Entries in Firefighters (2)


DC Government ‘Reviewing’ Firefighters’ Appearance with Obama

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The District of Columbia’s Fire and Emergency Medical Services says there are no plans to punish first responders for their participation in an economic speech by President Obama, but are still reviewing the event.

Earlier this week, Obama surrounded himself with police and other first responders during remarks regarding the real world impact of the across-the-board package of federal spending cuts known as sequestration, looming in March should Congress fail to reach a deficit reduction agreement. But Washington’s fire and EMS chief told a local TV station the appearance of three firefighters at the event may have violated department regulations.

“I didn’t know about it, the deputy mayor didn’t know about it, the mayor didn’t know about it,” Chief Kenneth Ellerbe said. “There should be protocol followed anytime one of our employees representing the District of Columbia appears at a public event.”

Ellerbe told a local TV station that the employees had been ordered to file special testimonies on how they became guests of the White House event and who authorized it. The news report prompted a statement from the city government Friday.

“Contrary to reports in local media, the DC Fire and EMS Department is not considering any disciplinary action against uniformed personnel for appearing alongside President Obama,” reads the Friday-night release, adding “DC FEMS is simply reviewing its internal protocols for such appearances to ensure that both the Department and its employees are fully informed.”

“We fully support the efforts of President to highlight the essential and life saving work that our first-responders do every single day, and welcome his invitation for our members to participate,” the statement said. “We’re exceedingly proud of the men and women that wear the DC FEMS uniform, and thank the President for his support.”

An after-hours inquiry to the department was unanswered as of press time.

Capt. Ed Smith, president of the DC Firefighters Association Local 36, said it is not likely the department will actively discipline the members who participated in the Obama event, but he remains cautious over the broader implications of the review. The association president told ABC News the officers involved were off duty and that firefighters had routinely attended similar public events in the past without incident. The invitation came from the White House through Local 36′s parent organization, the International Association of Firefighters.

“If it led to discipline later it would be taken as retaliatory,” he said, adding he knew of no protocol breached by appearing in-uniform. “There is a pattern of retaliation with the chief and the department and that is a concern of mine.”

Smith said he has seen such measures first-hand. In October an independent arbitrator ruled in favor of the captain’s claim that he was involuntarily transferred due to his union activities.

The emergency services of the nation’s capital have historically gone to good lengths attempting to appear neutral to the national politics embedded there. For example, the police and fire departments generally refuse to divulge crowd counts for the city’s many protests and demonstrations. Any estimate given would likely be targeted as politically motivated.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Biden to Firefighters: ‘The Progress We’ve Made Is in Jeopardy’

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- Just three days after Vice President Joe Biden spoke to a group of police officers at their convention, he took his campaign message to firefighters Wednesday, taking aim at Republican governors who, “lay the blame for this recession on you, on public sector workers.”

Biden told the International Association of Fire Fighters, who endorsed his campaign for re-election last month, that Republicans in Congress aren’t making their jobs any easier by cutting budgets and shrinking the number of firefighters on duty.

“I think this new Republican Party looks at you as both the reason for, and the solution to, this God-awful recession we inherited -- we inherited, by the way, because of their policies,” said Biden.

Biden went on to explain that President Obama and his administration understand the struggles facing the middle class. Referring to the presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, Biden told the crowd he’s not sure Romney understands them.

“I think part of the problem is, I don’t think he just gets you … what makes you tick, what makes you decide to go into this profession,” he said.

Clearly comfortable with the crowd, Biden said firefighters have been his best allies his whole career. In a poignant moment, the vice president recalled the 1972 car accident that killed his wife and daughter, critically injuring his two young sons.

“I owe them, and as some of you know, I owe them so much more than my career,” said Biden, of the first responders on the scene. “I owe them the life of my two boys, and I owe them a lot more.”

Biden’s family was Christmas shopping in Hockessin, Del., when his wife’s station wagon was hit by a tractor-trailer as she pulled out from an intersection.

“Who shows up like you did for my family with the jaws of life … and pulls her out?” he said.

Toward the end of his speech, the vice president touched on last week’s movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo.

“Folks, when it comes to firefighters, the American public is reminded every once in a while, nationally, of just what you do,” Biden said, applauding them for arriving quickly to the scene and helping victims receive the medical attention they needed.

Biden did not acknowledge shooting suspect James Holmes in his speeches Monday or Wednesday, instead praising Aurora’s first responders for their bravery under fire. He noted this valor was especially evident as crews arrived at Holmes’ apartment Friday morning to clear the booby traps he put in place to explode if somebody entered.

“You didn’t know if the whole complex would blow; whether people in the area would go,” Biden told firefighters Wednesday. “But you were there, ready to do whatever was needed if the worst happened.”

Even before their endorsement nod, the International Association of Fire Fighters made clear it’s friendly toward the Obama re-election campaign. In March, the association co-produced a Romney attack ad that ran during the Illinois primaries and featured a firefighter saying, “In times like these, we can’t afford a president that’ll take an axe to public safety.”

The vice president highlighted that job-saving sentiment Wednesday.

“I’m absolutely confident that we will lead the world in the 21st century as the world’s leading economy,” Biden told firefighters. “And one of the things we can do right now is keep you on the job, for our own safety’s sake.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio