Thursday, December 15, 2005

Health Insurance Companies sock away hundreds of millions more than they will ever need...

A link to the SR article this morning.

Remember how we were told much of the city's budget woes were because of rising healthcare costs? Remember how we laid off firefighters because of budget woes? Well, this article should be the beginning of outrage by city governments all around this state. I wonder if it will.

Earlier this year, we pointed out to the city that Local 29 negotiated a very modest increase in our healthcare premiums for the LEOFF Trust plan. We suggested the city do the same thing. The city could have saved taxpayers a bundle. They could have kept layoffs from coming, perhaps without any increase in taxation to the city. Instead, the city decided to just take whatever increase Premera or GHNW had slated. All the folks of a particular political bent who continually talk about the benefits of competition and the wisdom of the "free" market simply said "no thanks," when it came to demanding some competition between insurance companies for our city tax dollars. How strange.

I know the Spokesman-Review is busy investigating the AMR stuff, and rightfully so. But there may be even a bigger story here. The questions that need to be answered are:

1. Why wouldn't an entity with a million? ten million? a hundred million? dollars worth of health insurance business not shop around?
2. How much money did employees and the city pump into GHNW and Premera via premiums? How much did these companies expend in healthcare? What's the difference between the two numbers?
3. If there's this kind of money to be made, without any oversight, in regards to gouging, why doesn't the city underwrite its own policy?
4. Who's in charge of making sure the city gets the best deal in insurance and other expenditures? What happened when we suggested that they shop around for more competitive insurance companies?
5. If this is the deal insurance companies get with the city, what about road construction, general contracting, etc.?

What gives?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Local 29 Election Results

Debit Day Donation (the giveback)
Yes - 137
No - 54

Dental Plan
Yes- 143
No - 45

Emeritus status
Yes- 174
No - 19

Haff - 167
Gonzalez - 131
Wisniewski - 123
Staggs - 109

Thursday, December 08, 2005

More Firefighter Openings in other Washington State fire departments...

Here are some more openings that a brother from another dept was kind enough to forward to Local 29. And again, isn't it strange that other cities and counties in Washington State are hiring so many firefighters, while our city (currently in the midst of a construction boom) is in such "financial trouble" that we still have 17 guys laid off? What gives?

Message follows:

My name is Mike Westland, I am the treasurer and on the e-board for Local 3520 (East Pierce firefighters). We are in the fortunate position of adding 9 positons in the next 16 months or so, and our neighbors whom we work with closely should be hiring 3. The first 5 or 6 will be ff/paramedics. If you have any firefighter paramedics who are still laid off and are looking for a job have them call me. Our chief has said he is willing to take a close look at our laid of brothers and perhaps do a direct recruit/lateral hiring. It is my hope that we can do the same in the future for firefighters also, but for the time being it is just paramedics.

Mike Westland
home phone 253-826-6146
work phone 253-863-1800

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Job Openings from Dan Daniels...

Dan has a friend who is a mine superintendent for Hecla Mines. He is shorthanded for workers at the Lucky Friday Mine in Silver Valley. The fellow's name is Bearhunter. Just starting, the pay is $13 per hour. And there are worker's incentives too. Most guys are making an extra 1000 bucks a month. The job also has full medical benefits. If you are interested, call 208-744-1751 X303. Tell Bearhunter that you know Dan.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Best Firefigher Movies?

Great article about FF movies and why they really don't work, written by a FF from the Bronx. This is from the Nov/Dec Issue of American Heritage Magazine.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Darryl's campaign letter...

This will be in the newsletter, too. But, some of you will be voting before WORKER comes out. Anybody else out there with campaign letters, please e-mail them to me ASAP. Thanks, John

Brothers & Sisters:

What's next?

We thought it was over. We thought we were safe and we thought we had time to rebuild.

You hear all of the time that involvement is the key to change. Maybe it is and maybe it's not. I am not sure at this point, however, I do know that I as an individual need to stay as involved as I possibly can in order to (help) protect and secure my career and life.

I have been on the job for almost 13 years now and have seen budget cuts in most of those years. This is extremely discouraging and I want to see a change. It is critical that change occurs for the success and growth of our departments.

If elected, as part of the Executive Board, I am committed to doing everything in my power to help our Union grow, by:

POLITICAL ACTION: Interviewing, campaigning, and lobbying our current and future city leaders who stand up for firefighter rights, safety and working conditions

BEING PROACTIVE: Keeping an eye on the future of our Union and directing our Union leadership to take positive steps toward betterment of our jobs and the safety of ourselves and the safety of our families

REVENUE INCREASES: Making sure our city leaders get all the information needed to make sound decisions on new revenue ideas that will help build the fire department and secure our jobs for the future

Below are different positions that I have held and/or been involved with for the Union in the past 9 years:

Executive Board Member: 3 Terms
Grievance Committee Member: 1 Term
Safety Committee: First appointment
RBO Committee: 6 Years
Campaigning for political candidates: Ongoing

I am committed to finding solutions to any and all problems that come our way and will see to it that we are treated fairly and with respect. Elected or not I will continue to work for Local 29 to continue to provide you a great job and our citizens a great service.

If you have any questions about where I stand please feel free to call 230-1089.


Darryl J. Wisniewski

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

United Lab's test of deep fat turkey fryers...

Very enjoyable video of the hazards of deep frying a turkey. Might take a few moments to load. So dangerous, yet so gol-durned delicious.

Roger Libby shares what he's thinking about potential givebacks...

Click on the link above to download the word doc.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Detroit Fire Fighters Stay on the Job

John Trautman found this story on the IAFF website. Seems that the Detroit IAFF Local took the city to court to stop them from laying off firefighters and the firefighters won...

November 2, 2005 – The Detroit Fire Fighters Association Local 344 has won a major battle in the fight against the City of Detroit to stop layoffs, demotions and fire company closures. A Michigan Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge has granted a preliminary injunction to stop any further cuts to the fire department. In addition, the ruling requires any proposed cuts to be discussed and settled through binding arbitration.

“This ruling is the right ruling for the citizens of Detroit and the fire fighters sworn to protect them,” says IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. “But the fight is not over, and the IAFF remains firm in its support of its Detroit brothers and sisters.”

Dan McNamara, president of Detroit, MI Local 344, adds, “This ruling is a big step in the right direction. We’re not just saving jobs here. We need to keep the citizens of Detroit safe.”

Earlier this year, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick announced 65 planned layoffs – these following 63 layoffs, 10 battalion officer demotions and five engine company closures in July 2004. This summer, IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger, McNamara and members of Local 344 held a 200-strong rally to protest the layoffs. Soon after, the Detroit fire fighters took legal action based on interest arbitration law, failure to negotiate, battalion chief reductions and staffing and overall safety.

The preliminary injunction will expire as soon as a binding arbitration ruling is made.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Lid Lift Levy Passes...

Thanks to all Spokane citizens who voted for this proposition. We appreciate the support. You've just kept a fire station or two from closing. This is a first step in restoring a level of service in your libraries, fire department and police that you deserve as residents of a thriving city.

And for us firefighters, we need to take a look at the numbers. This proposition didn't quite get 60% of the vote. In other words, if this were the EMS Levy, it would have failed. And that's after a lot of campaigning on our parts.

We have two years to show the citizens that we are on their side - that Local 29 is an organization they can trust. As the city prospers, we face a deficit. Why is that? We've got the numbers that show it's not because of an increase in wages and benefits. Where is the money going? Let's join other city employees, elected officials and citizens in finding out.

There are all sorts of opportunities Local 29 can use as advocates of helping Spokane citizens realize their ownership of the fire department. I think it would create stronger bonds between us and the voters, create a long-term vision for the fire dept, ensure accountability in management and help our image - a lot.

We've got two years. We still have a lot of guys laid off. We still are understaffed. We still are going to lose buildings to fires that we wouldn't have lost a year ago. Some of our EMS outcomes are still going to be unsuccessful because of understaffing.

We've got two years, and we can't waste a second getting started.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Desperately Seeking Donations

Well not really desperately, but Rob Mathews is asking for contributions to extend the airtime for the TV lidlift commercials. If you'd like to help, please make a check out to Local 29. Rob footed the bill to get some more airtime, and Local 29 wants to pay him back. Yep, your union dues and political contributions to the union are for this kind of thing, but if you want to do more, that would be swell. And if you want to see the commercial, just click on the title above.

Hot off the presses - no newsletter!

Due to not receiving any submissions from anybody, myself included, there will be no November issue of WORKER. Look for a boffo, very special November/December issue. And if that fails, the November/December/January edition will surely, as the kids say, "rock."

California Firefighters - no luv for the guv...

Brothers in California practicing strict Body Substance Isolation procedures. Doubt if Ahnold called them girly men.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Your Fire Department

For those of you who have been trying to watch the lid-lift ad on the station computers, we should be getting Quicktime installed soon - thanks to Kristy. Until then, here's a movie from 1949 that will have to do. Maybe we should do something similar...

Spokesman-Review Slideshow of 10/27/05 Warehouse Fire...

