Dayton Firefighters Union makes case against itself

“Kill firefighters” is a very strong statement- however this is an example of grandstanding getting in the way of logic.

The union head seems to think if the “majors” get demoted to “captains” somehow the troops will die. Yet, should a major die in the line of duty, the captain should be able to take his place- so I guess what the Union president is really saying is that our Captains should only be Lieutenants- or maybe not even commissioned officers- by any normal hierarchical leadership standards.

From the article in the Dayton Daily News:

…a plan to demote 10 district chiefs moves forward as a cost savings measure, according to the president of Dayton Firefighters Union Local 136.

Mike Fasnacht, president of the 320-member union, said it’s a safety issue.

“The city of Dayton will kill firefighters with this plan. These guys have 25 to 30 years experience. They are our fire commanders,” Fasnacht said.

Dayton’s district chiefs are some of the most experienced firefighters in the department. They are the individuals directing operations during emergency incidents.

Under Fire Chief Herb Redden’s budget proposal, the district chiefs would be demoted to captains with a pay cut of 16 percent. The rank of captain would have varying responsibilities including overseeing a firehouse and its equipment.

The district chiefs would be combined in a pool of 26 existing captains, and Fasnacht fears some with less experience will be thrust into supervisory roles.

“Some captains could get taken right off a ladder truck. They may not have the experience of a field officer like a district chief,” Fasnacht said.

Chief Redden said the plan is to train those individuals for command over the next six months.

via Union chief: Proposed Dayton budget cuts ‘will kill firefighters’.

The flattening of management layers is a proven, modern, management system. It’s something we would advise of the American car companies with no problem, but when it comes to the old-boy system of firefighting, all change is bad. The very same union once howled when I suggested a physical fitness standard for the department- to force 300lb men to shape up or ship out.

Times are tough, and Chief Redden’s suggestion is one of the most reasonable ways to cut costs, yet not cut personnel. While the rest of us are tightening our belts, the union better come up with budget cuts it likes, or accept this one.

Yelling it will “kill firefighters” isn’t a solution.

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19 Responses

  1. Jeff December 14, 2008 / 7:59 pm
    I normally don’t comment much on blogs. Most of the time the blogger is so over the top that the absence of comments tends to say more than than the latter. Your implications are childlike. They lack merit and are simple generalities. If it walks like a duck, it must be a duck. When politicians start running fire scenes and police incidents it is a bad idea. Trust me on this one. The comment that “firefighters will die” is not grandstanding, it is a comment based on experience. Ask the members of South Charleston who had a command structure much like the one you are advocating. Eight dead firefighters later they were right, cutting your command staff is a bad idea. If your implying that we are unable or unwilling to work with city hall then you would be wrong there as well. Sadly, the city isn’t interested in best practices, it is interested in the cheapest route. Sometimes you make perfect sense, usually that is when you stick to what you know, when it comes to command structures and how police and fire departments work it is as if you put on a ninja mask and chant the commission mantra…cut, cut, cut.
  2. David Esrati December 14, 2008 / 8:54 pm

    @Jeff
    In Special Forces we had 12 men, we could split into 2- 6 man teams, 3 – 4 man teams or 6 2-man teams as need be.
    We didn’t need 3 layers of leadership.
    Maybe it’s just a lack of skill on your part- or inability to adjust in the field. If you mean to tell me that cutting a district chiefs pay and grade is going to make a difference in his ability to run the show- I’ll say you’re going to die no matter what.
    Either you have the skills to lead and command- or you don’t- and it doesn’t necessarily have to match your rank, it’s how you train to respond and react.
    I’d rather have a sharp, well trained, NCO leading me, than some officer that thinks his pay grade makes him a leader.
    Go back to your firehouse and cry some more. Then learn how to operate under a different command structure, because I still don’t hear any better suggestions on how to cut expenses.

