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Thread: Firefighters Join Iraq Attack

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    Administrator Neil's Avatar
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    Firefighters Join Iraq Attack

    HEATHER CASPI
    Firehouse.Com News

    Among the U.S. military reservists preparing for deployment are some firefighters who will leave their home fire departments reeling from the impact of their absence.

    Military call-ups have a modest effect on most fire departments but can have a dramatic effect on the smaller departments that are less able to absorb the absence of trained staff and to budget for their replacement, shows a study by the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

    IAFC President Randy Bruegman was interviewed by ABC World News several weeks ago on how the deployment of firefighters might affect their fire departments here in the States. ABC's questions spurred the IAFC to send out an electronic survey to which they received 1,271 responses .

    "There weren't any major surprises," Bruegman said, although officials hadn't realized just how many chief officers are still involved in the reserves. Of all those in the fire service who may be called to duty, 88 percent are firefighter/paramedics, and 11 percent are chief officers, the survey showed.

    Bruegman said the impact will certainly be more dramatic on smaller departments. "I think the impact will be felt more from the smaller organizations that have 10, 15, 20 people," he said. "All of a sudden you lose your hazmat specialist or communications specialist - it's pretty hard to replace that knowledge."

    The other big issue is how the department will pay for overtime or a replacement for the absent firefighter. "Especially for small organizations who are operating on a shoe string right now," Bruegman said. The larger the organization, the more money they have to shift, the chief said.

    According to the IAFC survey, 81 percent of the departments responding said they would suffer the loss of no more than five percent of their staff overall. Thirteen percent of the respondents said that between five percent and 10 percent of their staff could be affected, and the remaining six percent of departments are anticipating a greater than 10 percent loss of staff.

    The chief said there are two things departments should do if they are going to be affected. First, they need to sit down with management and local elected officials to give them an overview of how the departure of those employees will impact the department.

    Then they should have a discussion on how the department is going to support the families of the deployed firefighters, both economically and emotionally, Bruegman said. "Make sure their needs are met whether it's around the house, with the kids or whatever," he said. "We in the fire service are a large family and need to step up and make sure we're addressing these things as well as the administrative issues."

    Firefighter Jim Crawford of Pittsburgh's Ladder 33 is among those reservists waiting to hear if he will be deployed. Several firefighters in the department have already been called out in the past few days.

    Crawford said his department, with 900 firefighters, has no trouble filling the vacancies with overtime until the firefighters can return to their assigned stations. But their departure does leave an emotional impact. "A lot of the guys are concerned about their shift mates leaving," Crawford said.

    Crawford has been with the Pittsburgh Fire Department for 11 years and with the military for 17 years. He serves as Assistant Chief of Training at the Pennsylvania Air National Guard 171st Air Refueling Wing Fire Department. He is also a contributor for Firehouse Magazine and Firehouse.com. Although his firefighting job will be secure if he is deployed, Crawford will have to back out of several conferences at which he is scheduled to speak.

    He said one of the hardest things is not knowing if and when his unit will be activated. "You don't know when you wake up in the morning if that's going to be the day or not," he said. However, "I'm ready," he said. "I belive in what's going on."

    Crawford knows what to expect when deployed to an Air Force base fire department overseas because he was deployed in March 2001 to the United Arab Emirates to support Operation Southern Watch, for 30 days.

    "Oh it's completely different from being in a fire department stateside," he said. "You're out in the middle of the desert and it's hot, you're surrounded by sand. It's a completely different experience."

    He said the members of his unit do not carry weapons. Their job is strictly crash/fire rescue, and they are protected by Air Force security forces. He remembers from the last time he went out, that his greatest concerns were about his family, and that an aircraft might come in with severe damage.

    Barnstead Fire Rescue in New Hampshire is among those small fire departments that will be greatly impacted if they have to part with even one firefighter.

    Firefighter Kurk Flynn is one of just four full time firefighters at the small department. He is the only member who is also a reservist, and he is waiting to hear if he will be deployed. "I think, from what I hear there's a real good chance I'll be going," he said. Flynn has been with the fire department for four years and with the military for 18 years. He is assigned to a firefighting unit at Robins Air Force base in Georgia as a member of the Air Force Reserves.

