Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Daily Fire Fix 01/19/12- Worst U.S. Fire Dept.?

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In today’s Fire Daily Fix:

Have we found the worst fire department in the U.S.?  Sadly, probably not. For every video as incredible as the one we’ve found, there are likely dozens, perhaps hundreds of departments just as bad or worse. And that’s scary.  Watch and play along today on Daily Fire Fix.

 

Daily Fire Fix ran across this video with the interesting title and had to see what was going on.  It’s actually a compilation of videos of the Grant’s Pass Rural Fire Department in Josephine County Oregon which is in southwest OR along I-5 and the California border.

Grant’s Pass Rural Fire Department is one of three private fire departments competing for fire protection “contracts” for properties in the county. See if you share the myriad of emotions that others have when you see these “firefighters” in action at a residential structure fire.

One you are past the “Oh my God’s” and the “What the &%^#’s”, I’d like to challenge you to watch it a second time.  Only this time, I want you to ask yourself, “if I’m watching this fire department floundering on video, how many other fire departments in the United States operate in similar ways, with no command structure, old equipment, no PPE, no money, and no clue?”

My guess is that there are quite a few.

Now, let’s take this a step further.

I’d like to pose a challenge to you, the firefighter:  Put yourself into each of the following roles and think about what actions you would take based solely upon the information in the videos and what I have provided you in this article.

  1. You have just been appointed as fire chief of the GPVF and you have just seen this video.
  2. You are the fire chief of the Rural/Metro Fire Department, a neighboring combination department and you have just seen this video..
  3. You are a resident considering with which department to contract your fire protection services: GPVFD at a very, very low cost (45 cents per thousand) , GPFR at a cost five times that of GPVFD, or elect to opt out entirely from any fire contract and you have just seen this video.

If you’d like to, leave a brief comment to this article, or call in and leave a voicemail with your input.  I’ll report back later here on Daily Fire Fix with your ideas.

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Comments

12 Responses to “Daily Fire Fix 01/19/12- Worst U.S. Fire Dept.?”
  1. Kevin says:

    Unreal! I dont know if I can even get past the OMG and WTFs that keep rolling through my mind! This company is clearly a menace to it’s community. Grants, fund raisers, and other assistance is available to departments. Clearly there is either a lack of knowledge on appropriation of funds or a blatant misappropriation of funds. I am unfamiliar with Oregon’s fire education system, but I am quite certain it exists and clearly has not been utilized by this company. To turn away mutual aid when you are clearly getting your rear end handed to you in a bucket, is nothing short of your territorial, over blown ego getting in the way of what is right for the “customer”. Alan Brunacini always said “Take care of Mrs. Smith.” I could go on and on about this but I am clearly running out of space. I would hope for some state government intervention in this travesty. Stay safe!

    • John says:

      Thanks, Kevin. If you were offered a position as fire chief for this department, what would you do to fix this problem (other than to decline the offer!)? What’s needed to heal this patient? Or is the sickness too far along to even attempt a fix? Thanks for your input!

      • Kevin says:

        I believe this is a situation far beyond saving. This should be illegal. Dissolving this department is needed at this point. Perhaps be absorbed and divided between surrounding departments. A review of state county and local abilities to provide protection for its citizens is certainly something that needs to be looked into. Why isnt a county system in place for fire protection? This is a tried and true method all over the United States. So many questions and too little information about the state and local politics for this region. I just find it unbelievable that such an organization even exists. This is something I would expect to see in a third world country.

  2. David says:

    Family-run? I wouldn’t take the job.

  3. Steve Reid says:

    I can’t say I like the idea of subscription fire protection. I guess if the local government makes fire protection a homeowner’s responsibility, that’s what works.

    Politicians and the public who voted them into office need to realize that effective fire protection costs MONEY. It takes lots of dollars to get the right people with the right equipment in the right place within the right timeframe to effectively save lives and property. This is not a career/volunteer or profit/non-profit issue. It doesn’t matter whether the dollars come from tax revenue, subscription fees, or firehouse carnivals and chicken dinners.

    To address your hypothetical situations:

    1. Give back the white helmet and run screaming. If I couldn’t do that, I would push the owners of the company to invest in the apparatus, training, and PPE to safely and effectively provide the services the subscribers are paying for, and suspend operations until this was done. If they told me “no,” I would have letters sent to all subscribers informing them that GPRFD was not equipped for interior firefighting (I’m assuming that even if this were a “surround and drown” upon arrival, I would have seen SOMEONE wearing SCBA if they were so equipped), and that we could not rescue them if they were trapped inside their house. I would explain that we would be happy to provide exterior firefighting services only, until we ran out of water, at the current bargain-basement subscription rates; if customers anticipated the need for a higher level of fire protection, they could subscribe with one of our two fine competitors. But what do I know, I’m just a dumb firefighter, not a chief of a subscription fire service.

    2. If I was the Rural Metro chief, I would be doing my level best to bring this video to the attention of the community, local officials, and any agency that had the power to shut down GPRFD until they could get their act together.