  3. Brad December 15, 2008 / 11:43 am
    David,

    I don’t know sh*t about advertisting…

    You don’t know sh*t about the fire service…

    I won’t give you advice on managing your workers, or switching to a cheaper version of video editing software, or what the color schemes should be our your current client’s logos…

    And you shouldn’t give the Dayton Fire Department advice on command and control of emergency scenes, compliance with federally-mandated Incident Management System standards, or strategy and tactics at a house fire at 2 in the morning with a lady trapped in an upstairs bedroom…

    As much as some change in the make-up of our City Commision might be a good thing, it scares me to death to think it might come from some know-it-all guy who would try to over-step his realm of knowledge and run each department from the Commision chambers…

    Stick to what you know…

    It isn’t the fire service…

  4. David Esrati December 15, 2008 / 11:49 am

    OK Brad-
    Quick decision: less firefighters, or same number of firefighters- with different pay grades?
    What makes us safer?
    Until you come up with some alternative ideas- shut up.
    You mean to say the DFD can’t operate without 5 levels of management? It’s 2008- not the stone age. You better come up with better answers than telling me how to manage a fire includes how much you’re paid.
    In Special Forces- we knew how to do the job- with, or without, our CO and XO. I’m wondering if the DFD knows what it’s doing?
    And don’t come back with satisfaction surveys- there are no do-overs or double-blind emergencies.
    Are you still against fitness standards too?

  5. Jeff S. December 15, 2008 / 3:30 pm
    Mr. Esrati,
    First I would like to say “Thank You” to you and those who have served or are serving our great country.

    That being said, let’s take a look at what you have touched on so far:

    “We didn’t need 3 layers of leadership” and “You mean to say the DFD can’t operate without 5 levels of management?”

    Can you tell me how many levels of leadership there are in the Dayton Fire Department? Your comments indicate that you don’t know for sure: Which is it, three, five or none of the above? How many levels are there in the Special Forces? The U.S. Army has 28 ranks ranging from Private to General of War.

    “Either you have the skills to lead and command- or you don’t- and it doesn’t necessarily have to match your rank, it’s how you train to respond and react.”

    I agree with you on this. You either have the skills to lead or not. The question is how do you find those members who can and want to lead? They are found through promotions and testing. Just like the military there are those individuals that are happy on the frontline and there are those who aspire to go higher. I personally want someone who has the skills and desire to do the job, not just the training.

    “In Special Forces- we knew how to do the job- with, or without, our CO and XO. I’m wondering if the DFD knows what its doing?”

    I am sure you knew how to do the job without your CO and XO. Just like the members of the Dayton Fire Department know there job. My question is how did you know what your job was if no one told you? Did you have leaders? What was the plan and how were you going to reach your goals. I am sure you just didn’t get sent to some hostile area of the world and you were left to figure out why you and your team were there? There is always someone in charge. Even in your 2 man-team…

    “In Special Forces we had 12 men; we could split into 2- 6 man teams, 3 – 4 man teams or 6 2-man teams as need be. We didn’t need 3 layers of leadership.”

    Ok, let’s break this down. As I stated above, your team had to have some direction from higher up, layer one. A team of twelve men have one leader, layer two. You divide that team into smaller groups. There is still a team leader (someone in charge) that directs the entire group of twelve then each six man (four or two) group has a leader, layer three. Just looking at an operation involving 12 soldiers, broken down into individual groups, I see three layers of leadership. “We didn’t need 3 layers of leadership” sure looks like you had three layers to me. If you look further up the chain, I am sure there are many more leaders that are involved.

    Without rank and structure there is no leadership or direction, both in the military and the fire service. Without either one someone will inevitably get hurt.

    “If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”
    GENERAL GEORGE S. PATTON, JR.

  6. David Esrati December 15, 2008 / 3:41 pm

    @Jeff
    SF at the team level is generally a flat organization- we’re all equal- although each has their area of expertise.
    DFD has at least 5 layers- from Firefighter, Lt. Capt. Dist Chief, Chief. Ain’t that a bit much.
    Again- the Chief has not suggested to eliminate positions – just a pay grade. He’s put Captains and District Chiefs into one basket.
    It’s not that the Dist. Chiefs knowledge just went poof. There will still be people with the experience, and if you don’t know who to turn to- in a department of under 350, you have a bigger problem than we know about.
    The US military could probably work with less than 28 levels too- but the organization is massive comparatively.
    If you really need a general on the scene to run every fire- when there are probably less than 30 people there- I’d say you aren’t ready to work without training wheels.
    Time to learn to change with the times- and modernize your thinking.

