Friday, August 24, 2007

FIRE STATION IN JEOPARDY, AGAIN

Officials at the Elyria Fire Department received word from the Mayor’s Office today that as of Monday their minimum staffing level is to decrease from 17 to 14.

Elyria Fire Chief John Zielinski said he called the Mayor’s Office this morning on another matter when he heard the news. "I received the memo through fax from the Mayor’s Office and it says “As of 0800hrs Monday August 27th the Fire Departments threshold for necessitating overtime will be reduced to a 14 man level.” What that means is our daily manning level which has been at 17 will be dropped to 14, so when you have people calling off, where before we would call people in to bring up to 17 now that threshold will be 14.”

Chief Zielinski said the memo also said; “You are directed to staff and stations that you find most efficient. We are both responsible for providing the best possible service to the citizens of Elyria while remaining financially viable.” What he is telling me here is that I have to find away to operate with 14 being my minimum. Each time you drop a number it changes how we operate. The line that I have drawn, as the Chief of the Elyria Fire Department, when you drop to 16 I go to 4 man engine companies, for safety factors for my Firefighters, and that in essence closes Station 2 on East Broad Street.”

Today the Elyria Fire Department is running 4 Engines out of 4 stations, a “jump crew” that runs either the Aerial or the Rescue, a man in the watch office and the Chief’s car.
When the number hits 16; 3 Engines with 4 and the Rescue with 2, Chief’s car and watch office.
When the number hits 15; 2 Engines with 4, 1 Engine with 3, Rescue with 2, Chief’s car and watch office.
If the number ever gets to 14; 3 Engines with 4, Chief’s car and watch office.

Chief Zielinski said that there is a 17/10 Standard that calls for the first Engine to arrive on the scene of a fire within 4 minutes with the remaining Firefighters and equipment arriving within 8 minutes putting 17 Firefighters on the scene. In the case of Elyria meeting that standard puts all of the Firefighters on duty responding to the scene to effectively fight that fire. If the manpower is 14 rather then 17 they will not meet that standard and then the Officer in charge of that scene will be forced to make a decision about how tactically to handle the fire until they can get the adequate number of people there needed to fight the fire. Chief Zielinski said that no matter how you look at it, when you run a Department with one less truck or fewer men then you run out of resources faster and become a less effective Fire Department.

Chief Zielinski drew criticism in the past when people in the Administration would say he needs to work within his budget. The Chief said that the budget he present to the city for 2007 was returned to him minus $593,000. The Chief said that if that money had been left in his budget the Department wouldn’t be in this problem right now.

In a conversation with Mayor Bill Grace this afternoon he said that every Department submits a budget to the City and that if they simply Ok’d each request the Fire Departments budget would had to have been cut by a million or more. “This is all about them being on pace not to meet their budget, so this is an effort to get the Department to have a chance to come within budget as established at the beginning of the year. Right now they are projected to be three or four hundred thousand over budget, so this is an attempt to help them reach their budget. No department got all that they asked for. Based on priorities and minimum requirements of departments we adjust the budget, that’s just how the process works. To make the budget work the number that was given to them was what was available. Which was a clear message at that time that adjustments would be necessary to fit within that budget. Essentially the only meaningful way to reduce expenses in the department is through minimum staffing, there really aren’t other options available. There are in other departments, you just cut out overtime or cut back on other expenses, in the Fire Department minimum staffing is the lone way to reduce their expenses of any meaningful way.”

When asked how he responds to critics who say just take money away from parks or other departments that are not charged with safety issues the Mayor said that all departments have received cuts and are operating with less funds then they have in the past. The Mayor said that with the exception of the 10 month period when Station 2 was shut down before, the Elyria Fire Department is the only Department that has not been reduced. “I’m a resident of the city just like everyone else and there are certain expectations that I have as a resident. There is feedback that we get, we’ve gone through a city wide planning process in the last year and a half or so where the community has voted, so to speak, at these planning sessions what their priorities would be, they overwhelmingly, in addition to building a new high school which has passed the ballot, but overwhelmingly the community has expressed that they would like to see more resources put into the Police Department. To deal with neighborhood nuisance issues and other criminal activities.”

