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Monday, November 12, 2012

By the Authority Vested in Me…

Has your fire department ever found it necessary to “commandeer” equipment in order to mitigate an incident?

Does your state laws allow in specific circumstances for a representative of the fire department, at the direction and command of a fire department’s ranking officer to take public control of private equipment with legal immunity should that action cause negative reverberations?

Is your fire department willing to go beyond that threshold where it becomes more important to prove one’s authority at the risk of losing the publics’ support? Are these adrenaline fueled brain farts by well-intentioned public servants causing the fire service and in particular the volunteer sector unnecessary negative publicity?

Let me say that I am familiar with this fire department and they are not cowboys from Goofy Ridge. Their demographics dictate that they be well disciplined and well trained.

The article’s author, Barb Ickes, has worked for the Quad-City Times as a columnist and Illinois reporter since 1998. She earned a BA from Northern Illinois University and a Master's Degree from the former Sangamon State University, now the University of Illinois at Springfield.

The link is to the story that is central to my lead-in questions: Backhoe was a no-no.
 As you can see from the article, the fire chief believed that he had the authority to use the 
backhoe to extinguish the fire. Here is what I could find in the State of Iowa Code: 
         A fire chief or other authorized officer of a fire department, in
      charge of a fire scene which involves the protection of life or
      property, may direct an operation as necessary to extinguish or
      control a fire, perform a rescue operation, investigate the existence
      of a suspected or reported fire, gas leak, or other hazardous
      condition, or take any other action as deemed necessary in the
      reasonable performance of the department's duties.  In exercising
      this power, a fire chief may prohibit an individual, vehicle, or
      vessel from approaching a fire scene and may remove from the scene
      any object, vehicle, vessel, or individual that may impede or
      interfere with the operations of the fire department. 

It would appear that there is wide latitude with regards to the fire chief’s duties, but I think that there should be an emphasis on the usage of the term “reasonable performance”.
The defense by the municipality’s defense attorney is found in Iowa Code Section 670.4, which states among other things:

         The liability imposed by section 670.2 shall have no application
      to any claim enumerated in this section.  As to any such claim, a
      municipality shall be liable only to the extent liability may be
      imposed by the express statute dealing with such claims and, in the
      absence of such express statute, the municipality shall be immune
      from liability.
         1.  Any claim by an employee of the municipality which is covered
      by the Iowa workers' compensation law.
         2.  Any claim in connection with the assessment or collection of
         3.  Any claim based upon an act or omission of an officer or
      employee of the municipality, exercising due care, in the execution
      of a statute, ordinance, or regulation whether the statute, ordinance
      or regulation is valid, or based upon the exercise or performance or
      the failure to exercise or perform a discretionary function or duty
      on the part of the municipality or an officer or employee of the
      municipality, whether or not the discretion is abused.
         4.  Any claim against a municipality as to which the municipality
      is immune from liability by the provisions of any other statute or
      where the action based upon such claim has been barred or abated by
      operation of statute or rule of civil procedure.
         5.  Any claim for punitive damages.
       11.  A claim based upon or arising out of an act or omission in
      connection with an emergency response including but not limited to
      acts or omissions in connection with emergency response
      communications services.
         The remedy against the municipality provided by section 670.2
      shall hereafter be exclusive of any other civil action or proceeding
      by reason of the same subject matter against the officer, employee or
      agent whose act or omission gave rise to the claim, or the officer's,
      employee's, or agent's estate.
         This section does not expand any existing cause of action or
      create any new cause of action against a municipality.  

With the invocation of this section in their defense, it is fairly clear that the backhoe’s owner is not entitled to re-imbursement by the village, fire department, chief or the firefighter who run the backhoe and caused the damage.

But, what about the damage to the public image of the fire department? I understand laws that are designed to shield, but let me ask you this: if the fire department has insurance on their vehicles and they damage one in the course of the response; wouldn’t the insurance company pay to get the damage fixed? If the fire department has the right to “commandeer” equipment, thereby using that equipment as if it was their own, then why wouldn’t insurance extend to the damaged equipment?

