Firefighters critical of 2 city proposals

By RAYMOND L. SMITH

Tribune Chronicle

WARREN — Ranking officers in the city’s fire department vigorously argued Tuesday the city’s effort to eliminate three captain ranks and to remove the current requirement for fire inspectors to be captains will place firefighters in danger.

The firefighters told administration officials during city council’s Police and Fire Committee meeting that eliminating the captain positions would remove the safety officer at fires.

Safety officers are positioned at the rear of burning buildings to keep firefighters inside apprised of the direction flames are spreading and whether it is safe to remain in building or to leave.

Councilman Alford Novak, D-2nd Ward, the council’s police and fire committee chairman, introduced the two pieces of legislation last month at the request of the administration.

Novak told the firefighters and council members that he intended to make sure the legislation would receive three readings to make sure all sides are able to state their positions before council vote.

Even with the 15 additional firefighters added to the department through the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant, the department will not have enough experienced officers if the number of captains are reduced from six to three, according to the firefighters.

The officers also argued that allowing the fire chief to choose firefighters with no more than five years experience to become fire inspectors does not take into account the years of experience in recognizing the elements that may have caused a fire.

“It is not an easy job,” fire Capt. Bill Smith said. “There is a difference between having a firefighter with five or more years of experience go to a location and tell the owner they must put in thousands of dollars worth of safety improvement versus having someone with 20 and 25 years experience.”

Mayor Doug Franklin said his administration would not have put forward the two ordinances if they believed the change would place either firefighters or the public in greater danger.

Franklin said the captain positions would be eliminated through attrition, so none of the current captains would be economically hurt.

In addition, by removing the requirement for inspectors to be captain, the department would be able to add additional firefighters because lower-ranking officers eligible to become inspectors earn less than fire captains, he said.

rsmith@tribtoday.com

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