Police tell the Columbus Dispatch that Columbus Fire Investigator Jeffrey L. Smith was involved in an on-duty road rage incident with another motorist where Smith drew his weapon and handcuffed the other driver. While Michael J. Watkins was charged with aggravating menacing and Smith was not charged with a crime, the fire investigator has been placed on administrative duty with his city issued weapon taken way while an internal investigation continues. The paper reports the two men were familiar with each other and have had past differences.
The article in today’s Dispatch by Lucas Sullivan not only talks about the January 2 confrontation between Smith and Watkins at Jack Gibbs Boulevard and Cleveland Avenue, it points to a previous investigation by the paper into the city’s armed firefighters. In August, the Dispatch reported the City’s Fire Division lacked a gun policy and that 10 of 14 firefighters issued guns, including Smith, were not certified by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.
Smith said Watkins brandished a gun from inside his car during the argument.
Police found a black pellet gun in Watkins’ car, according to a police incident report.
Smith told investigators that’s when he jumped out of his unmarked city vehicle, drew his weapon and ordered Watkins out of his car. Smith placed Watkins in handcuffs and called police.
(City Attorney Richard C.) Pfeiffer and officials with the city’s Department of Public Safety previously have said that firefighters are allowed to carry guns within the city limits, but can only use them during “fire-related incidents.” Those same officials insist that armed firefighters do not have the same use-of-force and arrest powers as police officers.
Previous STATter911.com coverage of this story here and here
As we’ve been reporting, there has been a good deal of controversy in Columbus, Mississippi over a Facebook post that resulted in the resignation of Firefighter Brad Alexander and the 30-day suspensions of two other firefighters and a cop. The post that caused all of this had been taken down from Alexander’s personal Facebook page and until now had not been part of the news coverage. Sarah Wilson at the Columbus Packet was able to track down the actual post and it was published this morning:
People never cease to amaze me. Mama yelling oh my baybee my baybee….Hey you stupid ass, where was babyeees mama at while your 2 year old was getting hit by a truck. Mama needs to have her guts cut so there wont be anymore babies. Freeloading ignorant woman
Lance Luckey, Damon Estes, Eric Minga and 12 others like this
The posting on Facebook came after Alexander responded to a child struck by a pickup truck on August 20th. According to the Columbus Packet, two-year-old Tyree Sparks Jr. was being watched by a family friend when he ran from the porch into the street and was hit. The boy recovered from relatively minor head injuries:
Shanta Henley, Tyree’s Aunt and Classie Craddieth, his grandmother raced from another neighbors home across Military Rd. as soon as they saw the commotion. Henley and Craddieth held the boys hands to calm him until emergency responders arrived minutes later. Sparks’ Aunt, Shanta Henley,accompanied Sparks in the ambulance and Craddieth and another Aunt, Shameka Nickelson, followed them to Baptist Hospital.
They said that the mother of the child,Terrance Henley, was actually on her way back from Columbus High School , where she is a Senior, when the accident occurred and was extremely emotional after she learned her child had been struck.
Much of the controversy stems around the suspensions for Firefighter Damon Estes, Firefighter Eric Minga and Police Officer Lance Luckey who hit “like” after reading the post. Columbus, Mississippi does not have a social media policy.
According to Wilson, there is no comment from city officials about the identities of the other 12 people who clicked “like” for this now infamous post.
As we first told you yesterday, Brad Alexander resigned after 12-years on the department. He also apologized on his Facebook page (see above) for a post he wrote voicing his frustration and questioning the whereabouts of the mother after a two-year-old child had been struck by a car. So far we have not seen the exact content of the offending post.
The Dispatch reports the council was split in its vote with some worried about this being a free speech issue. The City of Columbus does not specific policy covering Facebook comments.
The post reportedly attracted several comments along with multiple “likes” before it was brought to the attention of Alexander’s battalion chief and fire chief Ken Moore. Alexander and Moore met with mayor Robert Smith and members of the city council last Monday to discuss the post and potential disciplinary action.