Never really mentioned in this morning's SR article was the impact that next year's potential layoffs and station closures will have on fire suppression. I heard that the first-in to the house fire on Alice (which was called in at the same time as some crews were going back into service from the warehouse fire) was a South Hill rig.

This is what happens when a fire department is understaffed. Engine and ladder companies, if available, come from further distances. The success rate for fire suppression and EMS procedures plummets.

So, right now voters have a choice to maintain their level of service at this insufficient level, or to degrade it even further.

We've lost buildings that we wouldn't have lost last year, due to the layoffs. And like I've said before, very seldom does the news cover our daily successes. What would they show? A knockdown confined to one room? We're usually picking up, by the time they get there. And there's no story. But, when we have to go defensive on a fire, it's quite a photo-op. One can only imagine the volume of heart-breaking stories and the hours of spectacular footage we'll see on the news and in the paper next year, if there are more layoffs and station closures.

For those of you in the public reading this, this isn't a threat. It's just common sense.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Lid Lift Levy Commercial

Will start airing tomorrow. Click on link (title) to view. May take a few minutes to load up. Also, there are hundreds of yard signs for us to put up, waiting at the union office. This is our only chance to prevent major layoffs, again. Thanks to all who voluntarilly contribute to the union's political fund. That's where we're getting the money to campaign for the lid lift.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Saying goodbye to Rod...

We'll all miss him. A nice guy and yep, truly a tough son of a... Rod's voice, his presence, his smarts and his strength are really going to missed by all of us who ever had a chance to work with him. Everybody probably already knows the visitation and funeral arrangements. But, if you have a memory of Rod and would like to leave it as a comment, under this post, or e-mail it in, that would be kinda cool.

Thanks, John

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Stagg's post to the Mayor and City Council

Eric invites feedback from you. You can e-mail him or easily post a comment to this story.

Eric's e-mail address:

Mayor west and members of the council,

I feel compelled to convey a breaking news story coming from New Orleans as it directly correlates to our current situation. In their environment, the weather has taken a disastrous toll on the finances of the city. In our quiet corner of the country, its stagnant tax revenue, the destructive effects of I-695/I-747, and skyrocketing costs of health care. Though the sources are different, the outcomes are quite similar. Both of our cities face budget shortfalls resulting in catastrophic staffing losses in the city. In our fair city, we took the drastic measures that leave a poor taste in the mouth of all involved, but life has progressed.
Mayor Ray Nagan of New Orleans looked at what the citizens pay for, what the basic services of a city are, and he made an incredibly deep cut of 40% of his overall city staffing. He did not remove a single member of public safety and basic services. His response was to cut the services which cities have been adding for the past 100 years, the small services which make a city beautiful and charming, familiar and appealing. Mayor Nagan knew that the basic services were a foundation to build his city on as it regained its strength economically.
I think this is a position we in the city of Spokane can take at this time of budgetary crisis. Police, Fire, Water, Streets, Public Works. These are the foundation that we should keep in tact, and should build upon to not only improve our credit rating with S&P, but to draw new business to our town, knowing they will have respectable insurance rates, protection from the ills of society, functioning basic services of water and sewer, and the streets project which was so valiantly passed not long ago.
Below you will find the article the above pertains to. I implore you all take a considerable look at it, regardless of the tax increases pending, regardless of the election process on the table. These are steps we can take now to improve the outlook in the 3, 5 and 10 year steps to returning this city to what it once was and could be. Please dont hesitate to email me back if you have positive or negative feedback, other information, or just a general rant, I would appreciate any open dialogue that can be provided outside of labor-management meetings, which stifle the speech of the many so often.

Mayor of New Orleans Announces Layoffs
October 04, 2005 6:34 PM EDT
NEW ORLEANS - Mayor Ray Nagin said Tuesday the city is laying off as many as 3,000 employees - or about half its workforce - because of the financial damage inflicted on New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina.

Nagin announced with "great sadness" that he had been unable to find the money to keep the workers on the payroll.

He said only non-essential workers will be laid off and that no firefighters or police will be among those let go.

"I wish I didn't have to do this. I wish we had the money, the resources to keep these people," Nagin said. "The problem we have is we have no revenue streams."

Nagin described the layoffs as "pretty permanent" and said that the city will work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to notify municipal employees who fled the city in the aftermath of Katrina, which struck about a month ago.

The mayor said the move will save about $5 million to $8 million of the city's monthly payroll of $20 million. The layoffs will take place over the next two weeks.

"We talked to local banks and other financial institutions and we are just not able to put together the financing necessary to continue to maintain City Hall's staffing at its current levels," the mayor said.

Meanwhile, former President Clinton met with dozens of New Orleans-area evacuees staying at a shelter in Baton Rouge's convention center. And officials ended their door-to-door sweep for corpses in Louisiana with the death toll Tuesday at 972 - far fewer than the 10,000 the mayor had feared at one point. Mississippi's Katrina death toll was 221.

A company hired by the state to remove bodies will remain on call if any others are found.

Clinton, working with former President Bush to raise money for victims, shook hands and chatted with the evacuees, some of whom have been sleeping on cots in the Rivercenter's vast concrete hall for more than a month and complained of lack of showers, clean clothes, privacy and medical care.

"My concern is to listen to you ... and learn the best way to spend this money we've got," Clinton said.

Robert Warner, 51, of New Orleans said he and others have struggled to get private housing set up through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"We've been mired in the bureaucratic red tape since Day One," he said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Eric Staggs Engine 3 D shift

New Orleans Mayor lays off everybody except nonessential Workers. NO FIREFIGHTERS OR POLICE WERE LAID-OFF!

Eric Staggs wrote an e-mail to city leaders regarding Mayor Nagin's actions. When I get his permission, I will post it here. I guess Mayor Nagin didn't have time to do a Priorities of Government Survey, like Spokane did. Oh wait, the POG survey said that Police and Fire services were the services that citizens would never want to see cut. And yet... Strange.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Interesting Transport Story...

Man found driving ambulance with dead deer


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - A man reported missing from a Florida hospital was found in North Carolina dressed like a doctor and driving a stolen ambulance with a dead deer wedged in the back, authorities said.
Leon Holliman Jr., 37, was reported missing from a River Region Human Services facility in Jacksonville last month.

The North Carolina State Highway Patrol found him driving the ambulance with the deer on Sunday.

"I don't know how the man got it up in there," said Sgt. Robert Pearson. "It was a six point buck."

It wasn't known where Holliman got the deer, which had been dead for some time, Pearson said.

Holliman was admitted to a North Carolina hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. Police said they would decide whether to charge Holliman after that evaluation is complete.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Lots of pictures from Gonzo!

To see a larger version of these photos, just click on the picture.

Originally uploaded by BillFoss.

Originally uploaded by BillFoss.

Originally uploaded by BillFoss.

Originally uploaded by BillFoss.

Originally uploaded by BillFoss.

Originally uploaded by BillFoss.

Originally uploaded by BillFoss.

Originally uploaded by BillFoss.

Originally uploaded by BillFoss.

Originally uploaded by BillFoss.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Hurricane FEMA Team Update from Chief Schaeffer

Our first 3 teams (HAUGHTON/WILLITS, TURPEN/GONZALEZ, ARCHER/ BAECHLER) have been removed from working in the Pass Christian, Mississippi community due to the impending storm. They are sheltering in place in Gulf Shores, Alabama and have been requested from their FEMA strike team leader to possibly cover Career Fire Stations in the interim. Similar requests from FEMA have been made to Fire Service teams from the West Side (Burien and Pierce) due to their level of training, adaptability and the true dire crisis situation. After discussing it with Local 29, we agreed to allow this action providing their supervisors were qualified and they were provided with appropriate PPE. As of 1430 today they are just getting situated to receive some of the effects of the storm as it is entering their geographical area.

I attached a photo to this email that FEMA featured on its website of Tim Archer. The caption below the picture reads “September 19, 2005 -- FEMA representative Tim Archer helps a resident at the Pass Christian Disaster Recovery Center (DRC). DRC's are set up to help guide residents through the FEMA recovery process. FEMA/Mark Wolfe.” (

Our second two teams (FRASER/ TIBBLES, SANDERS/ BRUNER) were sent from Orlando, FL to Baton Rouge, LA after attending more in-depth training on the new FEMA computers for speeding assistance to victims. While enroute, FEMA contacted them and had them immediately shelter in Ft. Walton Beach, FL (about 40 miles East of Pensacola) to ride out the storm. The storm’s devastation will determine their next assignment.

As before, I will continue to update everyone as the soon as new information on our members occurs. Remember to check with Francie Archer if you are available to help out the families of our members that are deployed.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Our FEMA Folks are on the move

Gonzo called tonight to say that they are moving away from the coast to a place near Mobile, Alabama (a city named Gulf Shores- with a name like that, it can't be that far from the coast/shore). He said as soon as Rita gets done, they will be moving back.

Bob Ladd found this piece of advice in Fire Engineering and it's probably worth following...