My point is that; even if the fire department has immunity from liability in this case, they do not have immunity from a public backlash in this case.

Therefore: a mutual agreement between the fire department and the equipment owner needs to be reached.

Otherwise; public support may disappear at a time when a fire department can least afford it.

More to come on this one.


The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. This article is protected by federal copyright laws and cannot be re-produced in any form.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

An Election of a Lifetime

When I was a young man, my dad made certain that I did two things; register for the military draft and register to vote. Dad was a World War II veteran and believed that it was a sacred right to vote in elections. He felt that voting was a very personal right and would never tell me how he voted. However; he spoke very fondly of Harry Truman, so I knew even without asking that he was a Democrat.

What I found odd about that is that Dad worked very hard, would not accept handouts and was very charitable, even though he didn’t have much to give. What he gave was his time. Whenever a call for help would go out in our community, Dad was one who would answer the call. He made me very proud to be his son.

Unbeknownst to me, Dad called Joe Talbot and had him come over to the house to register me to vote. I didn’t know it at the time, but Joe was a Democratic precinct committeeman, so I was registered as a Democrat. I voted as a Democrat when George McGovern ran for President in 1972 and then I voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976. That was the last time that I voted Democrat in an election. Carter ruined it for me and many Americans for his failure to bring down inflation, deal with the gas shortages and for his handling of the Iran hostage crisis. I think the best thing about Jimmy Carter was his brother, Billy. At least Billy was funny and entertaining and there was also Billy Beer.

I was already seeing liberalism in our colleges. Some of my required reading was books written by Karl Marx and Tolstoy. College professors were showing up and speaking at some of the war protests. Politics were permeating the classrooms, but I was young and very open-minded at the time, so I didn’t reject what I was learning. In fact; at that time, I thought that I opposed the Vietnam War, but I didn’t really understand our involvement in Vietnam.

TV news was devoted for the most part to the war in Vietnam. Newscasters like Cronkite, Harry Reasoner, a young Dan Rather and Huntley and Brinkley were reporting absent of their own political views. In fact; you could not discern their politics. There was no political commentary to their newscasts, unlike today. Though they presented their news with all due respect to the office of the President, they also did it with a certain impartiality.

When I entered the workforce, there was no pension or 401K plan; only the promise of Social Security. With our representative government, there was no talk of “career politicians”. Corrupt politicians were the exception and not the rule.  I can’t remember any political ads from “special interests” groups. I am sure that unions were involved in politics, but not to the extent that you see today. They seemed to be more transparent back then. As my wages slid up the scale, I couldn’t help but to notice that more and more was going to taxes.

I have been witness to many life-altering events through the lens of our news media at the time. The assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bobby Kennedy, Malcolm X; the attempted assassinations of President Ford and President Reagan; the Vietnam War, the war protests, the 1968 Democratic Convention that had the whole world watching, Vietnam Vets being spit on, the shootings at Kent State; the space program, the space race with Russia, the space shuttle; the killing of the Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics, the Oklahoma City bombing, the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, the attack on America on 9/11/2001; the bombing of the USS Cole; Grenada, Somalia, Jonestown, Waco and the Branch Davidians; mass killers Charles Manson, Charles Whitman, Richard Speck, Henry Lee Lucas, John Wayne Gacy, Albert De Salvo, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, David Berkowitz; the siege at Ruby Ridge; several Olympics, World Series, Super Bowls and Rose Bowls; “classic TV” shows and I attended a venerable hall of fame of rock concerts.

As I metaphorically simmer in the sauce of what is my sixtieth birthday, I want to believe that the window to my soul is clear in purpose and awash with the wisdom of my years. Decisions that have been made on a personal or professional level have not been without consequences; both good and bad.

But, because of the many events that have populated my life that have helped to shape my personal convictions, I wonder if it has also fed my cynicism or expanded my views; perhaps both.