The events unfolded in executive session but multiple sources said both firefighters Estes and Minga wrote letters of apology to the mayor and council. Those sources also claim Moore recommended 30-day suspensions for the two.
Chief of Police Selvain McQueen also reportedly recommended a 30-day suspension for Luckey. Luckey reportedly voiced his objections to the suspension, telling the mayor and council that he read the update from his cell phone and did not see the entire status update or the comments left underneath by various Facebook users.
Above is an apology currently on the wall of the Facebook page of Brad Alexander, a 12-year member of Mississippi’s Columbus Fire & Rescue Department along with 19 messages of support . Alexander, a former rookie of the year for the department, resigned because of a post he made on Facebook that has since been taken down. Sarah Fowler from the The Dispatch reports two other firefighters and a cop who all ”liked” the comment face disciplinary action. The incident is expected to be part of an executive session for the mayor and city council tonight:
The original post has since been taken down but Alexander reportedly made statements regarding a call where a 2-year-old child was hit by a car. In the post, Alexander allegedly stated the child was unattended and questioned the location of the child’s mother.
Alexander reflected fondly on his time with the department and had a message for the citizens he swore to protect.
“Any citizens of the citizens of Columbus should never question the Fire Department’s ability, it’s the best in the state,” he said.
No one has been injured after flames gushed from a ruptured natural gas line near downtown Columbus.
Columbus Fire Department spokesman Matt Noblitt said that homeowner Harold Lockhart and another man were using a motorized auger to dig holes for a fence post Wednesday morning when the auger ruptured the line and the heat from the auger motor’s exhaust ignited the gas.
No one suffered serious injuries, but the house at 1024 Chestnut St. sustained an estimated $10,000 in damages from the heat of the fire, according to the Columbus Fire Department.
Fire department crews responded and worked to protect the house from the flames to prevent them from causing more damage, said Columbus Fire Chief Joel Thacker. Firefighters also controlled the flames until Vectren Corp. could shut off the gas and determine the source of the leak.
Three adults with two dogs were standing in the street when firefighters arrived. One of their pet cats was unaccounted for.
The other was found inside the home — a victim of the fire, the chief said. "They were watching the Nascar race," (Battaltion Chief Terry) Herring said. "They didn't know the house was on fire. They just heard crackling and popping."
A paramedic ambulance on a call in Columbus, Ohio was stolen early this morning. According to police a man jumped into Columbus Division of Fire Medic 32 around 5:00 AM while it was on a run in the 3700 block of Kimberly Parkway.
A deaf woman died in a Columbus, Ohio house fire this morning where two firefighters were briefly trapped. The fire on Medina Avenue was reported shortly after 4:00 AM. A second-alarm was sounded on the report of the trapped firefighters. Details below are from WBNS-TV:
Battalion Chief David Whiting said two firefighters were hospitalized after the floor they were standing on collapsed.
Captain Rick Biancone and firefighter Bryan Owens were both quickly pulled to safety by fellow firefighters, Whiting said.
Both men were taken to The Ohio State University Medical Center and later released after being treated for smoke inhalation, cuts and bruises.
Gas main fire: In Somerset County, New Jersey firefighters spent a good portion of yesterday dealing with a burning gas line in Franklin Township. The fire started after a crew working on a drainage project struck the 6-inch plastic line around 10:40 AM. The fire destroyed two trucks and a backhoe belonging to the contractor. It also scorched power lines with about 115 customers losing power. The gas burned until about 2:00 PM. Read more about the fire. Pictures from the fire. Watch a video from one of the responding fire companies.
Videos ‘R Us (How do you make that backwards “R”?): We haven’t done a video roundup in months, but Emily Cyr loaded so many in the player to the right yesterday they just spilled over into the main blog. The best video shows drivers apparently doing self colonoscopies instead of realizing that towering geyser coming from the sheared off hydrant in Carson, California could have very well undermined the roadway as they drive through the flooded street. We also have fires from Michigan, Massachusetts, Illinois and California. And we added the awful looking aftermath video of Houston’s Engine 13 after it struck a bridge support injuring three firefighters yesterday. Click here to see all of the clips.