The Mayor did confirm that the city has made “conditional offers of employment” to four candidates for Police Officers.

The Mayor said that although Police and Fire are their top priority in the budget, it is not at the exclusion of everything else.

Chief Zielinski said that he worries about his Firefighters when this happens because he knows his guys are an aggressive group. “I worry because I know when they go to a fire they will fight it like they would if we were at full manpower, that’s just the way they are. These guys want to beat the fire; they don’t want the fire to beat them.”

19 Comments:

Anonymous Mike said...

Wow, what a joke! Practically laying off 4 Fire fighters and hiring 4 cops. Did Mayor Grace happen to say anything about the upcoming fire test?

8:47 PM  
Blogger TMC NEWS said...

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8:54 PM  
Anonymous Jay said...

Elyria Fire is giving the written test august 29th. What does this mean they are not going to be hiring anymore guys. This makes no sense why are they still having guys come in that have passeed the agility to take the written test if they are not going to hire anyone.

11:36 PM  
Anonymous Val from Elyria said...

Here's an interesting idea...don't blow your budget by nearly a half a million bucks and daddy won't take away your credit card. Or how about this idea, don't send pumper trucks to old ladies with twisted ankle calls. Or even this little budget mender, why don't you stop letting firefighters manipulate the system to make obscene amounts of overtime.
I get it firemen are heroes, blah, blah, blah... Stop holding the taxpayers at gunpoint with threats of iminent doom. Stop ripping us off and just do your jobs!

1:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They may HAVE to give the test. In many cities they are required to keep a hiring list although they don't have to hire anyone. I think the police should hire but not at the expense of the firefighters. God help the mayor and the city in general if any of those firefighters get hurt or worse. Maybe the mayor should show up at working fires and put on some gear to help out. Then he will realize why you can't fight a fire with 14 men. Talk about an entry into the "What were they thinking" catagory! R Haas

8:30 AM  
Anonymous Bob said...

The FD has to keep an eligibility list to replace existing positions when they open due to retirements, career-ending disabilities, etc.

Chief Zielinski:
Why the change to 4 man engine companies when the staffing is thin (and shut down E2) when the outlying stations are staffed with 3 guys most of the time anyway?
Stop first responder EMS calls unless they're relly life threats - not just to areas where high visibility will help bolster public support.
Maybe start to use NON-fully-union (gasp!) but staffed FDs that touch your borders to help during working fires, not just playing favorites with Lorain and Avon.

EFD does a great job at fire suppression and there is a need to staff all the engine houses in the city... but it's time for the chief and officer staff to do some marketing (not just griping) and thinking outside the box.

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Val, I know it's your opinion but at least have an ounce of knowledge before you post. These men put their lives on the line every time they go on a call, you may not think so but they do. I hope your house is the first one on fire when monday morning comes along. Let's see how you like it when they don't have the manpower to fight it how it should. EFD is going to become very familiar with the "Surround and Drowned" method of firefighting.

Pete...Avon

1:43 PM  
Anonymous big john said...

like them or not every city needs a good fire dept. if you cut your staffing mayor grace everyone suffers. you need to figure out a better option. instead of shutting down a station and decreased staffing. you mayor grace are about as smart as lorain's mayor foltin, and believe me that's not saying much.

2:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

88 guys are authorized to be on the FD per city ordinance, They are working with 65 maybe....Hired the guys, which reduces Overtime. ITS SIMPLE MATH MAYOR!!!! BOB

9:34 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

EFD is now feeling the effects of milking the overtime system AGAIN. The old boys club of bringing in senior officers to cover line firefighters sick time and vaca needs to go. Replace a firefigher with a firefighter. An officer with an officer. Quit throwing away tax dollars by filling in a $50k/year firefighter with a $70k/year time and a half officer. Fix your overtime system. Of course that will never happen. The ones that make the most $$$ from the current system are the ones that make the decisions.

Also, as painful as it must be, EFD needs to start utilizing their closest resources. Calling on only full-time union departments puts lives at risk and is irresponsible to the public. Call your closest neighbors and get the job done. Waiting for a truck from Avon for a house fire in Elyria just doesn't make sense. Use your mutual aid and use it wisely. Brothers come when brothers call for help. Full time, part time or volunteer. We all do the same job.

