News: Officials Mum on Fire Issues

When a fire breaks out, Cincinnati firefighters are expected to be quick and thorough with their response. But the same rule apparently doesn't apply when it comes to answering questions raised abo

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When a fire breaks out, Cincinnati firefighters are expected to be quick and thorough with their response.

But the same rule apparently doesn't apply when it comes to answering questions raised about the fire division's training and hiring policies.

Cincinnati City Councilwoman Jeanette Cissell called Jan. 21 for an investigation into fire division training and budget issues. Her request followed the fire division's disciplinary action of a training chief who was transferred for writing a memo to council in which he outlined safety problems in the division.

In her motion, Cissell asked questions that included a request for the administration to explain the division's training policies and whether there was a policy in place to manage additional training of firefighters for the city's Hazardous Materials program.

A response to Cissell issued Feb. 10, which attempts to address the issues she raised, is "unsatisfactory" and "incomplete."

So, she called for additional "specific" questions to be answered in another report. But when that report came back last month, Cissell said the responses were still incomplete.

She is holding that report in committee until the questions can be answered, she said.

"I have this feeling that the city's administrators just don't care about what happens with their policemen and firefighters," she said.

But she did not call back to expound on her concerns despite repeated calls from CityBeat.

Safety Director Kent Ryan and City Manager John Shirey did not return calls to comment for this story.

Cissell's Jan. 21 motion was prompted after District Chief Allen Boyle detailed safety and training problems in a Jan. 7 memo to council members. The memo caused Boyle to be removed as training chief two weeks before he retired.

Cissell told CityBeat in February that city administrators appeared to be falsely portraying police and firefighters as complainers who always wanted more. She also said that instead of serving the public by addressing needs in the fire and police divisions, those same administrators used tactics like Boyle's replacement to silence those who might speak out.

Boyle's memo outlined several problems in firefighter training, including lack of in-service training that would keep veteran firefighters up-to-date on new techniques, procedures and equipment.

In the Feb. 10 report, administrators said, "in-service training program policies are being revamped due to the minimum manning standards established in the last labor-management agreement."

But it did not explain when the "revamped program" would be complete or what steps would be taken in this process.

Another of Boyle's concerns was that the state-required Hazardous Materials class had not been taught since 1990.

The report said that this class was being developed but did not address when that would be complete or how it was being developed. ©

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