Mayday in Columbus, Ohio around 4:30 this morning after a firefighter fell though the floor of a home on Medina Avenue. We are told the firefighter was quickly removed. Another firefighter suffered smoke inhalation. The injuries to the firefighters aren't considered life-threatening. An elderly woman who was missing has been found dead inside the home. Click the image for more from WBNS-TV.
More complaints and some regeneration work-arounds: Looking at our stats yesterday there seemed to be quite an interest in Boca Raton Chief Tom Wood’s guest column about DPF regeneration on newer rigs. Some writing in shared similar time-out problems and others had ideas on at least partial solutions. Click here and scroll down for the comments.
Arbitration panel orders drug testing and a big pay raise in Boston: Four years of a bitter standoff between firefighters and Mayor Thomas Menino apparently have come to an end. An arbitration panel gives the firefighters a 19-percent pay raise over four-years (retroactive to July 1, 2006). At the same time there will now be random drug and alcohol testing. The raise is significantly more than other city workers, including police, have received. Here’s the story.
Chief loses buggy after stopping to help at crash scene: A Cal Fire battalion chief stopped to help at the scene of a traffic collision near El Cajon yesterday. One of the people involved in the crash jumped in and took off with the pickup truck. It was soon recovered undamaged. Here’s some more info.
Flint firefighters are at their breaking point: That’s the contention in the headline and story from WJRT-TV after two firefighters were hurt in weekend fires. There have been more than 100 fires so far this month in Flint. The city has been operating with 23 fewer firefighters after last month’s layoffs. That could soon change. Read and watch the story.
Geezer on fire: While many of his fellow bloggers are hard at work in Indianapolis (see below) Bill was posting like crazy yesterday. Just click and scroll.
Network looks at shrinking volunteer force: ABC News is the latest with a story about the nation’s dwindling resource of volunteer firefighters. Click here.
Two Texas firefighters return to the job after lengthy battles. One is sent home: We told you yesterday about the return of Houston’s Jane Draycott nine-months after the graffiti incident at Station 54. Her return was apparently uneventful. You can read more here.
Things weren’t as easy in Beaumont where James Mathews has been fighting to get his job back since an arrest in 2008. He won an arbitration, but was sent home hours after his return to the department yesterday. Here is the latest.
Market fire in the Philippines: This is from Cabadbaran City, a city in the province of Agusan del Norte, where faulty wiring is blamed for starting the fire that destroyed the Cabadbaran City Public Market early yesterday morning. Read more about the fire.
25 dead and four missing in mine explosion: We have the latest details from overnight in Raleigh County, West Virginia. Click here.
It is out of here: This mural in the back of a bay at a Vancouver, B.C. firehouse was ordered removed after the local civil liberties association found it offensive. Yes, you read that correctly. A civil liberties group wanted it banished. As I recall, the ACLU in Washington defended a firefighter who posted an "offensive" cartoon in the fire station. Anyway, click the image to read more.
Colorado firefighters protest arrest: About three dozen firefighters showed up at the Lake County courthouse yesterday to express their displeasure over the handcuffing of Battalion Captain Dan Dailey during an EMS call inside the Lake County jail. Still no details on last night’s scheduled meeting about the ongoing dispute over who will provide fire and EMS coverage in the area. No decision has been made on pursuing charges against Capt. Dailey. Here is more from the Denver Post. Our previous coverage is here and here.
Burned Illinois firefighter pays respects at wake: Brought in by ambulance, Karra Kopas was at last night’s wake for Village of Homewood Firefighter Brian Carey. Read more. Watch the story.
More on the taunting and firefighter assault in Pennsylvania: Click here to watch the story about the ugly scene in Penn Hills. A member of the Thad Stevens VFD was attacked walking home from the firehouse following a taunting and rock throwing incident during a firehouse cook out.
Massachusetts deputy chief just watches it burn: After making sure everyone was out, Weymouth Fire Department Deputy Chief Joseph Davis could do nothing more than wait for the first fire engine to arrive. With the closest fire company closed and another on a call, the chief believe the delay allowed the fire to spread significantly. Here’s the story.