The following is an excerpt from a July 2005 Fire Engineering “round table” article regarding what the fire service will look like in 20 years. This is one paragraph from a response by Leigh T Hollins, a BC from Cedar Hammock Fire Rescue, Manatee County FL.

“Most urban areas (small and larger cities) will continue to struggle with staffing and services. Historically, proper staffing and the services provided by the fire department in our cities have been directly tied to the politics of each particular city. What you see is what you get. It is what it is. Until a major change occurs at city hall, the only time you see a drastic change, good or bad, is when the politicians change. I see no reason to expect that the next 20 years will be any different from the past 50. If urban (and metro) firefighters want increases in staffing or services, they had better look for candidates who support their views, or 2025 will look the same as 2005.”

While there are other issues, specifically budgetary, that are affecting our staffing, we need to get more friendly faces on the City Council and State Legislature. Please help support the candidates Local 29 endorses.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Mazatlan Anyone?

Hi Bill,

My name is Chris Wetherell I'm sec/tre for local 1789 Spokane Airport. I've got a condo for rent in Mazatlan for 2006, I'm not going to use it this year and I thought I would see if any of the Local members in the area would be interested. I'll make them a hell of a deal for a week stay at a gold crown resort Called Pueblo Bonito at Emerald Bay Resort it's in New Mazatlan.

Anyone interested they can give me a call at 509-435-2600. or email me at

Saturday, September 17, 2005

This in - from Australia

Report: Man Burns Carpet With Static Shock
Friday, September 16, 2005

(09-16) 17:04 PDT SYDNEY, Australia (AP) --

Fire officials evacuated a building in southern Australia after a man triggered a massive shock of static electricity that caused burn marks in the carpet, a media report said Friday.

Fire officials in southern Victoria state said the man, Frank Clewer, had built up at least 30,000 volts of static electricity in his jacket simply by walking around the western city of Warrnambool, according to a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

He received his first shock when he walked into a local business Thursday afternoon. "It sounded almost like a firecracker or something like that," Clewer told the ABC. "Within say around five minutes the carpet started to erupt."

Burns about 0.79 inches in diameter were left on the carpet where he had been standing, the report said. ABC did not mention if Clewer was injured.

The Country Fire Authority evacuated the building, fearing the incident might trigger electrical problems in the building, but let Clewer go, the report said.

But when he got in his car, Clewer's problems continued.

"I actually scorched a piece of plastic I had on the floor of the car," he said.

Fire officials took Clewer's jacket and said it continued to give off voltage, the report said.

Calls to the Country Fire Authority rang unanswered Friday evening.

Cryptic recording from Gonzo/Brian and posting from Bob Ladd

Received a broken cell phone call today. Couldn't decipher if it was Gonzo or Brian the Turpened-one. I heard "Blackhawk helicopter" and maniacal laughter and that was it. And Bob Ladd forwarded this from a District 9 Brother:


We are currently in Baton Rouge, LA stage. While staging we are being utilized by Area Command to assist with Planning, Logistics and
Information functions at the Joint Field office of FEMA and loaning our overhead out daily to various other Incident Base Camps who are short handed. I was in New Orleans today. The FDNY responded to New Orleans with their IMT and 300 firefighters to provide relief to NOFD personnel. In addition several other fire agencies did as well. The numbers have swollen to about 1,200 out of area fire fighters and apparatus from all over the Eastern Part of the US.
We met with the FDNY/NOFD ICP today and offered them assistance as well. While down town today it appears that the French Quarter is in pretty good shape. The high rise hotels sustained some pretty heavy damage. The effort is monumental. The sights are surreal, there is an aircraft carrier sitting along the River walk with a cruise ship for emergency worker housing parked behind it and directly behind that is a Command ship for the Coast Guard. The streets are full of Military, Police and heavy equipment vehicles.
The water levels are coming down. They are beginning to get some power back on in the area and fires could become a bigger problem. Phone coverage is terrible limited road access. There are many structures that have totally and partially collapsed. The Human Remains are being processed at a facility in St. Gabriel where they have assembled DMORT teams. New Orleans and the entire Gulf region have suffered devastation beyond description but, in spite of that progress is being made. From my view, this will take a considerable effort over several months before things begin to normalize*.

Take care,

Bob Anderson

Fire Chief
Spokane County Fire District 9
3801 E. Farwell Rd.
Mead, WA 99021-9605

Cryptic recording from Gonzo/Brian and posting from Bob Ladd

Received a broken cell phone call today. Couldn't decipher if it was Gonzo or Brian the Turpened-one. I heard "Blackhawk helicopter" and maniacal laughter and that was it. And Bob Ladd forwarded this from a District 9 Brother:


We are currently in Baton Rouge, LA stage. While staging we are being utilized by Area Command to assist with Planning, Logistics and
Information functions at the Joint Field office of FEMA and loaning our overhead out daily to various other Incident Base Camps who are short handed. I was in New Orleans today. The FDNY responded to New Orleans with their IMT and 300 firefighters to provide relief to NOFD personnel. In addition several other fire agencies did as well. The numbers have swollen to about 1,200 out of area fire fighters and apparatus from all over the Eastern Part of the US.
We met with the FDNY/NOFD ICP today and offered them assistance as well. While down town today it appears that the French Quarter is in pretty good shape. The high rise hotels sustained some pretty heavy damage. The effort is monumental. The sights are surreal, there is an aircraft carrier sitting along the River walk with a cruise ship for emergency worker housing parked behind it and directly behind that is a Command ship for the Coast Guard. The streets are full of Military, Police and heavy equipment vehicles.
The water levels are coming down. They are beginning to get some power back on in the area and fires could become a bigger problem. Phone coverage is terrible limited road access. There are many structures that have totally and partially collapsed. The Human Remains are being processed at a facility in St. Gabriel where they have assembled DMORT teams. New Orleans and the entire Gulf region have suffered devastation beyond description but, in spite of that progress is being made. From my view, this will take a considerable effort over several months before things begin to normalize*.

Take care,

Bob Anderson

Fire Chief
Spokane County Fire District 9
3801 E. Farwell Rd.
Mead, WA 99021-9605

Sign Waving Request

Mary Verner is a candidate we are supporting for CIty Council. She is requesting some help on Tuesday (the primary election day) to do some sign waving. Mary is a very thoughtful, intelligent member of the Spokane City Council. Bill Jackman has come to know Mary and says she is a very honest person. Mary Verner has always been supportive of our issues. More importantly she has gone out of her way to learn about us. She is part of a growing number of council people who are seeing Local 29 as more than just a bunch of city workers who want fair compensation. She sees us as advocates for the citizens of Spokane, their tax dollars and for public safety. I sense that we have proven our trustworthiness with her and that when our voice conflicts with others, she knows we speak the truth. And, according to Jackman, she is someone who values the truth.

If you would like to wave signs or help out with Mary's campaign, you can e-mail me or you can e-mail Mary at

Thanks, John

Friday, September 16, 2005

Katrina FEMA Team update from Chief Schaeffer

Spokane Fire Department’s FEMA Teams and the Katrina Effort Update:

Our first 3 teams (HAUGHTON/WILLITS, TURPEN/GONZALEZ, ARCHER/ BAECHLER) are still working in Past Christian, MS. At the time of my phone call, they were boarding a helicopter to survey an area of interest. So far they have been one of the busiest teams deployed from Washington State. They have helped build a temporary City Hall, performed damage assessments, restored critical infrastructure and provide first aid (unofficially) and nourishment to the refugees. Their interaction with the victims has provided them with many stories of the devastating loss suffered; total loss of all personal belongings, home, vehicle, identification, money and businesses, etc. The many suffering are pleased to receive the assistance our six firefighters are providing and express their gratitude. The teams are working 16 hour days at times to serve the mass need.

Our second two teams (FRASER/ TIBBLES, SANDERS/ BRUNER) were sent from Atlanta, GA to Orlando, FL (6+ hour drive) yesterday to attend two days of fun-filled FEMA computer training (on laptops) to use in the field during damage assessments. The laptops will enable our personnel to identify the refugees and speed their access to FEMA funds and information. They are expected to be deployed to a damaged area tomorrow night or Sunday.

I will continue to update everyone as the soon as new information on our members occurs. Remember to check with Francie Archer if you are available to help out the families of our members that are deployed.

Brian Schaeffer

City of Spokane Fire Department
Assistant Fire Chief

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Enabling Posting

I'm enabling posting on the blog. That means that if you want to leave a comment to our folks down in MS, you can. We'll see how that goes! They might have Internet access at Stennis (it's a friggin' space center!).

Location of SFD TEAM #1
Originally uploaded by BillFoss.
They're at Stennis Space Center which is real close to Lakeshore on the Mississippi Coast. That's where the hurricane directly hit.

Information on where the Team will be working

Casino on the coast

Originally uploaded by BillFoss.
Gonzo painted a picture of worsening devastation as they traveled towards the coast. A few broken trees in cities they initially passed through soon transitioned into arboreal destruction whilst moving south. These trees completely destroyed the homes around them. One person Gonzo talked to said that three out every four homes was destroyed. And this was before the team arrived where the worst of the damage was. Gonzo says they will be staging out of Stennis NASA Base by Gulfport.