  7. Mike December 15, 2008 / 7:56 pm
    David,

    There is a reason you didn’t do well in your bid for Congress. You are not well versed in items you choose to speak about. You obviously know very little about the fire service and it shows in your blog. Your comparison of a District Chief running a fire scene to a General is not even close. The General, Director & Chief, of the fire department is rarely at a fire scene. This is just one of the many inaccuracies in your blog. Please at least do a little research on a topic before you start blogging about topics you obviously know very little about.

  8. David Esrati December 15, 2008 / 8:48 pm

    @mike-
    The house is burning down. Come up with a better solution to cut costs- or quit telling everyone how much you know.
    The Chief is your commander in chief- I think he knows a bit about fighting fires- and his order, is for the Majors to be paid like captains. Live with it.
    Quit crying.

  9. PizzaBill December 16, 2008 / 8:27 am
    I’ve heard that the city hired an outside firm to analyze the fire department and in their results, they determined that the District Chief level wasn’t necessary– in fact, they couldn’t tell what that position even did!… except collect about $100,000 each in overtime pay.

    If this is so, it sounds like the city is taking very responsible action to keep the taxpayers from getting fleeced unnecessarily.

    Anyone know what they do, and what their pay is?

  10. David Esrati December 16, 2008 / 9:37 am

    @PizzaBill-
    you probably asked the question in the right place- since most of the posters above are probably district chiefs :-)
    Reality: The IAFF doesn’t like the chief, and hasn’t liked a chief in years. The IAFF is an example of a union that likes to fight with management. They cried the same “firefighters will die” tune when the Quints replaced the old set-up of separate ladders and engines.
    We obviously haven’t killed enough of them yet with our bad management decisions to take them seriously this time.
    Pay grade does not make a command decision right if you are the chief- but if you are a district chief- you know it all.

  11. Greg Hunter December 16, 2008 / 11:05 am
    Sometimes I do not get the WASPS, while the bankers and bullshiters get bailed out the people that do the work the IAW and the firefighters catch shit. Sure the firefighters are reaping what they have sowed, by bitching about Dayton and then wonder why there jobs are under scrutiny as all the residents sprawl out to the suburbs. The firefighters, police and all Dayton residents should recognize that they are in a losing battle with the suburbs and “no soup for you” is the refrain.

    The City and life is nothing more than a pyramid scheme, no tax base, no services. All these bullshit public works projects (I75, Austin Road, Care Source) generate temporary jobs, but the bond holders must be paid so Service Jobs get the axe first. Get It. Get rid of labor and pay the pensioners and the bond holders, while your family gets the bread line. You voted for McClin or Turner and you get screwed! Try to vote for someone who tells the truth and we might all be better off as we all go down together. Trust me I would get rid of all of the double dippers first and if that was not enough I would wipe out all of the pensioners as they are collectively guilty, because they voted and advocated for the mess America, Ohio and Dayton region is in. Good Luck, because as the future gets bleaker, we can either work together or blame on the weakest scape goat.

    Welcome Fire Fighters to being the Scape goat, but remember, you asked for it!

  12. Brad December 16, 2008 / 5:43 pm
    This is the last time I’ll come back to check this thread…

    David, you are a complete idiot…

    You wouldn’t know a Quint if it bit you in the ass…

    Not a single poster on here yet has been a Dayton DC…

    Just a few guys that aren’t afraid to stand up and fight for the safety of ourselves, our families, and citizens like you… all of which reside within the City of Dayton…

    Don’t worry, we won’t hold a grudge when you need our help…

    We won’t take it into account that most people, including yourself, are oblivious to the concepts of why and how we do what we do…