The Maine squeeze: Sanford Fire Marshal Peter Cutrer is pushing back in the battle with home builders over residential sprinklers. He is fighting fire with fires. Two of them, to be exact. Firegeezer has the story.
Watch our latest videos over here >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
UPDATED – Close call in Fairfax County, VA at scene of now double fatal fire: (Click here for slideshow from fire.) PIO Dan Schmidt confirms the bodies of two men were found inside a burning home on Heming Avenue in North Springfield this morning. Earlier three firefighters from Station 422 ran into trouble when the kitchen floor began collapsing around them. Other firefighters assisted them in getting out safely. Schmidt says one firefighter has been hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries. All firefighters were accounted for. The fire was reported around 6:40 AM. We will have more later, including video.
Dead, not dead: Firefighters in Prince George’s County, Maryland thought they were doing body recovery early Sunday morning on I-95. The “body” in the burned out car started breathing and things quickly reverted to a rescue operation. We have the details, fireground audio, and a timeline. Click here for our coverage.
More PGFD news – Shake-up at the top: In November, Chief Eugene Jones said about Lt. Colonel Victor Stagnaro, “You are growing into the leader I always believed you had the capacity for” as he gave the 24-year veteran “a rare and prestigious” department award. Yesterday, Chief Jones gave Stagnaro something else: his walking papers. According to Chief Jones, Stagnaro “indicated his intent to retire”. But numerous other sources familiar with what happened at the Largo Government Center tell STATter911.com the chief’s executive officer presented Stagnaro with a letter telling him his last day is February 12. Click here for more on this story.
Close Call #1: This is the "before" picture a neighbor snapped just prior to two firefighters falling through the roof of this burning Phoenix home on Monday. The firefighters were not injured. Police say the house was set on fire by an 18-year-old who had assaulted his parents. Click the image to see more pictures and watch the story.
NEW – Virginia Task Force 1 heading home Thursday: That’s the plan today for the return of the urban search and rescue team from Northern Virginia. They have been in Haiti for two weeks and are now assisting with humanitarian efforts after helping to rescue 16 people who were trapped in the rubble of the earthquake.
More from Memphis: A TV station is into its second week of reports on the Memphis Fire Department. WLMT-TV has been looking at the department’s hiring practices, the number of firefighters who have been arrested and allegations of discrimination over who gets to keep their job and who doesn’t. The latest installment is here. Click here to see what you missed earlier.
New talk of major FDNY cuts: Firehouses and firefighters are again being discussed for possible cuts as mayor’s staff and the new fire commissioner meet on budget issues. Read more.
911 system in DC getting scrutiny after gun is pulled on council member: A fire truck was the first on the scene to assist Council member Yvette Alexander last week when she interupted an armed robbery. There are questions about the accurate relay of information and the timeliness of the response. Read more.
Close Call #2: Three firefighters inside as explosion lifts roof off home during fire in Wells, Minnesota. The chief says he was blown 3-feet out of a door. The firefighters weren't hurt. Click the picture by Brie Cohen for details and more pictures from the Albert Lea Tribune.
Former Columbus, Ohio firefighter who killed dogs walks out of hearing because of TV camera: The latest on David Santuomo, who left the two dead dogs in a dumpster behind a firehouse in December, 2008, is that the Civil Service Commission dismissed the appeal of his firing because the former firefighter wasn’t present. News reports indicate Santuomo got up and left when he saw the camera being set up. You may recall Santuomo executed the dogs because he didn’t want to pay kennel fees while on vacation. Read more.
LAFD defends dog rescue: The Los Angeles Fire Department stands by the decision to commit resources to last Friday’s dog rescue in the L.A. River that left a firefighter with dog bites. Read more. Earlier coverage here and here.
Mayor is shocked: Paramus, New Jersey Mayor James Tedesco is also a volunteer firefighter. Responding on a call for a downed power line, the firefighting mayor touched a fence that had come in contact with the wire. He is okay. Read more.