While growing up, I got my news from three TV stations, a couple of radio stations (WKEI and WLS) and one local newspaper.
I believed what I heard from those reporting it, because I believed in THEM. They were a trusted source, because reporters looked for the truth in what they were reporting. They apparently understood the enormous responsibility that they had to provide their viewers, readers and listeners with the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They knew the power behind the freedom of the press came from those who had fought and died for their rights and it was not to be taken for granted. Newspapers held their opinions to the editor and with letters TO the editor. I cannot recall that the local paper endorsed any candidate, but only encouraged citizens to vote.

On television, stations were very careful not to show favor to one candidate over the other, because of the “equal time” provisions. And there were no attack ads. You heard me; NO ATTACK ADS!

Radio was pretty much the same. If Candidate A would go on the radio for an interview, the same was offered to Candidate B. Politics was a lesson in civics at a very grass roots level.

And to be honest; it was much easier back then to decide who you were going to vote for. Parties had platforms that were not as convoluted as they are today.

But, today; where we get our news is as partisan as the politics.

You can’t trust the information anymore, because the reporters have thrown aside their impartiality for a chance to become the next President’s press secretary. They no longer want to simply report the story; they want to BE the story, leaving the voting public to make their important decisions based upon attack ads, blogs and Wikipedia.

Many of us grew up working hard for everything that we have, never once asking our government for anything. We controlled our small slice of life with family rules, the Golden Rule and the rule of law. Government back then was truly transparent with very little voter fraud, no hanging chads or shadow cabinets.

Those days are gone, but we have been headed to where we are today for a very long time. I live in a state that has seen two of the last four governors go to prison!

I have never wanted someone who has more than me to give me some of theirs’. I had hoped to get to a place where I could afford to give something back and I have…by CHOICE. I don’t want to because I HAVE to! I want to help to care for others who can’t care for themselves, but not those who simply won’t.

I believe in only ONE entitlement – Social Security, because I have been paying into it since I was 17 years old. Yes; I am entitled to it, because I have paid for the privilege. What I thought was a lock box for my retirement has turned into a giant piggy bank.

So, to help get our country back on track, I am going to vote in the most important election of my lifetime.

What I will be voting for is a brighter future for our children and grandchildren, Social Security for our seniors, fair taxation, affordable housing, cheaper gas and a strong military.

Oh and smaller government.


The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. All articles by the author are protected by federal copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form without expressed permission.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Trustees; Train Hard or Go Home!