I also agree that EFD should try to triage the EMS runs. Why run a $300k pumper, or a $750k ladder to a stubbed toe call? This is risky and should be curbed. If LifeCare is busy, then by all means, go go go. But there remains to be little reason to run these big trucks on every house medical call.

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Kenny --sick of this! said...

Nice comment Pete..You show your heroic companion by wishing a house fire on the first person that doesn't bow to the "heroic firefighters".
I guess wishing fires on people is an appropriate response.

What about making the fire department a hybrid volunteer/full time department. It works for many communities and the Lorain County Sheriffs Department as well as the Lorain Police Department.

I know professional heroes don't take well to being around normal people who have not been elevated to playing catch, basketball, and cornhole at the fire station---while on duty I might add. But, I think it might bolster the manpower and even help the response time a bit.
Hell I'd love to have one of those little stickers on the back of my pickup along with the "firemen have big hoses t-shirt"

Before I go just one serious comment on heroes. What the firefighters do is difficult. I can't take that away from them. But can we please stop making them victims. When did the last Elyria firefighter die in the line of duty??? And I'm not talking about the one that died of heart attack BEHIND a burning house not in it.
I'm sympathetic to the issue but tired of the hero angle.
They are people with jobs just like all of us.
If you want to be a hero, be nice to a kid, help the guy whose car needs pushed out of an intersection, mow the lawn of an elderly neighbor, be an informed citizen; not somebody who is scared into supporting a stupid issue by bullies using fear tactics.

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DING DING DING!

Dave got it right!

Sick days are for being sick... not to go fishing or to nurse a hangover.

Chris

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave,
Just allow me to clear somethings up. First of all EFD does not respond on all medical calls. We already "triage" them. We do NOT go on stubbed toes, broken bones, sprained ankles, people feeling ill, ...Etc. Efd goes on life threatening medical calls. These include difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart attacks, diabetic emergencies,...etc. These are the calls where literally a few minutes make a diffenence and that is what we provide. Otherwise the public would have to wait for the ambulance to come from downtown or further (lorain) to help them. It is a good thing for those who live in the outer areas of the city to have a fire station close to them for help. Secondly, there is a perception from neighboring communtites that EFD will only use full time departments for mutual aid help. Let me tell you that WE do have a thought out order in which we do this. And yes, most of the departments we use are full time union departments. However, not exclusively. We do use Avon and Sheffield Village fairly often. Both of these departments have part time non-union employees. We use these other communities for one reason only. That reason is that they are staffed by at least 4 personnel 24 hours a day. We know if we call them, a truck will be on the road in minutes. Some of the closer communities have on call personnel throughout the night. There is no guarantee they will be able to staff a truck with enough people or with any at all. In such instances time is crucial. Lorain FD will probably be in elyria 9 times out of ten faster that it would take elyria townshiip to staff a truck and get it rolling. It is not meant to disrespect any volunteer departments. We just have to be SURE we get what we need. If the township was staffed around the clock, they would be the first to be called in many instances.

3:37 PM  
Anonymous Kenny--increasingly irritated said...

Anonymous from EFD. you are flat out lying about only going to life threatening calls with Lifecare. Give me a break it's all about pushing up the numbers so you can justify your manpower. Don't talk to us like we are stupid..for the most part we aren't.
Dave- what a truly brilliant observation, you are so right.

5:30 PM  
Anonymous Captain Joseph Pronesti said...

In reference to the comments about Mutual Aid: We have a MABAS System, the acronym stands for Mutual Aid Box Alarm System that includes part time volunteer Fire Departments. If anyone would like to discuss it further you are more then welcome to go to Elyria Fire Station #1 on Cedar Street and I will show you the binder or you can go to 9-1-1 and they will show you the binder that shows the departments that are called and when they are called.

To the individual who stated that the last Firefighter who died in a fire, was behind a house of a heart attack, can come see my father or any other old Elyria Firefighter that’s retired, and they can tell you all you want to know about the last Elyria Firefighter who died in the line of duty.