Update from Gonzo and from the Assistant Chief

Gonzo left a message yesterday saying they had arrived in Mississippi. Today they start the real work. He isn't sure what the work will be. There is a chance that they will be relieving local firefighters on the trucks, giving them a chance to spend some time at home with their families. Now, that would be pretty cool.

There is also a good update from our Assistant Chief on your city e-mail account.

There are now 10 city firefighters deployed in the gulf area. I have not listed their names, because I'm not so sure I would want everyone in the world knowing that I was going to be away from my home for a month (sorry Gonzo and Brian).

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Word from Brian Turpen

Brian called the station today to tell us that they will be deploying tomorrow at 6 a.m. for Jackson Misssissippi. They were told that there will be no power and no utilities where they are deploying. They are bringing a week's worth of water with them. It's about an 8 hour drive from Atlanta to Jackson. They have been told they will be part of a "recovery effort," with no further explanation. There is no cel phone service, but Brian is going to be making attempts to keep us posted.


Thanks to Don Waller for this!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Bill says that they are still in Atlanta, but finished with their FEMA classes. Our 6 guys have been paired up with two guys from Maple Valley to form a team of 8. There are a lot of firefighters from the NW waiting to be assigned. They've been given shots, credit cards and FEMA IDs. They'll get their T-Shirts when they are deployed. They have to sit in a waiting room for a 2 hour shift to see if their team is called up. When they are called up, they will be going to a relocation center for displaced Gulf vicitms. It could be anywhere - New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Portland - Oregon. You name it.

Bill says they are pretty comfortable and are glad to be through the FEMA classes!

Bill says he will update us as things develop.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

New Orleans Scanner

If you want to listen to radio traffic in New Orleans, click above...

Monday, September 05, 2005

SFD Firefighters off to the Gulf Coast...

Six members of the SFD are headed to Atlanta (their first stop) to help with the Katrina Disaster. We'll keep you posted at to what they're up to.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Thanks for House Save...

Hi there!

Just wanted to pass along a "THANK YOU" from local rental property owner Mr. Danny Robles. He lives in California and spends time here occasionally to handle his properties. I have worked with him for several years in the west and north central neighborhoods on some of his more "challenging" properties.

He said, "Tell everyone in the Fire Department THANK YOU for saving my house on Madelia and Desmet! If you all wouldn't have shown up when you did, the house would be lost." He went on to rave about the need for our services and spoke to the news about not cutting the fire department any more. He went on along the same lines for quite some time, but you get the gist. So thank you for all you do! People really appreciate it and it's nice to hear once in a while.

Take care!

*Lisa Jones, Fire Marshal
Spokane Fire Department

SFD Response to Katrina


Our Nation is faced with the most catastrophic natural disaster in modern times and FEMA has called upon the Nation's fire service to aid the affected citizens and communities. The United States Fire Administration has contacted the nation's career fire departments in order to mobilize our available and willing members within Federal guidelines. Local 29 and Administration have agreed to support this activity with the understanding that personnel participating shall arrange their individual shift trades.

The current need is for the deployment of 1,000 two-person teams. A department may offer more than one two-person team, however since these people will be deployed as a team they must know one another prior to deployment. This initial request is for full-time career firefighters that are employed by municipal government and sponsored by that municipality because of the way that salaries and expenses will be reimbursed. They must be: Physically capable of performing manual tasks under severe conditions; Experienced in working with minimum supervision; Capable of living in austere, severe living conditions with minimal or no creature comforts for a period of at least 30 days; Free of medical condition(s) that would prevent them from working in these conditions for this period of time; and, Able to work within the ICS, provide basic first aid, and follow orders.

The work is non-operational community relations focused activities that consist of direct outreach to persons in the affected areas. They will assist victims in understanding how they will go about the process of getting Federal assistance, distributing information, providing minimal first-aid, and taking reports. The work will be outside, exposed to the elements and will require significant walking.

FEMA will notify the Chief of Department, and selected applicants will be notified by their Chief of Department that they have been selected. NO ONE SHOULD DEPLOY WITHOUT NOTIFICATION OF ACCEPTANCE FROM FEMA. Selected applicants will report to a central location in the Atlanta, Georgia area for training and further deployment. Travel to the Atlanta, Georgia area will be per government authorization in a manner specified upon acceptance. Acceptance information will also cover lodging and other related expense reimbursement information.


The application process is the exact same process as applying for a National Fire Academy resident course. Applicants will complete FEMA Form 75-5A (short form) general application which can be found at:

In box 12a. "Course Code and Title" the applicant should enter "COMMUNITY RELATIONS DEPLOYMENT" and "L282". In Box #21, please fill in the names of BOTH team members. No other course information is required on the application, but everything else must be completed. This is the form that will be used for reimbursement to the department or jurisdiction. Additional salary / personnel information will be required upon acceptance. The application must be fully completed and signed by the Chief of the Department or the Chief's designee. The application should be faxed to 301-447-1234. A scanned completed/signed application can be emailed to:

The department must submit two applications (one team). Single individual applications will not be accepted.

We will notify the first 1000 teams of their acceptance and process any additional applications in the event that they are needed in the future.

Submission of an application DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE TEAM HAS BEEN ACCEPTED. Acceptance is a second, separate process. The Chief of the Department or designee will be notified of the teams' acceptance, and provided deployment information.


· If you are accepted, you will be given specific further directions from the Chief of Department.

· Each team should bring a basic medical jump kit (bandages, BP set) to provide minimal first aid. You will be provided government ID in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

· You will be deployed with another member of your organization as a team and will be working with that person for the duration.

Following are items which you must bring with you:

· sleeping bag

· personal hygiene necessities

· medications

· insect repellent

· sun screen

· rain gear

· Flashlight and batteries.

We cannot guarantee that you will have a vehicle or a means to transport or store gear. FEMA will provide you with FEMA shirts. Remember that you may have to carry with you everything that you bring for the entire time. Finally, please ensure that members of your family can function without your presence for at least 30 days.

Please contact me if you have any question or are interested in applying.

Brian Schaeffer

City of Spokane Fire Department
Assistant Fire Chief
44 West Riverside Ave
Spokane WA, 99201
Office: 509-625-7002

IAFF Disaster Relief Fund for Katrina victims...

Sorry, it's taken so long to post anything about Katrina, but it's been pretty hard to come up with anything adequate to say. And I'm certain this won't even come close.

After criticizing the priorities of our current administration and the way they spend our money, all that's left is the reality of the biggest catastrophe our country has ever experienced. The breakdown of a prosperous city into an immense cauldron of floating corpses, murder, rape and destruction was something I never expected to see in our own country. As families in attics, hospitals and churches lose hope, realizing that there will be no rescue, I feel angry and frustrated. You probably feel the same way too, because of our shared profession.

In Spokane, it's been a figurative "open season" on rescuers - due to layoffs and lack of funding from the city. We are severely hampered in doing our job. We all have stories of buildings we would have saved, people that would still be alive, if we had not lost 20% of our staffing.

But in New Orleans, it's a literal "open season" on rescuers. Even the remnants of the National Guard, those not deployed in Iraq, find themselves under fire.

I'm sure we're all going to give something to help, whether it's through the IAFF link above, or through some other avenue. But, when you read the news and hear the stories, giving money almost seems like a meaningless empty gesture. But, sometimes, that's all you've got.

If anyone has news about actually going down there to help in rescue efforts, let me know and I will post it.

Sorry about the morose tone of this letter. And thank you very much for reading it.


Thursday, August 18, 2005

Testing for District 9 in September or October

Jack Cates - President of Local 2916 says that it looks like District 9 will be hiring soon. The test will probably be in September or October. They will probably be hiring around 4. Thank you Jack for the news.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

City Council is looking for your suggestions...

They've heard from Greg, Mike and Mark. They've told the Council ways that the city could save money (or make money) in the Fire Department. Councilperson Mary Verner, responding to the story about American Airlines, is asking for your individual suggestions. Please take a moment at home or work, to respond to her request. I've heard a lot of good ideas out there. Email to let the entire Council hear your ideas and, hopefully, get us back on track.

Thanks, John

A letter that John sent to city officials. Click to see the article:

Bankrupt American Airlines' CEO started paying attention to what its workers (union members) had to say about doing their jobs more efficiently, instead of just listening to department heads. The result? Profitability.

From the article:

"Two years ago, American was dodging bankruptcy, and labor strife hit a peak after unions voted to accept steep pay cuts, only to find out that management had given itself big bonuses and protected their pension plans from creditors in the case of bankruptcy. Unions were livid and temporarily suspended approval of the givebacks.

Call that the nadir. The board reacted almost immediately, ousting CEO Donald Carty and eventually bringing in Gerard Arpey, who put into place the current employee-based turnaround plan."

The article:


John Griffith

Local 29 E-Board

Saturday, July 30, 2005

DES. Is it worth it? From Bill Jackman...

The Spokane County Department of Emergency Management (also called Department of Emergency Services DES) is the Spokane County version of FEMA. It also includes Dave Byrnes (the former SFD EMS officer) who is the Region 9 director of Homeland Security for the ten counties in Eastern Washington. The State of Washington is divided into nine regions, based upon population.

The only three significant events that DES was involved in from my memory were:
1.) Mt. St Helens 5/80
2.) Fire Storm 10/91
3.) Ice Storm 11/96

Mt St. Helens was an inconvenience, Ice Storm, was managed by Avista and the folks with chainsaws and as for Fire Storm – it never even came close to the city. If the City spent an average of $75,000 a year for DES for the past 25 years, that only averages out to $625,000 per emergency. Did Spokane get it’s $625,000 in value from County DES from any of these events? Add to this a $500,000 emergency situation room in the new SFD training center.

I didn’t realize the City of Spokane funds about half of DES. In reality, I think there are many of us on the SFD that could generate a pretty good report as to why DES could be significantly reduced in size. It’s not like we live in Florida where disasters are common. The real crisis here is how to best spend the limited financial resources of the city.

DES also helps distribute FEMA grant money for training and equipment. The City of Spokane Fire Department has received 2 – 3 grants for equipment, each grant was based on a 70/30 split (FEMA/local). This was after our twenty-plus million dollar, 1999 Fire Bond for new equipment and facilities.

DES is great for retired people working a second career. They have ties to local agencies, which in turn support their efforts but also don’t question their actual worth or value. The 2004 city share of $158,727.21 was no bargain for Spokane. The only true emergency management service in Spokane - is the Spokane Fire Department.

Bill Jackman

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Coeur d'Alene Golf Tournament

The Coeur d’Alene firefighters are hosting a second annual charity golf tournament. Last year we had a great time and would love to see some support from Spokane Fire people. The tournament is a scramble and starts at 1300 on August 19th at Twin Lakes Village in North Idaho. The money raised will go to the American Cancer Society.

I have attached an entry form. Please contact me if you require any further information.

John G. Morrison
Fire Captain
Coeur d'Alene Fire Department
(208) 769-2340

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Pacific Northwest Firefighters Golf Tournament

The Spokane Firefighter's Golf Club will be hosting the 53rd annual Pacific Northwest Firefighter's Golf Tournament this year. The SFD is one of five host cities with the other four being Portland, Seattle, Everett, and Tacoma. The Tournament will be held at the Deer Park Golf Club on August 3rd and 4th. There will be a hospitality room on the 2nd and 3rd at the Ramada Inn at North Pointe. The Tournament is open to all active and retired firefighters of all golfing abilities. We are hoping for a large turn out from the members of our department. So far Portland has 20 members traveling over for the Tournament. The entry form and more information are attached.

Any questions call me at Station 8-C or home
Thanks, Jamie

From Chief Williams regarding the phones...


I talked to Garv this morning after the Cabinet meeting about your email. He assures me that they continue to dedicate City IMS resources to try to figure out what is going on that is causing this problem. They have involved Cisco (the phone manufacturer) as well as the providers of the phone lines. They are having daily conference calls among all of the players to try to solve this issue.

As a reminder, the red phone in the station is available if folks need to make calls rather than using their cell phones. These phone should be working since they are outside of the network (no one has reported that they have had problems with the red phones).

This situation is frustrating for everyone but I can assure you that it is a priority for our IMS folks who are in regular contact with the City IMS personnel. Garv has promised that this is the top priority for his department and it will remain that way until it is resolved.


Bobby Williams

Monday, June 27, 2005

Looks like I spoke too soon on phones (in more ways than one).

From Local 29 President Greg Borg

Mayor West,

I returned to work today, Sunday 26th to find that our phone were out on the 23rd and the computers would not let us log on today. One of the people on my shift was able to get the secondary computer to work so I could read and answer my e-mails. While I appreciate Garv's answer it does not answer my questions. Can we get a telephone line in the station that works until this is fixed? I know Qwest can have a phone installed by Wednesday, on a phone line that works all the time. Can our computers be taken off line until you fix them so we can have access?

I am having people use my personal e-mail so I can get city notices. I am using my cell phone to do city business. I thought the system might be fixed when we returned. It has been a week.

Respectfully, Greg

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

More on the phones...

I was forwarded this from Councilman Joe Shogan. It is a response to our questions about the phones from Garv Brakel, head of the city's IMS Division. A public thanks to the mayor, to our city councilmembers and especially to Mr. Brakel for answering Local 29's questions regarding the history behind the new phone system. It sounds like they've discovered the problems and the phones should now be working - good news for all!

The memo:

I was first notified of the problems with telephones at the fire stations on Monday, the 6th of June 2005, and focused the appropriate resources of my department for a quick resolution. Clearly, there has been a problem out there for several months. One of the issues has been that the problem was intermittent, and as a consequence has not been reported and escalated to management in affected departments and MIS. During this time, however, the 911 system was not impacted, nor, because of redundant systems, was there ever a situation when a fire station was without emergency communications capability. We isolated the main problem this week, however, we will continue to monitor performance. The fundamental problem was a programming error in some network components at remote sites.

Let me address the specific questions posed my Mr. Griffith:

1. The total cost of the new telephone system was $1,597,591.00. With tax, the total increased to $1,726,995.87. Included in this number is hardware, software, and installation services. It is true that each telephone instrument costs around $500, however, these telephones are actually computers on our citywide network that have many features not available on the old system. An example of this is the directory capability or unified messaging which makes voicemail available through the email system. Over time, we will be fielding additional enterprise applications to our customers via the telephone system. This number compares favorably with the $300 to $400 we were paying for rebuilt telephones for the old system. After inflation, the new telephones were actually cheaper than the old ones in 1989.
2. While the old system was not broken, it was 15 years old. To keep it operating following the year 2000 we bought parts from organizations that had already replaced their systems. We have been totally in the used parts arena for five years. At any time, a hardware failure could have caused an outage that would have lasted until we found the appropriate part. We have been on borrowed time for years.
3. The City began its search for a new system in 2000 with initial planning based upon our difficult experience in making the old system Y2K compliant. In 2001, we engaged the services of a telecommunications consultant to assist MIS staff in identifying each department’s requirements for a new system. We extended an invitation to all interested vendors to install demonstration systems for our evaluation. Five vendors accepted our offer and actually installed their systems in City Hall for use by selected users. City staff visited three other vendor sites for demonstrations. These requirements and experiences were reduced to a 120 page RFP that was released in early September 2003. On the due date of October 6, 2003, the City received 12 proposals for evaluation. The evaluation team consisted of City Council President Rob Higgins, Administrative Services Director Dorothy Webster, Mike Charter from the fire department, Dave Ingle from the police department, George Bailey from the solid waste department, and Ron Nicodemus the director of the utility billing department. I sat as a non-voting member of this committee. The final selection was based upon functionality and lowest cost over a 5 year period. The decision was approved by both City Council and Mayor West before the contract was signed.
4. The Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology is a mature product at this point. In fact, I delayed the whole process to the point that the technology was not only mature, but also at the point where prices dropped as they do with all new electronics. The exact same system selected is in use by several other cities and counties in Washington, Microsoft, Boeing, and over 60% of Fortune 500 companies. Mr. Griffith is probably confusing our system with some commercial offerings of VoIP where the Internet is the means of transport instead of normal public switched telephone system circuits. There are quality of service issues with these services. Ironically, the programming errors that we found cause our system to have these same problems at remote sites.
5. Once the installation has been completed, acceptance testing shall be performed upon the system following its cutover. This test and verification period, if successful, shall consist of thirty consecutive days of normal traffic load with no major component failures and no major alarms, defined as: 1) CPU failure; 2) main power supply failure; 3) a failure of the remote electronics at one of the City’s sites; 4) 25% of incoming/outgoing trunks inoperable; 5) 10% or more stations inoperable; or 6) 10% of the voice mail system inoperable. The City of Spokane shall accept the installed system after a signed letter of official system certification with successful acceptance test results, accompanied by two sets of as-built documentation provided by the Vendor, is received, reviewed with the Vendor, and accepted in writing by the City of Spokane. Because installation is not complete for this system, final acceptance testing has not begun.
6. It would be very difficult and prohibitively expensive to either go back to the old system or select a different technology at this point. One of the decision points for this system is that it rides the same network that we use for computers. With the old system, we had to maintain a separate physical network just for telephones. The savings over time will be significant. Telephonic customer service will improve this week. Funding for this system was via the City Capital Improvement Program and MIS equipment replacement reserves which are both one time funding resources for capital programs only and are not viable sources for continuing operations.

Tacoma Fire is hiring. Application deadline - June 30th

Click on title to go to webpage with downloadable application.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The mayor responds...