You heard me!
Don’t come here expecting accommodations or special considerations.
You’re a grunt just like the rest of us. Time to pay your dues.
You can’t be on top of your game if you don’t train.
You can’t extend your reach or maximize your effectiveness, unless you are willing to put your blood and sweat into it.
You don’t have the first idea of what I’m talking about, do you?
You were never a firefighter, were you?
Were you “appointed” by your buddies on the city council or the county board?
Oh; you are one of those whose ego has to be fed by “new challenges”.
You don’t mind making decisions that affects other peoples’ lives, as long as you have tort immunity, huh?
I’ll let you in on a little secret, Braveheart; I came up through a department that was run by your kind.
Your playbook, ‘How to Say No to Everything Except Free Meals’ has served you and your cronies well, but it has left your fire departments underfunded, under-prepared, under-manned and has left you ‘under-educated’.
You have spent all of the tax money on real estate for a fire station that will never be built in your lifetime, paid attorney fees for ‘expert’ advice that cost more than the entire fire department was paid for calls last year and the hotel bill at the conference where trustees are supposed to attend seminars while the wives go to ‘luncheons’; except the ‘seminars were hospitality rooms with an open bar.
So; what did you learn? What knuggets (sic) of knowledge did you take back to share?
Let me bring you up to speed.
First of all; if it were up to me, ALL trustees in the state of Illinois (you got to start small) would be elected.
Because, when I ran our department as chief, I had way too many problems with our appointed trustees. None of the three knew anything about firefighter skill sets, the training required, the laws governing fire districts or of the funding needed.
They only knew how to say “NO” and that cost me hundreds of dollars of my own money on top of the taxes that I paid. It wasn’t enough that I volunteered, but I had to pay for the privilege!
Don’t worry, though; there were plenty of firefighters just like me.
The strangle-hold that gripped our department was finally broken in the early 1990’s when we petitioned to have our trustees elected and then elected three, new trustees. The survival skills that we learned as firefighters served us well, in that it taught us to mitigate even the toughest hazards, which in our case was ending the reign of the Good Ole Boys, who wouldn’t raise the tax rate, even though we didn’t have enough turnout gear to outfit everyone, kept the thermostat at the fire station on 50 degrees in the winter, refused to pay for training, went into debt for a new fire station that would house trucks that were all at least 20 years old-plus with no new money saved to buy a new one, paid for bad advice and threaten to kick us off if we dared to question them!
If I sound bitter, I’m not.
I’m BETTER.                                                          
Why is it that, as firefighters, you accept that you may have to risk your lives to serve the public, but are afraid to stand up to tyrannical trustees-mere mortals?
I realized early on that our trustees did not have the same commitment, goals or attitudes of their fire department. They thought that the fire department and fire trustees were somehow separate and “different”. What’s wrong with that picture?
When I go to trustee seminars and conferences, the conversation will usually gravitate to “issues”. You should see the looks on the faces of the other trustees when I tell them that I’m elected. Their eyes will actually cross when I tell them that I was the fire chief and started the petition to have our trustees elected rather than appointed. You see; they threatened me one too many times. It was literally them or me and I knew I wasn’t going anywhere.
And now?
I’m president of the board of trustees and am totally committed to being the best trustee that I can be; just like I was committed to being the best firefighter and chief that I could be. There is that same commitment to training.
And though I don’t always agree with the other trustees or firefighters, they at least know that I will give everything its due regard, research it if I have questions and make an informed decision.
I will continue to learn more about finding additional revenue streams, the ever-changing laws that govern fire protection districts, the newest life-saving equipment that is available, the Freedom of Information Act, the Open Meetings Act and find new ways to attract and to retain firefighters. Money will ALWAYS be spent protecting the firefighters first and that means training and equipment that they need to keep them safe when they are called upon.
And if you are a trustee and you aren’t doing the same, then you need to come into the 21st century, buy a computer with Internet service, a cell phone and learn to lead by example. Lose the entitlement attitude and serve your firefighters and community with the same selfless attitude as your firefighters.
If not, then go home!
The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. This article is protected by federal copyright laws and cannot be re-produced in any form.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Firefighters in Dresses Hailed as Heroes?

By now, you have undoubtedly seen the video.

According to, the two Sedan, MN volunteer firefighters occasionally wear dresses to raise funds for their volunteer fire department.

”The group of volunteers were waiting in line in preparation for Padua’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday when a fire erupted in a truck and the firefighters went to work”.

Volunteer firefighters Ted Aubart and Ben Terhaar, one wearing green and the other wearing red evening gowns are seen manning the hose to extinguish the vehicle fire.

Yes; the video has gone viral and it has made the rounds at all of the major news outlets. This morning on Fox News, the news anchor described the pair as “heroes”.

Now; back in the day, when I was new to the ways of firefighting, it was not uncommon for us to tackle fires dressed only in our “street clothes”. It was part necessity and part stupidity. I say “part necessity” because back then, we didn’t have enough bunker gear to outfit everyone. You were lucky to find a pair of boots that fit. I say “part stupidity” for obvious reasons. Like most; we learned from our mistakes and lived to tell about it.

Several fire service websites and bloggers have taken this story and ran with it. Some have made light of it, while others have pointed out the obvious safety concerns of firefighters not properly attired in full turnout gear with SCBA. Is this a department that believes that it is safe to fight vehicle fires without proper gear? Do they believe that smoke and fire from a burning vehicle is somehow different than “other” smoke and fire? What about polyvinylchloride, hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide? Were they wearing heels or pumps? Did they have matching clutch purses?