    Flynn was activated last year to work at the base in Georgia from January through November. He doesn't know if he is deployed again, whether he would be sent to Georgia or overseas. "I could go wherever they need me to go. There's no way to know," he said.

    If he is deployed, the department will once again have to cover his absence with the help of their 50 volunteers and a few part-timers to protect a town of 4,000 in the winter, and at least double that in the summer.

    "It does make a difference," he said. "I call it small town USA. It affects us because they count on so many people to do a daily routine, and if people fall out for one reason or another, it's hard on management," he said.

    It's also hard on his family. Flynn has two boys, ages 11 and 12. Flynn said he has been a firefighter for 12 years so he has already been gone every third night during his children's lives. Then he was away from home for 10 months. Although his family was able to come and visit him in Georgia, "You miss a lot of stuff," he said. "I'm real close to my wife and boys. It was real hard."

    When he is away, Flynn's greatest concern is his family. And if he gets deployed to the Middle East, he is concerned about chemical and biological weapons. "You just never know what you're going to face," he said.

    Despite his concerns Flynn said he will be glad to serve if deployed. "I am very supportive of what we're doing. I think it's the right move, let's get it done and taken care of," he said. While he waits for any orders, he said his phone has been ringing off the hook from coworkers, family and friends. "It's good to know people do care," he said.

    Firefighter Richard Anderson of the San Antonio, Texas Fire Department is also waiting to hear if he will be deployed. He serves as a security policeman for the Air National Guard out of the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. He has been in the military for six years and with the fire department for two years.

    He was deployed after 9/11, just after he had graduated from the fire academy, for a year stateside and for four months in Southeast Asia. His job was to secure a remote air base by defending aircraft and the base itself, a very different job than what he does as a firefighter. "It was a big switch, a very big switch," he said. He served with NYPD police officers and an FDNY firefighter who all volunteered for overseas duty, and had very sad stories to share about 9/11, Anderson said.

    "Now that I'm back I'm waiting to hear. If they call me I'll go but if they don't call me that'd be ok too," he said.

    Anderson said the fire department was extremely supportive about his last deployment. "It was like I never left," he said. The department has plenty of manpower, with 1400 firefighters, to cover his absence and those of several other reservists in the department.

    Anderson said he has several friends who are in the Mideast right now and his greatest concern for them, as well as for everyone in the U.S., is chemical weapons. "It's scary. You can't fight against something you can't see," he said.

    "Everybody just pray for our soldiers over there and our first responders over here."

    The IAFC report says that most fire chiefs have already put some kind of response plan into action, such as the addition of temporary hires, leave policy revisions, the implementation of mandatory overtime or staffing/service changes.

    The report also says that "Several Chiefs noted that much has been asked of America's Fire Service since September 11th, and that many of these requests have resulted in additional financial burdens, just as a military call up will. They are already struggling to find ways to pay for all the new services that are now expected of them. However, without exception, respondents indicated a desire to support any military call up request in any way possible if asked."

    Additional data and comments from the survey respondents can be found on the IAFC web site.

    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...5&sectionId=46

    Photo below of Staff Sergeant David Battaly


  2. #2
    Administrator Neil's Avatar
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    Letter To Firehouse:

    Letter To Firehouse:

    Courtesy of Staff Sergeant David Battaly

    Staff Sergeant David Battaly sent Firehouse.com these pictures with this information.
    "My father is a retired firechief, and many members of my family, including myself, have proudly served as firefighters.

    I am in the US Army and am now (briefly) in Kuwait, about to travel north.

    I have taken some photos and thought you might like to use them in your publication to share.

    On the side of my truck I have blazed the FDNY logo in memory of a dear family friend who was lost on 9-11, Prob. Richard Allen.

    The scene of the fire was actually our Mess Hall that burned down recently at Camp Udairi, Kuwait."

    Courtesy of Staff Sergeant David Battaly

    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...5&sectionId=46


    Pray for our brothers and sisters who are doing their duty for America. We thank you for standing up for America
    N.H. Donahue

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