I received a copy of your email to the City Council and will be providing you with a more detailed reply shortly to your inquiry. 
Always feel free to contact the City Council members about things but also please also feel free to contact me or Deputy Mayor Jack Lynch at any time if you have questions, suggestions or simply comments, especially when issues come up in the area of administration.  By Charter the City Council is responsible for policy and the Mayor is responsible for administration. 
While the City Council approved the contract for the new phone system, it was on the advice of my office that they did so.  The City Council should be concerned if something isn’t working properly or if they feel they are not provided adequate information so we will be answering your questions to them also.
In the last 17 months I’ve strived to open the administration up to the Council, employees and the public and believe we have made significant progress there.  For example, I’m told the previous administration forbade administrative staff from communicating with the Council without the knowledge and/or permission of the Mayor or City Administrator.  I immediately changed that policy when I took office because of my belief that the Council should be fully informed and should be able to ask staff any question without restriction.  It made no sense to me to deny the policy making body of the City access to important information.  If a Governor had done that to me when I was a Legislator I would have been rightfully outraged.  Even in this time when the Council has asked me to resign the administration is fully maintaining the Council’s right to unrestricted access to staff and information so they can do their jobs.
Now regarding your questions; they are good questions that deserve answers.  We will get those answers to you as soon as possible.  Rest assured that the new phone system was reviewed for several years before a decision was made to buy it.  The money was programmed into the budget as a one time expense to purchase the system and had no relation to layoffs anywhere in City government.  One time monies should never be used for ongoing expenses like salaries or benefits.  Primarily they should be used to improve systems and/or lower ongoing costs.
I’ll see that you soon get the answers to all your questions and again please feel free to contact me at anytime regarding anything. 
James E. West
City of Spokane
W. 808 Spokane Falls Blvd
Spokane, WA  99201-3335
(509) 625-6250

Regarding phones - Brad Stark's response from Garv Brakel - the City's IMS Director

I have just heard recently (on Monday) of these problems. I’ll get back to you with a resolution. I’m guessing that the problem is related to simultaneous use of the computer. The phones and computers share the same network but settings in the switches and routers give priority to the voice application. If you can imagine all of the little packets of information floating around in our network but some of them are holding up red flags, and the red flags are waved through ahead of everybody else. Dropping words in a conversation tells me that the red flags are not being recognized.

To answer the other questions I’m talking somewhat off the top of my head as I am on vacation and just checking in at night from home. The new phone system cost about 1.8 million. Each phone is essentially a computer with additional capabilities that we will be adding over time and does cost around $500. This is compared to the old phones which cost around $300 in 1989 when they were purchased. The old system was functioning well, however, it was 15 years old and no new parts were available. We have been a heartbeat away from having nothing for several years. Maintenance on the old system was very expensive and going up. We had to get a new system. There was a huge effort to identify requirements, build an RFP, and select a new system. In addition to MIS, fire, police, utility billing, and other departments were members of the selection team. MIS did not hold a voting position on the team, so the system was actually selected by the user departments. Mayor West approved the process and final selection. This technology is not in its infancy. These people are confusing Internet based phone systems with our Voice over IP system. Our system runs over our own network, not the Internet. One of the many advantages to this is that our phones and computers are on the same physical network so we are maintaining only one network instead of the two we had before. The cost savings over the long run are considerable. This is the phone system that most organizations are buying now. The system is guaranteed to work correctly and the vendor will assist us in fixing this problem. We really cannot economically go back at this point. The money for this program is not related to a loss of firefighter positions for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that a good portion of it is from the utilities. The systems was paid for with CIP and MIS equipment replacement funds which are capital programs outside of the general fund problems associated with the loss of firefighters

Fire stations are somewhat different than other locations in that we do not have city owned highspeed network connections to all of them yet. We have a joint plan with the fire department to run fiber optic cable to all stations. As each station comes on to that network, overall service will improve. I’ll get you the schedule. In the meantime, we are leasing data grade circuits and if we are having problems, it could well be related to the quality of these circuits. We will address the performance issue with the vendor.

As a service provider, I would prefer that our customers talk to us about problems and use the normal chain of command to report problems. If that is not working for them, I respect their right to call on the council for help. Monday of this week was the first time I was aware that the stations were complaining. Give me a chance and we will get this fixed.


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Response from Councilman Bob Apple...

John Griffith, Local #29 Executive Board:

Thank you, for your comments on the new, phone system. I completely agree and have been becoming more vocal, with my displeasure since it went into effect last September, simply it is not compatible with almost everything existing and requires a wealth of patches and persistent problems. Your City approved approximately $3 million early last year and none of the promises made, have been forthcoming further, the system provider gave notice shortly after installation, that they would no longer provide maintenance and that we would need a sub-provider.

Last week we approved nearly $ .5 million, of transferred around money we do not have because, somebody apparently convinced someone they could "patch" our way out of this financial disaster. Unfortunately, I've witnessed with such city contracts, a complete lack of any performance standards and unwillingness to hold vendors accountable and in my opinion, this system is a fraud that has and will cost city employee jobs. There is a great deal more wrong with this system and at this time, I do not believe those management of our city who are responsible and if nothing else, they should be held accountable.

At least three members of your city council, asked for a review of this system by a specific well known company and were lead to believe it was in the works, only to be told months later it was not needed and an old study by an unknown vendor, should suffice our concerns. Certainly, we do not have the money to go back and our City should have never endeavored into the apparent attempt, at forming our own distinct system and instead of proven one's. I'am so mad, about this system and the lies told because, yours is only one of a growing stack of serious complains.

Bob Apple, Spokane City Council

Letter to City Council regarding city phone system...

Members of Local 29 are on the frontline of Spokane's new era of "customer service." But, for quite some time, we've had an unnecessary impediment placed in front of us.

The Internet-based phone system went into effect, coincidentally, as we announced the loss of over 50 positions from the fire department.

This system is a degradation from our previous conventional phone system. Sound quality is poor. And often the phone cuts in and out. It is very frustrating. More importantly, it is frustrating to our citizens (or in the current lingo - "customers"). When they call the stations to schedule CPR, report an emergency or ask a home safety question, frequently a firefighter has to apologize that he is unable to understand what the caller is saying, as the phone cuts in and out. Some of the more resourceful members might direct citizens to call them on their personal cell phones, before terminating the conversation on the city phone.

I know our IMS folks have been working hard to solve the many shortcomings of this new system. And I'm sure they will eventually fix the problems.

But members of Local 29 are wondering about the whys and the wherefores of this phone system. Recently there have been news articles claiming that an Internet-based phone system is not yet a viable alternative to a conventional phone system. To clarify these issues with our members, we respectfully request answers to these questions:

1. How much did the new system cost? We've heard every phone cost $500 - with an overall cost of two-million dollars.
2. From our end, the old conventional system was never broken. Is this true?
3. What was the process the city employed which resulted in buying into this program? Who were the "players" in this process?
4. Was there ever concern that this technology was still in its infancy, and that financially and operationally it would be prudent to delay implementation?
5. What, if any, performance standards were guaranteed by the vendor?
6. Can the citizens' money be refunded? Can we go back to a conventional phone system, improve telephonic customer service and hire back some of our firefighters?

Thank you very much,

John Griffith
Local 29 Executive Board Member
Spokane Citizen

Thursday, May 26, 2005

San Juan Hiring....

This link takes you to Orcas Fire. On their website is a link to download the application. Jenny also has an application at the office.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Interesting fire suppression article from June 2005 WIRED Magazine

If you get a chance to pick up this magazine, there's usually something worth reading. And this month is no exception.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


The other night at the union meeting, many of you wanted some information regarding the initiative the WSCFF endorsed. Besides the link above, here are a couple of websites - one pro, one anti.

PRO I-336

ANTI I-336, PRO I-330

Monday, April 04, 2005

From Brother Chuck Serquina...

The Spokesman-Review had an ad for lateral entry firefighter on Sunday. You must have 2 years experience, and be WA EMT. Maybe our unions can talk and get us an exception on the 2 year thing? Applications are available at Lacey Fire District Three, 1231 Franz St. SE, Lacey, WA 98503 or 360-491-2410
Chuck Serquina

Greg is/has called Lacey Fire to ask about waiving the 2 year requirement. I'll let you know as soon as I hear. John

P.S. Interesting how many Washington cities are hiring firefighters right now. And in Spokane, we've seen record real estate development and many new businesses open this year. I've lived here most of my life, and frankly, I've never seen such a vibrant Spokane economy.

We've cut our fire department to where we were a century ago. Yet, we are still faced with an overall city budget shortfall. Maybe there's a lag factor to all the new property taxes and other revenue associated with our boom here in Spokane. We'll (the e-board) try to find out what's the story. And when we do, we'll tell you. John

Monday, March 28, 2005

More on the Cheney FF Golf Tourney

First, thank you Brother Ladd for forwarding the Cheney Firefighters Golf Tournament registration form on Local 29's Blog! Second, I would like to encourage all you Local 29 golfers to join us at this years tournament. The tournament will be held at the Indian Canyon Golf Course on Saturday May 21st and all the proceeds will go to MDA. I hope to see you all out there!

Donovan Cathey
Cheney Firefighters Local 1919"

Friday, March 25, 2005

Golf Tournament Entry Form

This in from Brother Bob (Ladd). Click on the link to download the Cheney Fire Department Golf Tornament entry form ( WORD Doc).

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Good news from Brother Jhar Fuller!

