest of us. Why? We learn from it.
The reports on the Coos Bay firefighter
deaths state that there was poor accountability, there was documented freelancing,
no RIT teams and there were no training records for SCBA use. They found
out that their SCBA's were not regularly inspected and that repairs and
maintenance were not done according to the SCBA's manufacturer recommendations,
amongst several other violations. Plenty to learn from? Absolutely. "New"
information that is shocking you? Nope. You've heard it all before.
Fine. OK...sure, the report DOES have good
information. But, then WHAT WAS the reason for the firefighters getting
killed if the violations weren't? When do we get to read the OFFICIAL reasons
so WE CAN LEARN. Or maybe, it's so obvious it's right in front of us. Maybe
it's just a vulture issue.
Think about the comments that are heard
after almost every tragic run. It's the same issues over and over and over
again....almost every NIOSH report identifies the same exact problems.
As we wrote and have "blah blah blahed" about in the past.."THE BEAT GOES
What's missing? Once again-we may just
have to actually go "out of our way" in order to fully prepare our fire
department for what will eventually come...meaning, fires, such as described
in this incident. Going "out of our way" means aggressive training, staffing,
equipment setup, response plans, pre-plans, strict command and control,
tracking, risk management and related safety procedures with attitudes
that are focused and committed to preventing our deaths....and the funding
that is required to make this happen. Sure-fighting fires takes courage-so
does the ability for the leadership to stand up and make it clear to the
politicians and community what we clearly CAN and CANNOT due based upon
funding. It also takes COURAGE to MAKE the troops train and GET the FD
When this fire first happened, we wrote
that getting all the above stuff done can be a real pain in the ass when
some priorities are to sleep, eat, talk on your cellphone, play on the
computer, watch TV and generally waste time when at the firehouse. Next
time you see this happening in your firehouse-maybe ya oughta stop it-lead
your crew out for a real drill or do some building visits for preplanning
purposes. Take'm and do something that will matter in saving their own
lives. The result might be WHINING and MOANING in a lot of the cases....so
what. Do it anyway. Who cares if they whine? It's the same whiney bastids
that would complain anyway-about anything, all the time. Maybe their parents
didn't like them or something. NOT your problem. Your problem is to get'm
home safe, after the fire, so they can make it to their next therapy appointment
or what whatever.
This stuff always reminds me of professional
football. A pro-football team spends an incredible amount of time preparing
for "The Big Game"...it takes a long time before a player can be used on
the field-based upon training, skills and abilities....and ALL the coaches
participate and get involved. There is a plan, a backup plan, strategy,
tactics and enough STAFFING ON THE BENCH to take care of any problems that
may occur. And NO ONE goes onto the field without their gear on. Coaches
normally stay OFF the field but always know who is supposed to be doing
what and they guide their players based upon specific angles, strategies,
areas of expertise and THE BIG PICTURE. They communicate using radios that
WORK and if the radio's didn't-they would get fixed REALLY fast. After
all-this is pro-football. They have plenty of rehab for all the players,
sports medicine experts on the scene (at practice too) and the ability
to take care of their needs immediately. See any common links here?
Changing any FD's thinking and culture
isn't easy at all. Like you, I have taken more than just a few tummy pills
when trying to change stuff...but ya can't give up. As we have said before,
don't EVER give up on this stuff. Do whatever you have to in order to NOT
let this stuff happen. Read the violations...go to the NIOSH site and read
ALL the violations and see the common continuing problems. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/firehome.html
Without question, you gotta FORCE FEED
this kinda stuff and MAKE THOSE INVOLVED LISTEN...no matter what...no matter
what rank....no matter how much of a pain in the ass it is, or you are.
Afterall, what are you at the FD for anyway? WHY DID you join? Afraid to
make enemies? Screw'm...do what's right. Need friends or are you afraid
"they" won't like you? Who cares...do the right thing. They probably don't
like you anyway. Fine, if being "friends" is a big issue to you-ok, I'LL
BE YOUR FRIEND. I promise. "I'll always be here for you my friend"....trust
me. Still not comfortable with confronting those who need to be changed
and woken up? Afraid you'll feel LONELY in the firehouse? OK, go to http://pbskids.org/rogers/
and you'll feel better....you now have a "happy little place" you can call
The point is: If we spent a little less
time worrying about all the social "I sure hope they like me" or "I don't
wanna piss'm off" crap in the firehouse and spent a little bit more time
on the real "why we are here" stuff, we might be able to reduce the amount
of NIOSH reports, articles and stuff like this. We do have time to prepare
our troops. We just "gotta wanna" do it. And accept that they may not like
ya. Remember though: I always will !
