All signs had been pointing toward an ugly showdown in Morningside, Maryland after the leadership of Morningside VFD ordered the removal of the Prince George’s County owned ambulance from the Station 827 by this morning. Earlier today, this message was posted on Morningside’s website:
Through our commitment to Public Safety we have not removed the Prince Georges County (PGFD) owned and operated Ambulance from the Morningside (MVFD) Fire Station today. Instead, we are once again reaching out to Prince Georges County Officials and imploring them to meet with us. In an effort to comply with the newly imposed staffing constraints and to provide a mutually beneficial resolution, we are again requesting that the Ambulance at the MVFD Station be converted to an All Response Medic Unit.
This request would not only guarantee an Ambulance in the Morningside Fire Station, it would also not require additional staffing that is mandated in the newly ratified Collective Bargaining Agreement between Prince Georges County and the Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association, Local 1619. Finally and most importantly, it would increase the level of service provided to the Morningside area.
It was followed a by this conversation on Twitter:
And then this statement via PGFD PIO Mark Brady:
Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor agreed to meet with Volunteer Chief Michael White as long as the Morningside ambulance continued to provide services to the citizens. After an exchange of text messages this morning Fire Chief Bashoor agreed to provide Volunteer Chief White with additional opportunities to meet and discuss the ambulance and staffing issues.
Fire Chief Bashoor stated, “We are pleased to announce that the ambulance transport unit assigned to the Morningside Volunteer Fire Department, (MVFD) remains in service. I have agreed to reopen direct discussions with the Morningside volunteer leadership this morning, after it became clear the ambulance would indeed remain in service. Further discussions will be held to attempt a long term resolution to this situation.” he concluded saying, “The County continues to provide career staffing and equipment to support the efforts of the MVFD.”
The fire department that serves the small community of Morningside in Prince George’s County will not remove a Prince George’s County ambulance from its station Monday, but the flap between the department and the county is not over.
The volunteer firefighters who staff Morningside’s station were expected to remove a county ambulance in a protest over the county’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
However, on Monday, Morningside’s staff said in a statement that they would keep the ambulance in service and continued to ask county fire officials to meet with them.
The Morningside VFD is now telling its side of the fight the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department Chief Marc Bashoor over staffing and providing ambulance service:
The Morningside Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. (MVFD) has received an unlawful mandate from Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department (PGFD) Chief Marc Bashoor to house a PGFD owned and operated ambulance at its Fire Station. This comes as a result of a recent collective bargaining agreement signed between the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department and the Professional Firefighters and Paramedic Union, Local 1619, which requires the county to up staff volunteer fire stations with additional unnecessary salaried employees.
Over the past 10 months, the volunteers of the MVFD have voiced their concerns about the waste of county taxpayers money and resources at fire stations with adequate volunteer staffing, while other fire stations requests for staffing go unfulfilled. The current staffing model that has been in place at the MVFD since the PGFD’s Ambulance arrived in 2006 has resulted in the savings of millions of dollars to county taxpayers. As a founding principle of MVFD, volunteers are here to provide services free to the community. Unfortunately, the new union collective bargaining agreement mandate any station with 2 salaried county employees be increased to 4 salaried county employees, or have none.
The Morningside VFD’s position is based on the following facts:
1.) MVFD was chartered in 1944 to provide fire suppression services to the community of Morningside and adjacent communities.
2.) The MVFD does not currently, or has ever owned and operated an Ambulance. However, MVFD has and will continue to provide first response emergency medical services.
3.) In 2006, while operating in good faith, the MVFD partnered with the PGFD to allow the PGFD to house a PGFD Owned and Operated Ambulance at the MVFD Fire Station.
4.) A Station Policy that affirms the agreement and was written by a County Fire Department Official, dated May 13, 2006 states that “It should neither be assumed nor expected that MVFD members will participate in the operation of Ambulance 279. The responsibility lies solely on the career shift personnel assigned, detailed or working at Fire Station 27”.
5.) Prince Georges County entered into a new agreement with the Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Union, Local 1619, without consulting the stakeholders that would be directly affected by this unilateral change. This new agreement explicitly prohibits the current staffing model that has been successfully utilized at the MVFD Fire Station.
6.) The MVFD never requested or mandated the PGFD Ambulance housed at its Fire Station be placed out of service. The MVFD has only requested the PGFD Ambulance be redeployed to an adjacent station, where the unit responds to the majority of its calls. This request would allow the PGFD to keep the unit in-service, without incurring the proposed unnecessary additional costs and salaried positions of compliance with the new agreement.