    There’s always gonna be some clueless blow-hard with a blog to tell people that what they’re doing is wrong…

    so blow away…

  13. David Esrati December 16, 2008 / 9:53 pm

    @brad
    I do know a quint when I see one. And, it’s not that hard to figure out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quint_(fire_apparatus)
    The blowhard who is telling you what to do is your boss- who has, unlike you- been in command.
    Frankly, the insubordination factor in both the DPD and the DFD is part of the reason that we fail to have integrated, progressive, forward thinkers in the organization. The smart people get fed up with your good-ole-boy, know it all attitude.
    Quints didn’t kill you, and neither will the elimination of the pay grade for District Chiefs.
    The union needs to pick better fights, with better ammunition. ‘Cause frankly, on this one, the union is looking like the gang who couldn’t shoot straight.
    I’ll stick with the Chief’s idea- unless you’d rather cut some more firefighters from the department to save money- that, would make things dangerous. But, I’m sure you’ll be the first one to volunteer to quit- when that time comes, so the DC’s can keep their extra pay to “save your life.”

  14. Jack December 17, 2008 / 3:05 pm
    Comment on the previous post:

    “I’ll stick with the Chief’s Idea-Unless you’d rather cut some more firefighters from the department to save money-that, would make things dangerous.”

    David I’m guessing you are familiar with Civil Service Rules and Regulations? As stated in Rules and Regs, if they demote 10 district cheifs, they have to demote 10 captains. If they demote 10 captains they have to then demote 10 LTs. If 10 LTs go, they have to lay off 10 Firefighters. So by your above quote it looks like you would then be against demoting 10 district chiefs.

  15. Jeff December 17, 2008 / 3:42 pm
    That may not be entirely correct. Civil Service Rules and Regulations do not specify that “bumping” will occur as a result of demotions, only as a result of layoffs and/or if the position is abolished. If the city treats this as a demotion and not an entire abolishment then the city could in fact add the District Chiefs to the Captain rank and not bump anyone. Esrati isn’t an idiot, he is a quasi politician. It isn’t that he doesn’t think that the fire department has proven the current method of management is effective it is just he wants it cheaper. In a way he is right, shrinking revenues, eroding tax base, we should try to find better and less expensive ways of doing business. With that said, providing fire and emergency medical service has a price. The citizens demand this service and they ultimately have the final voice, what are they willing to pay for? This talk about District Chiefs being demoted is a safety issue. Yes, someone can/will do the job they did but that doesn’t make it as safe. What is experience worth? The city wants these cuts to save $150,000, that is BUDGET DUST. I will say this David, you keep replying to “come up with a better way, stop crying…” we have come up with better ways, the city again isn’t interested in better, only cheaper. As for the crying part, who is crying? If the members feel it is unsafe, then it probably is, that is not crying, that is stating a fact. Lastly, where does the cutting stop? In the last few years the Dayton Fire Department has lost more than 7 pieces of apparatus, closed several firehouses and eliminated dozens of positions, all the while the number of structure fires and EMS runs have increased every year. Training has stopped, there is no time and no money for it and the services that the department provides have grown to include developing and managing the regions domestic response to terrorism. Can the department “survive” with these proposed cuts? yes, will this move add even more danger to an already dangerous occupation, yes. Your apathetic views that you share here may create more blog responses but they will come back to bite you during election time. So go cry about that.
  16. David Esrati December 17, 2008 / 4:03 pm

    @Jeff and Jack-
    The real answer is regional government- and eliminate a lot of the positions like Mayor, City Commissioner, Clerks of Commission, heads of all the departments that are duplicated- etc. etc.
    How’s that for an answer?
    There are probably at least 30 fire chiefs in Montgomery County- we only need one.

  17. Gene December 17, 2008 / 5:57 pm
    Regional government will never come about. The city of Dayton is not strong enough to convince other smaller Mont. Co. cities to go along with this…… that being said, we need real ideas, ideas that actually may happen.

    Dayton needs a POWERFUL mayor, among other positions, to united this region. Ahhhhhhhhh, I don’t see anyone stepping up to do this job or the others jobs that need true professionals.

  18. Gene December 17, 2008 / 6:11 pm
    BTW, I agree with David on this …….. and have supported the idea of reg gov. I just don’t think it will ever happen.

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