Volunteer fire departments have been battling image problems for how long? I mean; it’s one thing to dress up like Liza Minelli and sing Broadway tunes in the privacy of your own home, but to do it in public? The money would have to be right; I can tell you that.

I’m not too fond of circus clowns, but men running around in evening gowns with a big hose in their hands is a nightmare from Hell. The one in the red dress was spot on, but the guy in the green dress clashed big time with the color of the fire truck. So, the guy in the red was completely out of touch with the blarney, but gets kudos for accessorizing with a red fire truck. The guy in the green showed his Irish, but looked so gauche with the rest of his ensemble.

And where was the chief? Was he standing just off camera in a dazzling, white Versace evening dress?

Had they gone strapless, I would have scary images running around inside my head of them tanning nude so as not to get tan lines. However; there would have been no concern for straps slipping off of the shoulder had they chosen to go strapless.

Wear your air and hide your back hair!

Now, I come back to my original question: what was so heroic about two guys in evening gowns squirting water on a burning truck?

I can tell you this: you won’t see this kind of “class” at FDIC.


The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. All articles by the author are protected by federal copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form without expressed permission.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Rescuing the Lady

Oh, where to begin.

As if things weren’t already bad enough in Illinois, I read today where my state is the third most corrupt state in the nation. Chicago has the distinction of being named as the number one most corrupt city in the nation.

For many of us who have lived in Illinois our entire lives, this doesn’t exactly come as a revelation, but it is very frustrating after spending so much time in politics with the idea that we were going to change it.

I want to say that our politics in this state isn’t reflective of the people who live here, but unfortunately, it is people (real and imagined) who vote for the jamokes that get into state politics long enough to muck things up, plead guilty, serve their sentence and then become lobbyists when they get out. Our most recent poster child for Illinois politics comes courtesy of the Illinois Department of Transportation, where a mob bookie got a $70,000 a year job with the DOT and now, with the help of the union, continues to work for the state; much to the chagrin of his DOT supervisor.

You probably never thought that turning a key in a lock could be hazardous to your health, but at Menard State Prison, over $10 million was awarded to prison guards AND the warden for injuries caused from this innocuous act. Apparently, some of our Illinois Industrial Commissioners had their own workers’ compensation claims and were suffering “sympathetic” pain for the guards.

In an effort to cut our deficit and to bolster our credit rating, the state raised my state income tax by 67% and they also raised the corporate tax by 47%. Makes you want to run a business and work there, doesn’t it? Caterpillar recently told Governor Quinn the Mighty that they will not increase their business in this state, as long as the climate is so “anti-business”. Let’s see; we had the money to bribe Sears and the CBT to keep their business here, but not Caterpillar? I lost my job at Cat when they moved the engine assembly to Texas. Then, at about the same time, they moved the road graders from Decatur, IL to North Little Rock, Arkansas. And now; a new Cat plant is going to Athens, Georgia, but Quinn still thinks that Cat is just “blowing smoke”.

It was clear that the Gov was hurt by Oberhelmann’s statements and he could barely muster a reply. He said, “We overhauled the workers’ compensation system in this state”. Quinn’s idea of “overhaul” must mean that, when you get your oil changed, you are having your engine overhauled. The work comp “overhaul” did NOTHING to lower rates in this state.

So, there has been no meaningful spending cuts made yet, but Quinn and his bobble heads are still finding ways to RAISE money through the good taxpayers in this state. Now, Quinn and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanual want to charge a $65 “fee” for gun registration in this state and as we all know, a “fee” is not a “tax”.

It wasn’t that long ago that Rahm the Merciless was President Obama’s Chief of Staff, but Rahm couldn’t get everyone on board with doing things the “Chicago way”, so, feeling like a fish out of water, Rahm returned to the familiar waters of Chicago politics, where he has been doing a yeoman’s job of bullying his city council AND our governor.