7.) Nearly 7 out of 10 emergencies responded to by the PGFD Ambulance housed at the MVFD Fire Station are outside of the MVFD’s Primary Response Area.
8.) PGFD is mandating Volunteer Fire Departments to staff County Owned Ambulances that they in turn bill taxpayers for.
9.) The MVFD will not staff a PGFD Owned Ambulance that they in turn bill for services rendered, it is against our founding principals as volunteers.
10.) Currently 70% of the funded County Salary Positions assigned to the MVFD Fire Station are vacant. Just in the month of July, the PGFD accrued over 1,000 hours of overtime to staff the funded positions at the MVFD Fire Station. This is only part of the 1.1million dollars the PGFD paid for over 21,000 hours of overtime to operationally staff the department during the month of July. This will only compound the Prince Georges County fiscal deficit in fiscal year 2014, which is already in excess of 152 million dollars.
11.) Conversely to the County’s rapidly escalating overtime cost, the MVFD has provided over 25,000 man-hours of staffing which equates to more than 1.7 million dollars in taxpayer’s savings so far this year.
12.) The MVFD has been actively seeking a resolution to this matter since November 21, 2012. We have been unable to reach an amicable agreement in these matters and feel that we have been stonewalled by County Officials.
The following is a press release from the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department :
The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department has been notified by one of it’s volunteer corporations that the basic life support transport unit (ambulance) will no longer be welcomed at their station, and will be placed out of service within the next week.
The Morningside Volunteer Fire Company, Inc., Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Station 827, in a written notice from their lawyer, stated the ambulance at their station would need to be removed or redeployed by the County on August 19, 2013.
Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor sent a letter today to Morningside Volunteer Chief Michael White ordering him to keep the ambulance in service. This action came after attorneys representing the Morningside Volunteer Fire Department notified the County in a letter (entire letter below) dated August 13, 2013, that “after careful deliberations the membership of MVFD has voted and has decided to keep the date of August 19, 2013 at 0700 by which Ambulance 827 will no longer be authorized on it’s property and should be redeployed.” After reading the letter Fire Chief Bashoor said, “Their decision will compromise the safety of our citizens and residents, which I will not stand for it.”
This situation is a result of “staffing” brought about by a recent change in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the County and the International Association of Firefighters Local 1619. This new agreement affects staffing at stations where only 2 career firefighter/medics are on duty. The Morningside Station currently has 4 career staff on duty from 7:00 A.M. until 3:00 P.M., Monday through Friday. At all other times, 2 career firefighter/medics remain on duty throughout the 24-hour shift. The new CBA creates 2 options—either up staff the station with 4 career personnel around the clock, or have the 2 firefighters removed from the 24-hour shift. Removal of firefighters from the 24-hour shift will require volunteers to staff the apparatus during nights, weekends and holidays. There are 8 other stations affected by this agreement, with no other adverse actions being taken at this time.
The Morningside Volunteer Fire Company, Inc. has to date declined the 4-person crew around the clock, which means the 2-person crew at night, weekends and holidays would be eliminated, effective October 1, 2013 (date of the 3rd phase of staffing implementation). The Morningside Station would then be required to staff the ambulance and suppression units with volunteers. The volunteer corporation has advised that volunteers will not staff the ambulance at the Morningside station, and therefore the ambulance would be placed out of service and removed from the station on August 19, 2013.
Fire Chief Bashoor had members of his command staff meet with the leadership of the Morningside Station on several occasions, in an attempt to work through this situation. There has been no progress or change in Morningside’s stance. Fire Chief Bashoor has ordered the Volunteer Chief, Michael White, to leave the ambulance in service, allowing it to serve the community and be staffed by Volunteer and/or Career staffing.
In 2012, the Morningside ambulance responded to 3,627 calls for service. This is the 10th busiest basic life support transport unit in the county. The loss of this unit could create an estimated wait time of about 5 to 10 minutes for another transport unit to respond to the scene of an incident in the Morningside community.
Prince George’s County is the largest and busiest combination (paid, volunteer, civilian) Fire/EMS Departments in the Country. In 2012, the department responded on 135, 383 calls for service. Of that figure, nearly 80 percent were EMS-related.
There are 45 Fire/EMS Stations located throughout Prince George’s County. Only 2 of these stations operate without an EMS transport unit, and they are both all-volunteer stations. There are 5 all-volunteer stations that continue to staff and respond with ambulances. Most Fire/EMS stations have some form of combined career and volunteer staffing.
There will be consequences to any actions that attempt to place the ambulance out of service at Morningside. The station’s Volunteer Fire Chief has been notified of actions that will be taken if they move forward with plans to remove the ambulance. Actions being considered include, but not limited to, demotion of the volunteer chief and response of fire apparatus limited to areas where they are considered first due.
Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor will continue to work with county and Morningside leaders to resolve this matter. The goal is to prevent any adverse effect on the Morningside community and surrounding areas.
In Northeast Washington, the office building at 2120 Bladensburg Road owned by IAFF Local 36 officially became the Kenneth M. Cox Building yesterday. I say officially, because I have thought of it as the Kenneth M. Cox Building for quite a few decades. In my 25 years as a TV reporter it is probably the location I visited most often and the place where I found some of the richest and most interesting stories. And Kenny Cox is largely responsible for that. I would go as far to say that STATter911.com probably would not exist without Kenny. That in itself is an interesting comment considering Kenny usually can't even find the on button to his computer without help.
My friend Kenny Cox is full of such interesting contradictions. As the person who served as an elected official of IAFF Local 36 longer than anyone else (37 years) Kenny has been an extremely important player in the work of the union. But while Kenny's fingerprints were everywhere, he stayed out of the spotlight.
Kenny's ideas and words have been heard by many in speeches and during hearings in the District Building and on Capitol Hill. But those words rarely came out of Kenny's mouth.
In the 1970s Kenny Cox won an extremely important First Amendment case for the union, fighting the punishment he received for criticizing the administration over a fatal fire near the quarters of a company closed due to budget cuts. He spoke to a reporter while on-duty at the scene of the fire. Yet, despite a federal judge confirming his right to speak his mind, the name Kenny Cox was rarely in the newspaper. Kenny was the main point of contact for reporters looking to find out Local 36's view of the world, but he wouldn't let you quote him. I believe my only on-camera interview with Kenny is in the video at the top of this page and it occurred yesterday.
And this quiet and deeply religious man also has an absolutely devilish side that often comes out in his deadpan sense of humor and as an instigator of practical jokes.
While I've been intrigued about all of these interesting aspects of Kenny's personality, the characteristics that meant the most to a young TV reporter hungry for a good story were his honesty, credibility and decency.
If Kenny Cox told me something, I knew I could rely on it. The truth was the truth with Kenny, even when it wasn't the best of news for the union. He knew his credibility was the most important commodity in being an effective advocate for the firefighters of the District of Columbia.
And the many union presidents that passed through during Kenny's tenure also realized the treasure they had in Kenny Cox. As Bill Mould said yesterday during the dedication ceremony, "I often felt like the guy who sits on the ventriloquist's lap". It seemed to be a universal feeling among all of the former union heads, even though there isn't a dummy among them. Still, a cynical ex-reporter wanted to know if Cox drafted their speeches for the event, considering each of them rarely ventured out on union business without Kenny's words in their pockets.
Kenny will be the first to tell you that there are many, many others who helped guide Local 36 through the late 20th and early 21st Century. And there were. But Kenny's ability to work the halls of Congress on both sides of the aisle and at the same time deal with the politics in the District Building was somewhat unique. Especially considering that DC's mayors and council members hated when the union went to Congress to get help on District issues.
One such effort was 30-years-ago when Cox used the influence of a Virginia congressman and others to convince Mayor Marion Barry that firing the recruits of Class 275, who had all just left other jobs to be DC firefighters, was a really bad idea. Four members of that class, all now chief officers of the department, made a special presentation to Kenny.
While younger members may know some of what Kenny Cox has meant to the local, it is unlikely they know much about Kenny as a firefighter. There were quite a few long retired firefighters and officers at the ceremony yesterday who told those stories. Among those was Kenny's close friend, and former lieutenant at Truck 8, Larry Beardmore. Beardmore is from a family of legendary firefighters, including his brothers Tex and Johnny, who I knew very well from my days in Prince George's County.
About five-years-ago I ran across film of a May, 1972 event at the District Building with Mayor Walter Washington. There was no description of the event, but I immediately recognized a young Kenny Cox sitting with a group of firefighters. Another part of the film showed an interview with an officer whose face bore a strong resemblance to the Beardmores I knew. From a story I had heard from Kenny years before about Larry Beardmore grabbing three young children out of a burning apartment building, I figured this must be Truck 8 getting the "Company of the Year" award. I was correct.
While I actually first heard of that amazing rescue and Larry's Gold Medal of Valor while I was in PG in the 70s, I really never knew much about Kenny's role at that fire until I pushed for further details after finding the clip. Kenny and Firefighter Barrett Payne each received Silver Medals for their actions on January 21, 1971 at 4307 3rd Street, SE.