Anyway-here is more on the tragic fire
in Coos Bay. We continue to feel heartfelt sorrow for the CBFD...especially
towards the 11 "daddy-less" children of Chuck Hanners, Randy Carpenter
and Jeff Common....and hope that this information as well as "the rest
of the story" will contribute to reducing the continuing, repetitive deaths
of our Brothers and Sisters.
May 16, 2003
Fatal Fire Fines
Coos Bay, OR
Courtesy of KVAL.Com
State investigators cited the city
on Friday for 16 safety violations carrying fines of more than $50,000
connected to a fire that killed three firefighters, but said the alleged
violations were not responsible for the men's deaths.
Citations included a breakdown in the
command structure and communications on the fire, failing to station fully
equipped firefighters outside the burning building to rescue firefighters
inside and failure to properly maintain breathing gear and show firefighters
could use it properly.
Oregon Occupational Safety and Health
Division Administrator Peter DeLuca said he hoped the investigation would
lead to safer working conditions for firefighters across the state and
"If we do not learn, the tragic significance
is that much greater," DeLuca said.
Pat West, president of the Oregon chapter
of the International Association of Firefighters, disagreed. West said
the breakdown in command structure and failure to follow standard procedures
were a factor in the firefighters' deaths.
"From the start, it has been clear to
us that the management of the fire department and a clear lack of command
at the fire aided in the deaths of three firefighters on that fateful afternoon,"
said West. "These feelings have certainly been substantiated by the full
investigation conducted by Oregon OSHA."
Coos Bay Fire Department Lt. Randall
Carpenter, 46, and volunteer firefighters Jeffery Common, 30, and R. Chuck
Hanners, 33, were killed Nov. 25 while fighting a fire at FarWest Auto
and Truck Supply.
The fire burned unseen for hours, weakening
the roof, which collapsed on the firefighters soon after they entered the
The State Fire Marshal's Office traced
the cause of the fire to heat from the chimney of an oven used to burn
grease from parts in a machine shop within the building. Two men are awaiting
trial on charges of negligent homicide connected to installation of the
Carpenter's girlfriend, Christine Farmer,
wearing Carpenter's old fire department jacket, said she agreed with West's
criticisms, saying she felt proper safety procedures could have saved Carpenter's
"If they followed two-in, two-out, he
would be alive," she said, referring to a procedure in which two firefighters
are stationed outside whenever colleagues go into a burning building.
The citations carry fines totaling $50,450.
Thirteen of the 16 were classified as serious.
Mayor Joe Bennetti said the city was
committed to giving firefighters safe working conditions, and has already
begun correcting some problems. He added that he hoped to significantly
reduce the fines in negotiations with the division, particularly on technical
citations concerning breathing equipment.
Bennetti added that Fire Chief Stan
Gibson continued to have the full confidence of the city administration.
"These allegations in no way reflect
on our firefighters' ability or dedication," Bennetti said.
Fire Department Lt. Randy Miles, president
of the local firefighters' union, agreed with the state's conclusion that
the safety violations were not responsible for the deaths.
"Even if none of these violations ever
happened, those guys would still be gone," he said. "They're going to correct
it. I have 100 percent confidence in that."
The division cited the city for failing
to follow incident management standards set by the National Fire Protection
Association. Those included a breakdown in communications between fire
commanders and firefighters, failure to set up a team to rescue firefighters
inside the building, and a delay in naming a safety officer. That citation
carries a fine of $7,000.
A citation for failing to station two
fully equipped rescuers outside the building and another for having no
standard system for keeping track of personnel on the fire each carry a
fine of $5,000.
There were no records that firefighters
could demonstrate they knew how to use breathing equipment. Firefighters
were not tested annually on operating their respirators or to be sure they
had tight-fitting face masks. One firefighter went onto the burning roof
without a respirator.
Breathing equipment was not inspected
daily, and repairs and maintenance were not done according to manufacturer
recommendations, the investigation found.