    3. If I was in that service area and needed a high level of fire protection, I would subscribe with one of GPRFD’s competing fire companies.

    All of the above assumes that the video shows GPRFD at their best. For all I know, GPRFD could be fighting another fire with their 100ft. ladder tower, 5,000gal. tanker (I’m on the east coast), and two 1250gpm pumpers with four-person crews, two chiefs, etc. But I doubt it. Scary stuff.

    Steve R.

  4. anonymous says:

    I personally know the fire department you are seeing here, and things are not that way. This video was from when the Chief at the time and office manager was out of town. These people that you see in the video are no longer working for the department for apparent reasons.They are working for another fire department in the area though. The fire fighters at the department are required to wear the appropriate gear and use the right equipment. Thank You,
    Anonymous

    • fire man 123 says:

      Aright so why don’t v help that department out creat a video and show us all what its ”really like” because what I saw these is extremely upsetting to think that they are giving themselves the name of fire fighter.

    • rural firefighter says:

      anonymous- you should take a few videos of how things actually are in that department because from what i see it really puts me beside myself to not only thnk of how they are operating but the lack of reguard for the department members safety…. there is no way they should be in operation. i mean seriuosly if someone were to be trapped in that house they would pretty much unable to help. not to mention the danger they are being put in.

    • nonyabusiness says:

      “The fire fighters at the department are required to wear the appropriate gear and use the right equipment. ”

      Which one of those POS fire engines (if you can even consider them that) is appropriate??? MR or MRS anonymous I recommend you get a clue of what a real fire department is!!! Get your backwoods a$$ on youtube and search fire departments. Let me know when you see any other department using “fire apparatus” that looks like the dumpsters on wheels your imposter department is using!

      WOW. get a clue before you kill someone

  5. AZ Fire Medic says:

    All I can say is “WOW”. I feel bad for the citizens of Grants Pass, OR that have subscribed to GPRFD. I don’t know where they got their apparatus from, but there are a lot of departments that phase out their older trucks that are a lot newer than the ones in the video and a lot of them will either donate them, or like here in AZ for some of the smaller departments, sell them for a $1. As far as PPE is concerned, all of it looked as if it either was 1. beyond outdated, or 2. some of it appeared to be wildland gear. I didn’t see a single SCBA on anyone in the hazard zone and that was quite a bit of smoke to be that close to without any type of breathing apparatus. I don’t understand why they asked RMFD to leave either. They obviously showed that they had no control over what was going on and at least RMFD was knocking the flames down. I can’t say what happened there if the BC from RMFD said something to GPRFD’s people to set them off or what.

    Now, to answer the questions that were posed above.

    1. If I was made chief of GPRFD, the very first thing I would do is to sit down with the 2 other private companies in the area and workout a mutual aid agreement with them. I would also do what I could to get my crews to train with their crews so everyone could learn and gain experience. I would also go to the bigger municipal departments and find out what they have in the way of apparatus that they are getting rid of and workout an agreement to acquire newer equipment and PPE for my firefighters. Then, I would start sending people that show leadership qualities to classes to learn how to be company officers and follow an ICS system and see about letting them learn from other company officers in the area. I would also implement a training program to put people in an engineer’s role, because it appeared that the hoseline in the video wasn’t nearly charged right. I understand that money is probably tight with this department, but not having the proper training and equipment to do the job is just asking for a lawsuit if any of the firefighters get hurt, or worse, die. Also, heaven forbid one of the subscribers is trapped in their home and die in the fire. The department would lose what little they had from a lawsuit of any size and the people in charge would be help personally liable for negligence.

    2. If I was the RMFD chief and I just saw this video there would be a few things I’d be doing. First, once my department was called for mutual aid and then left, I’d be asking my company officers exactly what the heck happened and why they left the scene and they’d better have a damned good reason to have left. Secondly, if it was because GPRFD kicked them off the scene I’d be calling their people in charge and asking what happened and why the booted us when they obviously didn’t have any control over the scene whatsoever. Next, if I was met with hostility from GPRFD, I’d be contacting all the local media and showing them this video to alert them to the danger that GPRFD puts their subscribers in. Also, to show the subscribers that if their home did catch fire that all they’d have left is the foundation where their home formerly stood.

    3. If I was a potential subscriber trying to figure out what service I would go with after seeing the video. I’d have to say RMFD simply for the fact that they appear to have the proper equipment and appear to be trained. I understand that the service cost 5 times as much, but in the event that something happens at my home I’d want someone there that can mitigate the problem and hopefully save more than the foundation of my home.

    One final thought, GPRFD could have potential with the right management, training, and equipment to properly serve their community. I know I wrote a lot, but its hard to be brief with a topic like this. I sincerely hope that GPRFD does get everything together before a tragedy happens there.

  6. 7500 says:

    First of all, I appreciate that this site appears as a constructive discussion rather than the armchair “OMG/WTF” commentary the youtube video gathers. The video is shot by our local “fire stalker” who is an ex-GPR employee who now chases scanner traffic. I’m not sure what his agenda is, but his videos are somewhat entertaining.