Engine 25 had gone to the address on a local alarm for a bush on fire just after midnight but found fire showing out of a picture window on the first floor and rapidly extending to the the second and third floors. I strongly encourage you to read the entire report (here) written by Larry Beardmore. Here is some of what Larry wrote about Kenny's actions (click the image below to increase its size):
Yesterday Larry and Kenny both described it as a "routine fire" and just laughed at a washed up TV news guy as he tried to elicit something of substance about the incident. But make sure you listen to the few usable words from Beardmore at the end of the video above. They are important.
And since we are talking about family, let's not forget Kenny's high school sweetheart Marti. They will be married 48-years next January. Or his children Ken Jr. and Michelle Lyn and grandchildren Taylor Lyn and Ethan. Michelle, who sings each year at the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Memorial Weekend, did a moving tribute to her dad during the dedication ceremony.
Despite pushing 70 and a body ravaged by serious spinal issues and Parkinson's Disease, Kenny Cox still works hard on behalf of Local 36.
Kenny didn't want the tribute yesterday and even threatened not to show up. I imagine he will be greatly embarrassed by what I have written here (not that the man who has given Dave Statter more fire department stories than anyone else is likely to read the blog). I say tough.
It is long overdue for Kenny Cox to come out of the shadows and be recognized publicly. I would make the case that not only are DC firefighters much better off for the work of Kenny Cox, but so are the citizens of and visitors to the District of Columbia. When it comes to anything fire related, Kenneth M. Cox is probably more responsible than any chief, union president, firefighter or political leader in ensuring the safety of everyone in the Nation's Capital.
Ignoring the rules saved the day: A Grafton, Vermont volunteer lieutenant and his chief have an honest discussion about how breaking a department rule saved the life of an elderly woman. Richard Thompson isn’t supposed to go directly to the scene of a fire when the call is dispatched. But he’s glad he did.
Tragedy in Baltimore: A picture was sent our way late yesterday showing the fire conditions on Homewood Avenue in East Baltimore yesterday morning. That’s where three children and three adults were killed. If you missed it, we also have fireground audio and news coverage of the two-alarm fire. Click here.
Video from Jersey City, New Jersey fire: The two-alarm fire was eight days ago in a vacant house. Ed Gray got his usual up close video. You can find it here.
New Jersey steroid story fallout: The Star Ledger investigation we told you about Sunday of a dead doctor’s former practice that prescribed anabolic steroids and HGH to hundreds of cops and firefighters continues with articles yesterday and today. Here’s Part 3 with links to the other stories. While looking into all of this, the reporters discovered a firefighter/patient of the practice who retired on disability from a New Jersey department and is now working in North Carolina. Here’s that story.
Paid administrative staff for volunteers cut following defeat of ambulance transport fee: In Maryland, the Montgomery County Council has agreed to cut 20 administrative positions for the county’s volunteer fire departments in an effort to reduce mid-year spending. Some see it as retaliation for volunteers leading the charge against an EMS transport fee County Executive Isiah Leggett and his staff say would have brought in 14 million much needed dollars. At the same time the council refused to eliminate 11 ambulances. Here’s more.
Where’s the fire?: Bill Carey at BackstepFirefighter.com knows the answer but reporters don’t. A fire in Prince George’s County last night near Fed Ex Field has the news media describing the location with the names of four different communities or towns. Two are municipalities whose borders are far from the scene of the fire. One problem, which I always ranted about when I was in the news business, is news people and PIOs using the post office address. For example, Capitol Heights, Maryland has a post office that covers a very large swath of PG County. But it’s a tiny town. Many years ago I would get regular calls from the mayor and former fire chief of Morningside, Maryland Gerald Glaubitz. Mayor Glaubitz, who I knew well, would give me on the line to give me a great deal of grief because my TV station referred to a violent crime as being in his little town near Andrews AFB when it was actually outside the borders. Read more about this issue, the fire, and watch an interview with the new PGFD chief, Marc Bashoor, at BackstepFirefighter.com.
U.K. firefighter admits siren caused elderly man to die: You may recall the story of the firefighter who blew a siren starting a stampede that killed a farmer. Now that firefighter admits he is to blame in a plea deal. Read more.
Husband & wife firefighters file suit against Cape Cod fire district: In Cotuit there is a rather complicated story involving a fire captain and his firefighter wife. They have filed suit claiming discrimination. Politics apparently plays a big role in this case. Take a look.
Geezer must have been nice: He’s got Santa hawking his Firegeezer mugs. A nice gift for all those old firefighters in your life. Check it out.
Fire chiefs take on road crews: In Missouri two local fire chiefs go after the state roads department claiming they aren’t doing enough to keep the highways clear during storms. State officials say otherwise.