You can talk about how much we make, you can talk about us playing cornhole but do not disrespect a Firefighter who died in the line of duty. He died in a house fire on February 7th, 1963 at 125 Columbus Street. His name was Lt. Albert "Tink" Andress. He died inside the fire, my father was one of them who dragged him out onto the front porch. I am taking this personally as do all other Elyria Firefighters, so to that person just know that what you wrote is simply not the truth.

Captain Joseph Pronesti
Elyria Fire Department

9:55 PM  
Anonymous Kenny (oops now I did it) said...

Captain I sure didn't mean to upset you and I guess it's fair to be mad about what I said. If any of the firemans family reads this I'm sorry that I was mistaken about that point. But...for those of us dealing with the issues we face 49 years after his passing there are some things that need to be addressed. You say we can say whatever we want about your pay and how you play cornhole at the stations. Why is that? Is it because you guys are so protected by your union and so enveloped in your own ego and self centered behavior that you honestly don't see how your actions could possibly be wrong?
Your fellow firefighters are scaring old people. You are telling them they are going to die if your station isn't open. Yet when I read stories on tmc news the mayor says your chief made the decision to close the station. Not to mention it's only about 30 seconds from your other building. In this economy we all need to make due with a little less. Times are tough. The point that you glossed over in your anger is that there has not been an Elyria Firefighter killed in the line of duty for almost half a century. You guys have burned down an awful lot of buildings over the years, including a bar fire so close to your station that you probably still have the smell of smoke on you.
Save your anger and get some real answers.

Kenny

12:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK KENNY, your turn is over the last Firefighter to die on duty was Lt. Shelton found layed out in the shower at staion #1 by my brother and former asst. fire chief/ fire mashall in 1983. We sure aren't burning down buildings either, that building better known as chubbys was slated for demolition and no firefighters were going to be put in that building to die for. National standards call for 19 firefighters to work a single family dwelling fire, and another 12 in stand by mode for a rescue team in the event the one of my brother goes down. You want to come ride with us and watch all the glory by all means due so, then I can show you what it is like to jump up out of bed at 2am and go full throttle in 1 min. Ffr J. Castle Station #3

12:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HERE IS YOUR 14 FIREFIGHTERS JUST LIKE THAT....


BOSTON -- Two Boston firefighters were killed Wednesday night in a fire in West Roxbury.

The fire broke out just before 9 p.m. at the Tai Ho restaurant at 1727 Centre St. and quickly went to four alarms.

13 other firefigthers were injured fighting the blaze.


The firefighters were trapped when an air conditioning unit fell through the roof of the building. "They became trapped and became disoriented and could not find their way out," said Boston Fire Chief Kevin MacCurtain.

The injured firefighters were taken to several area hospitals including Falkner and Brigham and Women's.

Firefighters could be seen administering CPR as two were rushed into waiting ambulances.

The fire spread to a floral company and a pet grooming business. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino arrived at the fire scene after 10 p.m, but then left to go to Brigham and Women's Hospital


Note: 2 more are on life support and 9 have non life threatening injuries.



Ffr. J. Castle Station #3

2:30 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Anonymous,

Your reply is really an interesting read. So you call Lorain, Avon, or Sheffield Village for your mutual aid. And when those trucks roll into Elyria, who goes to the stations emptied by your call? Amherst, Elyria Township, Carlisle Township? All full/part/volunteer. These departments do a fine job of protecting their communities with their staffing and response times. Carlisle runs first responder for EMS as well as fire calls. So does Amherst. Heck, I know Elyria Township runs Fire and EMS. These departments all provide excellent service and would come to Elyria anytime to help out. I know that these departments call Elyria as well in that box alarm system. It's important to utilize your resources, and Elyria doesn't have a good track record with non-union departments.

Back to the point, and no one has challenged it yet. The overtime system at EFD is 99.9% of the problem. The ones that can change it are the ones that make the most money from it. It's not going to change. You heard the mayor, the Fire Dept has the control of spending. The old boys club ran out of pennies in the piggy bank.

9:14 AM  

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