    As a firefighter of RMFD in this community, I cant help but try to provide a little insight. I don’t expect anyone to believe me since I have a dog in the fight, and I also promise not to slander my competition.

    GPR has been around since the 50′s. As times changed, they unfortunately did not. In 1979, RMFD came into town (originally known as VFS). The community has never voted for tax-based fire protection in this 280 sq mile area inside Josephine County. Other tax fire districts exist nearby, but this particular area is unprotected, and well, the wild west. RMFD (from AZ) came along in 1995 and merged with VFS. Over the years, I too have come to strongly disagree with our competitive fire suppression services. It comes with an unregulated, open market. Yes, even you can start up a fire dept in this area, take money from the people, and “promise” to provide a service. There are 3 companies serving the same area. All for profit, since there is no automatic tax support. You only prosper if you stand out to the community and do a good job at it…oh and have homeowner insurance companies on your side (RMFD has ISO 6/4, GPR has 10). Currently, RMFD is supported by 70% of the residents (about 11,000 homes) at just under $2 per thousand of assessed value. The other 30% choose to either contract with the competition or go without and take their chances. Yes, we are expensive in comparison to the competition, but 2nd cheapest of the surrounding taxing districts. RMFD comes with full service: EMS, SWR, vehicle extrication, etc. The other guys are “fires only”. Compare that to a standard dept.

    Yes, the whole situation reaks with countless safety concerns, but honestly, RMFD handles 99.9% of all structure fires. Like I said, the video is a rare glimse of GPR working a fire. Unfortunately most people think all fire depts are created equal. Not so much in Jo County. GPR dosn’t have mutual aid by choice. It would require they meet standards in insurance and training that they have routinely kept below industry minimums. The regional Chiefs Association, who have established the only available “standards”, consists of all fire depts in two counties (approx 20 FD’s). RMFD has a mutual aid agreement with all of them. RMFD’s training program is acredited by the State of Oregon (DPSST) and is a leader in many areas of strategy & tactics, incident managment, technical rescue, etc. OK, I feel like I’m tooting a horn, but I am proud of the hard work RMFD has done over the last 30 years to earn it. Making a private dept an equal in the eyes of municipal fire departments takes alot of hard work, standing shoulder-to-shoulder on most of the significant, historical fires in Southern Oregon. Trial by fire if you will.

    No, grants are not available for for-profit FD’s. We must do our damn best to provide the service people expect, gain their support thru subscriptions, and be fiscally responsible. And as mentioned by Kevin, RMFD lives by “taking care of Mrs Smith”. If memory serves, Chief Brunacini made famous his observations of neighboring RMFD in Scottsdale, and the customer service successes made by Lou Witzeman.

    Yes, it sounds easy, but the county government, OSHA and State Fire Marshal have yet to claim any responsibility in fixing this issue. Trust me, they are aware. Its just a sticky, ugly situation.

    As for the fire in the video, it was the 2nd fire occuring at the same time. RMFD was deployed across town at a subscribers burning home. This fire was GPR’s responsibility. It still got a response from RMFD and its mutual aid partners, but it was not our responsibility after confirming no lives were in need of rescue. RMFD has very strict rules-of-engagement when encountering GPR or other competition on their fires. If life safety or exposure control is a concern, RMFD will take over, period. In fact, twice RMFD has come to the rescue of GPR’s firefighters who have gotten into trouble. Yes, this creates another layer of responsibility on our shoulders.

    I’m done rambling now. I’m sorry I didn’t exactly answer the 3 questions. I won’t touch #1, I live #2, and #3 plays into our marketing strategy. Hopefully I remained professional in my comments. I have no ill-will towards my competition. The situation embarrases me as a professional, but I’ve become somewhat accustomed to it. Its a lifestyle I live with everyday, that is unlike anything anyone else in the firefighting communities across the world can likely compare to.

    Our website is https://www.ruralmetrofire.com/locations/josephine-county-oregon.html

    GPFR is the Grants Pass Public Safety, Fire/Rescue Division, and should not be confused with GPR. They are the public/municipal dept in Grants Pass and a strong m.a. partner with RMFD. Their website is http://www.grantspassoregon.gov/Index.aspx?page=89

    The other competitor we contend with in the same area is what some call “inland”, but they have gone by so many names and locations we don’t know much about them. They are kinda vaporous, like a shell game.

    Take care.

    • TFD118 says:

      7500,
      You may have been a little biased But I found your comments very informative and educational the tone of your post was not derogatory and it was very professional there should be standards 4 training for the profit firefighters just like there are 4 non profit ems and 4 profit ems providers as well I belong to a combination department here in new york and our main focus is training all the time. I also belong to an all volunteer ambulance service and we have trainings posted every quarter the ambulance service is not funded by tax payer dollars we charge a rates much lower than your colleagues here in new york we do have a good relationship with them and call them in for a l s backup when needed

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