"Hey I wanted to pass on some more good news; Matt Binder got hired at Port Ludlow Fire Department. He starts April 1st, just like the rest of us guys that got picked up by Sno 1."

Jhar also said that there is a good chance that Jason Myers could be hired by the Nampa Fire Department.

Congrats to all. Spokane has lost some very great folks because of these layoffs. It's good to see that other places know quality when they see it.

Brother DJ Hill has found some new FF job openings...

Island County Fire Dist 1, 360-629-3008, PM/FF 3 positions
San Juan County Fire Dist 2, 360-376-2331 PM/FF 1 position

Sunday, March 13, 2005

What I have learned and what I will do...

In posting these comments that Jeff and I have been exchanging, I see that I have gotten a little long-winded, so I will try to summarize briefly some things I have learned in our conversation.

1. I have learned our brother professional firefighters in District 8 believe that many of their colleagues in the city, look down upon their capabilities.

A. I was unaware of these feelings of bias, other than when there is a working fire in District 8, many of us believe they might not, intrinsically, have enough staffing for adequate fire suppression.

i) Having now learned of already existing hurt feelings, I can see how my comments were seen, by some firefighters in District 8, as "another slam" against District 8 firefighters. Again, I apologize.

2. Even though is for Local 29 members, it is a website that many others view.

A. I already knew this, but I realize that I made a mistake by not taking into consideration the feelings of folks not affiliated with Local 29 who might be reading the website.

i) Upon reflection, I can also see how members of the media who are reading the blog (and they do), might feel slighted by comments made by me and Jeff during our discussion. I apologize to any members of the media who may have been offended.

I would like to move beyond apologies and state what I will do:

1. I will write and/or post entries that take into account the feelings of others, not just Local 29 members.

2. I invite media members to contact me on ways that we can help them get the word out on what we do as Spokane Firefighters. Would it help if we put together a weekly fire blotter, featuring how many runs we went on, broken down into categories, with a couple of stories highlighted and expanded?

3. I will rewrite the offending blog entry and post it as a new entry soon.

4. I won't post entries immediately after being up all night at work!

Thanks for reading, John

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Jeff Responds...


I did not realize at the time that you had a pen name although it would not have changed my response to your posting. 

I have read your explanation and writings about the spokesman-Review. It may be true but it casts a negative light on my local and my department not to mention virtually all locals in the county in the eyes of your members. What they see through those eyes now when anyone mentions Fire District 8 is "oh yeah those guys on the south hill that don't have a clue about being a firefighter", which we both know is not true. All of our people go through the same recruits schools and the same training. You went through academy with Steve Bailey who works for us, I know this because I taught parts of your recruit school. I don't think most of your members know that we do this work together. It has been a great tool to help bond our two departments as well as District 9, 10 and the Valley.

I took your advise and focused on the phrase "our job" and the fact that it is all "our job" but I'm still having difficulty qualifying it when I read the whole passage.

"Heard the call come in for the fire on Ashton - District 8. An engine arrived and then called for Spokane to help and then the Valley. Amazing video and print coverage. But the recent multiple fires in the city were not worth stories in the Spokesman-Review because we do our job and put fires out before they become great videos".

I do understand that you are making a point about the Spokesman-Review. It's easy to see but in order to get there you made my job look really bad. Now when my guys, and I'm sure about 95% of your guys and girls read this what they are going to pick up on is "District 8 sucks". (This may confuse a few as directly above this posting you wrote a note letting your laid off members know that District 8 is is hiring and promoting going to work for us).

I believe that part of the problem is the misconception that everyone outside of the City and Valley are all volunteers. Let me give you a little example of what I'm talking about. Three days ago E81 took an MVA on the city/county boarder in which PL11 responded after our unit. When 11's arrived one of the scene on E81 had the pt extricated and boarded and both crews loaded the pt in the AMB. When it was all said and done one of the city guys (who lives in my fire district) made the comment "you mean there are paid guys in District 8". The District can be faulted for the lack of pub/ed and marketing of our fire district to its citizens but I really would like to see the work spread throughout the city that you aren't the only game in town.

OK back to by point on the volunteers. In your initial posting you did not mention the word volunteer although in your explanation to me you talk to that subject many times. You almost make it sound as if I where defending them in my e-mail to you which I was not. John trust me I understand as well as the professional members from Fire District 9, 10, Cheney, and the Airport that volunteer firefighters do not do this as "their job". In fact we know this way better then you could even begin to understand, as we have to deal with it on a daily basis.  It would be correct for you to assume as you do in your 3rd paragraph that I, as the president of my local, would agree that a fully staffed professional fire departments is preferable over volley's. In a perfect world that would be great. Unfortunately  you are the minority and always will be as a fully paid fire department. That is the reality in today's world.

Thanks for the atta boy on the efforts on the Ashton fire. To answer your question "Have there been any other fires that you've been on where the outcome would have been better, had you responded immediately with multiple apparatus staffed fully by firefighters whose only "job" that day was to be a professional firefighter? Come on John what do you think my answer is goingto be to that. The problem in my District isn't that we don't send multiple apparatus (which everyone does) staffed by fully paid firefighters, heck on the Ashton fire 90% of the people their where paid firefighters, the problem is the fact that my next due station is 10 minutes away. That is why sometimes we need to call for help from our brothers and sisters to the North. And by the way we are more then willing to return the favor when you are short handed. We don't mind covering 11's and 14's when the city is short due to "the big one". Yeah sometimes its a pain in the ass but its all in the name of helping out our union brother & sisters.  

I know that you guys are frustrated with the S-R. We have all been there either with bad press on our dysfunctional board or the fact we can't pass an M&O although, none of the other locals have had to endure the layoff nightmare that Local 29 has had to deal with and the lack of coverage there. I watch and read the local news everyday and know the coverage on your plight is horrible. Sitting at the forum this year listening to Ellie tell the story about the Cowles families distain for the Spokane Fire Department back in the early days makes me think that things haven't changed much. I have told Greg, Mike, and Mark that if there is anything we can do we will be there as I'm sure the other 5 County Locals would be.

Let me end by saying I'm sure that you did offend a few of the professionals from around the area as they probably took your comments the wrong way just as my guys did. For the past 15 years that I have been in the fire service there has always been animosity between the City Fire Department and the rest of the County Professionals which makes it easy for this type of thing to manifest itself into a huge problem. I say its time to beak down the walls that unfortunately still exists between the City and the rest of us. It is imperative that WE START TO COMMUNICATE BETTER AT OUR LEVEL. THE LINE LEVEL. It is ridicules that in today's age we are still having these stupid turf wars/they don't know what the hell they are doing out there BS. I am proud to say that I have many close friend that work for the Spokane Fire Department and we are trying to move together united as one group to open these communication lines. Hopefully this discussion helps us meet this goal. On behalf of your brothers in District 8 I accept your apology and we look forward to working with you on making our relationship better.

Thank You,


P.S. Please do put all of our correspondence including this one in the order they were written on the site. I think it will help open some eyes. Thanks again John.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Local 29 E-Board Member, John Griffith's response to previous post by Local 3711 President Jeff Wainwright...


Let me deconstruct the sentence in question: "An engine arrived and then called for Spokane to help and then the Valley. Amazing video and print coverage. But the recent multiple fires in the city were not worth stories in the Spokesman-Review because we do our job and put fires out before they become great videos."

Focusing upon the phrase "our job" - I used it in the very literal sense. Like you and some in your district, city firefighters are professional firefighters, that is we are paid because it is "our job" to be firefighters. The big difference is that in the city, we are all paid (professional) firefighters - it is all of our "job." And as dedicated, proficient and experienced as your volunteers may be, firefighting is not their "job." I say this not to denigrate their volunteerism in the community, but to point out that your volunteers make their living in other ways than being firefighters for District 8.

And I would assume that as, Local 3711 President, you would agree that a fire department that is fully staffed by professionals is preferable to one staffed by a combination of professional and volunteer firefighters, or all volunteers.

I applaud your efforts at the house fire, and it sure sounds like all that was done could be done. I'm certainly not in a position to Monday-morning-quarterback you or your crew's efforts. But let me ask you this: Have there been any other fires that you've been on where the outcome would have been better, had you responded immediately with multiple apparatus staffed fully by firefighters whose only "job" that day was to be a professional firefighter?

When I wrote this blog entry, I had just come home after a 48 hour shift with three working structure fires. They were all (to varying degrees) saves. No story in the paper. In the wake of our layoffs, I found it frustrating that our citizens are shielded (via the Spokesman) from knowing what their tax dollars provide, in terms of fire protection.

Yesterday, we were first-in on a garage that was fully involved, in a tightly packed neighborhood with countless exposures. Again, today - no story. I know that, if we were a lone engine company (professional or not) responding to this fire, it could have been a lot worse. And the S-R would have had some great copy.

In closing, let me apologize if I offended any of your members. That was not my intent. In a nutshell, what I was trying to say was: 1. Fire departments that are fully staffed by professionals will make more stops than those staffed with volunteers, 2. The Spokesman-Review is not interested in stops, but in the fires that aren't stopped.