So, that brings me to Obama. He got his start in politics as a community organizer. There must be a playbook or instruction manual that teaches one to organize. Now; I have to wonder if he was organizing in the most corrupt city in the nation in spite of it. After-all; he is a product of that environment. Did he escape it squeaky clean? I don’t think so. Look at his shadow cabinet of czars, his recess appointments, Obama Care, activists judges, the NLRB, his fast and furious attorney general’s willingness to sue private citizens and businesses to stop them from exercising their liberties, suing states to keep them from enforcing immigration laws and then it becomes very clear that President Obama is a by-product of his environment. His hypocrisy has no limits.

The House and the Senate haven’t been much help, either. Many of them still believe that they are beefing up their re-election victories by pigging out on pork projects for their home districts, because they are too chicken to base their chances on the moral and ethical strength of their votes on various pieces of legislation. And besides; giving the special interests groups that support and the special attention that they deserve isn’t “buying” votes in the strict sense is it?

Sure; everyone wants their taxes to come back home in some way, but it has caused a de facto redistribution of wealth. However; in Illinois, tax money that is taken and is supposed to come back to the school districts isn’t. Instead, Quinn the Mighty is simply telling school districts that they are going to have to take on a bigger share at the local level which will most likely cause property taxes across the state to skyrocket. I wish that I could tell my creditors to eat it in the same way that Illinois government tells their taxpayers.

In his “State of the State” address, Quinn offered NOTHING; only get tough talk, but no plans to get tough.

The 2012 elections will be the most important election in my lifetime and I don’t exaggerate when I say that. I cannot think of another single election where there was so much at stake at the state and federal level. We have an opportunity in Illinois to flip the entire legislature as ALL of the seats are up for re-election. There are but a very few who deserve the privilege of our vote for them.

At the federal level, I can’t wait to pay $5 a gallon for gas, even though we sit on enough oil to truly become energy self-sufficient and cut the cord to Middle East countries that don’t like us very much, but are more than happy to take our money and the lives of our soldiers and citizens.

That is not to say that I am for price controls, because I’m not, but why is it that gas prices can go up whenever a sheik farts, but a utilities company must “request” a price increase from the legislature?

I fully understand a company’s duty to shareholders and yea, though I don’t know what “obscene profits” are or what it is to have “too much money”; I know that our country survives because of capitalism.

I believe that, in many cases, those who have their hand out because “they can’t help it” are a myth. I have always felt that those in need will receive their help from charitable donations from kind-hearted givers. Government is not a charity nor should they determine for us how we should spend our money.

It’s a fact that not everyone can afford to buy a house, a car or go to college. Those decisions should be made by potential purchasers. When I took out the loan for our first house, interest rates were eight percent. I made my payments without the help of the government. I borrowed money for my vehicles from the bank and never missed a payment. Back then, there were no incentives to buy and interest rates were eight to nine percent. We took out student loans so that our son could go to college and we paid back every dime. We never looked for a bailout from the government. What has changed, other than loan rates have dropped dramatically?

All of us who came from poor beginnings know that we had two choices: stay there and wallow in self-pity fueled by government cheese or to change it.

I chose to change it. I won’t apologize for it and I refuse to stand by and allow government to tell me that I have too much and must give some of it to someone else.

I pay my taxes and I donate to charities. I volunteer my time in my community and will help where help is needed.

THAT is MY decision and because I am opposed to extending that charity to flimflammers and scammers of the System, I will not believe that I am a bad person.

The state of the government and the condition of our country is our fault.

So, I say that it is time to rescue Lady Liberty and to take back our country from dysfunctional governance.

It is a non-partisan approach. Republicans and Democrats alike have managed through several parliamentary procedures to set themselves up as the ruling class and in the process have trampled on our Constitution.

I will not consider any candidate from any party who will not work to change it. I want a government who will allow me to keep what I have earned and return upon my retirement the Social Security funds that I have paid since I was sixteen years old.

I have supported government at all levels. I don’t expect any more than what I have paid for. I expect government to honor their contract with me. Period.

Rant off.

Game on. November can’t come soon enough.


The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. All articles by the author are protected by federal copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form without expressed permission.