House fire in New Jersey: This is from yesterday in Oradell in Bergen County.
They want your vote: At FireCritic.com they don’t believe in one man, one vote. You can have as many as three votes in one day from your computer. They are looking for the best fire/EMS blog for 2009 and Rhett has lost all credibility by including this rag as one of the 10 finalists. Click here to vote. By the way it looks like Medic 999 is leaving Schumm and Statter in the dust. And who says EMS is just the ugly stepchild of the fire service?
Our new video player: The video player near the top right of the blog was recently added. It holds all of the most recent WUSA9.com fire and EMS videos. You will find most of the local fire stories I do and those from other reporters at 9NEWS NOW in Washington, DC. It also will have some of the fireground audio and 911 calls that I post. Emily Cyr and Jillian Coyle are always on the lookout for other interesting videos from our Gannett websites around the country and other sources. Check it out. There are some interesting ones in there.
Further down we still have the player from our YouTube site. It has some other fire and EMS content (and a few repeats).
Unusual one in DC: Firefighters handling a fire under the Pennsylvania Avenue bridge on Rock Creek Parkway found a body nearby. Click here.
Add crossing guard to your all-hazards fire department list: That is what may happen very soon in Logansport, Indiana. The mayor’s budget cutting plan gets rid of 14 crossing guards, but do not fear, Mayor Mike Fincher has a plan. On-duty firefighters will join police in handling those duties. Click here for the article from firefightingnews.com.
Fireground audio roundup and some pictures: Click here for firesceneaudio.com audio from a two-alarm house fire on Middleton Court in Fairfax County yesterday.
Don’t forget we have both the fire department and sheriff’s department audio from the dumpster explosion that killed Firefighter Steven Koeser in Wisconsin. Click here.
One that will not put you in a good mood: Police in Palm Bay, Florida say a toddler suffered serious burns after his drunk father wrestled with the boy in front of a fire pit. We have the dad’s 911 call looking for what hospital his son was taken to. The call taker had a little advice for the man. Take a listen.
Firehouse fire helps move up moving schedule: Click here for the details from Rensselaer, New York where a kitchen fire in the old fire station is lighting a fire under moving plans.
Baltimore’s mayor is out: Not sure yet what impact it will have on the fire department but Mayor Sheila Dixon leaves office February 4 as part of a plea agreement. Here’s more from the Baltimore Sun.
Also, the Baltimore Messenger is making noise about rotating closures impacting Engine 44 and Truck 25 in Roland Park where the fire chief and a fire commissioner are scheduled to meet with residents tonight. This is the same community that raised more than $40,000 to help renovate the local firehouse.
One firefighter in Modesto released from the hospital: Click here for the update on the two firefighters burned in a New Year’s Night fire after falling through the roof of the burning home.
Fire chief takes on arrest of firefighters for drugs and alcohol: In Pittsburgh Chief Darryl Jones is addressing recent arrests of firefighters. Read the details.
Reputation management: A federal lawsuit is underway over an incident in Dunmore, Pennsylvania where a firefighter is claiming defamation after his suspension for not completing EMT was made public in 2005. Read more.
We have heard of dogs and cats alerting people to a fire, but how about a snake?: This sounds like a fable about someone nursing an ill snake back to health in China and the snake returning the favor. I am not sure I am buying it, but you be the judge.
As usual, there have been stories all week of firefighters doing their best to make sure the holiday is still special for those less fortunate. And in many instances they try to even salvage the day for those who lost a home due to fire.
Such was the case yesterday afternoon following a house fire on Carter Lane in Woodbridge, Virginia. The Prince William County Public Safety Communication Center put the call out to county fire stations to see if there were any late arriving toys from the annual Toys for Tots collection at local firehouses that could be gathered for the three young girls who live in the damaged home. As O.W.L. VFD Assistant Chief Jim McAllister and Battalion Chief Lance McClintock wrote in emails that Santa forwarded to STATter911.com (where we always want to know whose naughty and nice) everyone came through, showing a great cooperation between career, volunteer and 911 crews.