As a professional firefighter, IAFF Local President and reader of the Spokesman-Review, would you disagree? If you would like to meet to talk more about this issue, I would be more than happy to oblige.


John Griffith (AKA Bill Foss)
Local 29 E-Board Member

District 8, Local 3711 President Jeff Wainright objects to posting of 3-1-05...

Good Morning Brother,

This morning when I got to work the shift getting off of my engine company (E81) let me know you had posted a note on the L-29 site that they took as a "Bash" on District 8 and in particular my engine company. The quote that made them a little hot under the collar was posted on 3-1-05 and goes something to the effect...

"An engine arrived and then called for Spokane to help and then the Valley. Amazing video and print coverage. But the recent multiple fires in the city were not worth stories in the Spokesman-Review because we do our job and put fires out before they become great videos"

Now I should probably take this as a "Bash" to as I was the Lieutenant on that engine company that called for the help right off the bat that afternoon. The part you are missing from this story to your members is that the fire started in the basement and from the time of the first 9-1-1 call until I was taking a line off the rig to the front door was less then six minutes, oh and did I mention that my size-up consisted of "we have heavy fire out of the basement, the main floor is almost fully involved and we have fire from the windows on the second floor A-side". Try to keep in mind that I gave this size-up about 5 to 5 1/2 minutes after the first 9-1-1 call was received. How many times have you been on a fire 2 in the afternoon on a sunday, with 3 people at home and working smoke detectors that are monitored by ADT in the house and you arrive to find this scenario. Does something sound a little fishy to you. My point is this house was gone before we ever got the call and my 3 person engine company as well as every other responding company did everything they could to make the out come as good as possible.

I read your posting and I understand that you are probably trying to make a point about that rag of a news paper and all that slow news day for the local TV news stuff that goes on but I would contend that your brothers to the south actually "do their job" everyday and do it the same way that you do. We also have house fires that are "good stops" you never hear about because they are stopped in the first room and the news never even shows up. In a day in which we (all of the professional IAFF Fire Departments and Districts) are trying to work more closely together and foster new camaraderie between our neighboring brothers and sisters my members find it a bit disheartening when they read postings and other printed material that use them as the county whipping boys.

My hope is that you where just "bashing" the news media and did not mean to down grade my guys dedication to the fire service and to the image we try to portray of ALL professional firefighters across the county. If your intent was to "Bash" my guys then we probably need to sit down and have a discussion. Hope to hear from you soon.


Jeffrey P wainwright, President
International Association of Fire Fighters 3711
State Representative for Washington
International Association of Fire Fighters AFO-CIO-CLC

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Newsletter deadline

If you have something you want in the newsletter, please get it to me on, or before, March 25th. Thanks, John

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Jerry Sander is Back!

Yes, that is Jerrry you've been seeing. He was at the top of the laid-off list. With Jim Eggers' retirement, Jerry is back to work. Congrats Jim on your retirement and best wishes. And welcome back, Jerry.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

District 8 is hiring...

Bob Ladd called me tonight to pass on the word that District 8 is hiring. No word yet on laterals. Click on the link above to visit District 8's website. Applications available on-line. Position closes March 18th.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Looking for stories on the good stops? Don't Read the Spokesman-Review. Click to watch REAL video of KXLY story about the 5 fires of the past 3 days.

Heard the call come in for the fire on Ashton - District 8. An engine arrived and then called for Spokane to help and then the Valley. Amazing video and print coverage. But the recent multiple fires in the city were not worth stories in the Spokesman-Review because we do our job and put fires out before they become great videos. All the folks who write editorials in the Spokesman-Review, questioning the worth of a fully-staffed professional fire department, never know what we have done. Unfortunately, now that our staffing is stretched so thin, it's only a matter of time before the Spokesman takes some gruesome pictures and writes some tragic copy. It would be nice to read some pro-active news stories before we get to that point - but I'm not going to hold my breath - unless I really have to.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Dramatic Water Rescue of Dog at Cannon Hill Park!

I was too late on the scene to get any photos, but E-4's crew expertly pulled the dog off the ice and water that is Cannon Hill Pond, this afternoon. Apparently without need of jet boat, ice walker or certification... Bystanders had a canoe.

Family members were reunited with their beloved pet while Spokane's media recorded the event. Water Two was training on the river at the time, so they were unavailable. Oh well, next time!

Huzzah to E-4 and a tip of the Swift Water Rescue Speedo to you...

Friday, February 11, 2005


Greg just called (4:40 pm). The long awaited retro checks are in. He's taking them down to Stn 1 right now. There they will be sorted and then delivered to the rest of the stations. So, you can swing by your station this evening to pick it up, if you want. If you're on Relief, your check will be waiting for you at Stn1.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Valley will be hiring...

I don't know it they are accepting lateral entries, or not. Any info out there? Here's what I received today:

Hi Bill,

FYI, Spokane Valley Fire is testing later this year. Application packets are going out now.

Click on the 'employment opportunity' link. Job description & downloadable application packet are there as well.

Paul Hammersley

Monday, February 07, 2005

Maple Valley hiring

Received a very informative e-mail this morning from Maple Valley's Local 3062 President - Philip Knowles. It sounds like they have a pretty good department and are working hard to make it even better. And they're hiring. He has also offered to put up any of our firefighters who want to stay overnight. He's adds: "Our guys are up by 6:30 AM (7 AM tie-in).  If any of our union brothers need a cup of coffee or the use of the facilities, they are welcome.  Just have your guys knock on the slider door and let our guys know they are from Spokane." A great letter. If you would like to read the whole thing, I'll forward it to you. Thanks very much Phil for your fraternal solidarity.

Job info follows:

 FIREFIGHTER-Entry Level Maple Valley Fire & Life Safety will hand out applications starting at 8:00 a.m. Feb. 7th, 2005 and will accept a maximum of 250 completed applications until closing at 5:00 p.m. on Feb. 16th, 2005. Applications shall be picked up & returned to 23775 SE 264th St, Maple Valley. A $25. application fee payable in cash, money order or cashier's check is due when the application is picked up. Minimum requirements: 18 years of age, a U.S. citizen or a valid working permit, a high school diploma or GED, valid WSDL, a non-smoker and a current EMT certification

 Web links of interest:

Thursday, February 03, 2005

This just in...

the city of centralia is testing for fire chief and paramedics, closes on the 18th of this month.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Spokane County Professional Firefighters Forum

You should have got your invitation for this. It's this Saturday at the RIdpath. E-mail me for details.



Sumner is looking for entry level/lateral paramedics and firefighters. Closing date is February 11th.

Applications available between the hours of 9 - Noon at the Sumner Fire Dept. 800 Harrison Street, Sumner.

Plus, don't forget Boise is hiring. Also, be sure to check in with the city to see if Spokane has any openings in other departments. You stay on the laid off list (I believe indefinitely - correct me if I'm wrong) untll you're hired back as a firefighter.

Thanks, John

Monday, January 24, 2005

Three firefighters die amid separate blazes - from this morning's Spokesman-Review...

New York - A fierce fire in a Bronx apartment building trapped six firefighters Sunday and forced them to jump from a fourth-floor window, killing two of them and severely injuring four others. Later, a third firefighter was killed at a Brooklyn blaze.

The Bronx fire started in a third-floor apartment, and the six firefighters were searching for people on the fourth floor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

The dead were identified as Lt. Curtis Meyran, 46, a 15-year veteran of the fire department, and firefighter John Bellew, 37.

The Brooklyn firefighter, Richard Sclafani, 37, died at a hospital after being injured at a fire in the basement of a building, the mayor said.

Friday, January 21, 2005

A couple of new job openings from Kevin H.

The first:

Hey Kevin,

I have a friend that is FireFighter/Paramedic in Walla Walla. The Chief down there is planning on hiring a few entry level people this year, so my friend suggested taking some of our laid off guys and the Chief told him to find out if there is any interest from us. His name is Brian MacIntyre and his e-mail  is


Kelly Hoyt

The second:

Attention all you FF/PM if you are interested I have a contact name and number for port ludlow.  They wish to do a lateral entry very soon and have extended a hand to us.  They are looking for someone with fire experience though.  So here it is .....

editor's note: This was a posting for openings in Jefferson County. I was asked to remove it by their local president, as the positions have been filled, and now (almost 2 years later) people are still calling in reference to this posting. Thanks to Local 3811 for the original posting and your patience.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Openings in Boise...

We are currently taking applications and supplementals for Paramedics & Firefighter/Paramedics. We project to hire between 6 & 9 on May 1, 2005. I am attaching the job announcement and the website info. If you could pass this on to any of your firefighters that meet the requirements of Paramedic.


Tom Lovell
President, Local #672
Boise, ID

P.S. I was born and raised in Spokane and moved to Boise 14 years ago. It is the best place to live in my opinion. We are continuing to grow even though most departments are laying off. Call if you have any questions: 208-283-2672

Here is the website that applicants need to visit for the most current information:  This one you must go to the fire department section.


Here is the direct page link: