Tag Archives: firefighters

Committee-approved bill repeals local sprinkler ordinances

Despite an emotional plea from Knoxville’s fire marshal, a state Senate committee has approved legislation that will repeal all local government ordinances that now require sprinkler systems in townhomes built to house three or more residences.

“We know that fire sprinklers save lives. Yet here we are talking about relaxing the code on a proven method of saving lives,” Knoxville Fire Department Assistant Chief Danny Beeler told the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday.

Beeler recounted his personal experience — “I’ve seen too many bodies,” he said at one point, voice cracking — as a firefighter and as an investigator of more than 60 fire deaths over a 27-year career.

The most recent, he said, was a young man who died on Valentine’s Day this year, just short of his 18th birthday, who would probably have been saved if his apartment “not so much unlike townhomes we’re talking about today” had sprinklers.

“Please don’t take an action that will put (people)… in greater danger,” he said.

The sponsor of SB474, Republican Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville, said allowing cities and counties to impose a requirement for sprinklers increases the cost of building multi-resident homes and puts Tennessee home builders at a “competitive disadvantage” with contractors in border states that do not, including Alabama, North Carolina, Mississippi, Kentucky and Georgia.

Bell said he has been a volunteer fireman for 20 years and appreciates the passion and professional commitment Beeler expressed, but that the bill — especially after an amendment that was adopted — represents a “reasonable step.”

“You can be a firefighter, albeit a volunteer firefighter, and have a different view on this,” Bell said.
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Memphis ‘blue flu’ wanes; ‘red rash’ waxes

Citing a fire station where only six of ten firefighters were on duty Saturday, the Commercial Appeal reports that Memphis officials are concerned that “red rash” is growing even though “blue flu” is down from its height, when more than 500 police officers called in sick.

Last week, firefighters and police began calling in sick to protest recent budget cuts that raised insurance costs for city employees. Saturday, 80 firefighters claimed to be too sick to work, up from 68 on Friday. At the same time, the number of police officers calling in sick declined to 348.

If you take that station’s Saturday complement of 10 firefighters, that’s eight entire stations that could be filled by those claiming sickness. The Commercial Appeal isn’t naming the station since the employees had not been authorized to speak to the media.

That uptick had city and fire department leaders concerned Saturday.

“I’m disappointed, I’ll be honest with you. I’m not yet alarmed, but I’m more concerned than I was three days ago,” Memphis Fire Department Director Alvin Benson said, adding that he sent people to make certain those who called in sick were actually at home, but found no one breaking the rules.

Added Mayor AC Wharton: “I hate that for the sake of the safety of our citizens. Obviously, it’s a bit different with fire than it is with police. We do not like for any of our facilities to not be maintained. The citizens spoke loudly and clearly on that when we proposed to close a station (recently). It is not acceptable.”

To handle so many officers calling in sick Saturday, Benson authorized overtime at an estimated cost of as much as $50,000.

“The same number of people on the streets today is the same as yesterday, but it took overtime to accomplish that,” he said. “But as you can imagine, we can’t sustain that over the long-term.”

Benson also said that idling four ladder trucks was the most he could do without impacting public safety. To determine which trucks are browned out, Benson said they look at call rates as well as other data.

On Making the Punishment Fit the Profession, Not the Crime

Enhancing criminal penalties has long been a favored pursuit of lawmakers, the major restraint on this inclination being the cost to taxpayers of locking up the wrongdoers and provisions of state law and legislative rules that say the enhanced spending must be covered in the state budget.
An interesting debate back in the 2013 legislative session, worthy of more attention than it received as us media types focused on stuff deemed more interesting in the fast-action session, concerned what may be seen an evolution of compromise in this inherent conflict.
That is, enhance the punishment, but only when the victim is a member of a chosen profession.
The chosen professional victims in this year’s session were doctors, nurses and other health care providers in one bill (HB306) and firefighters and emergency workers in another (SB66). Starting July 1, the effective date of both new laws, if you, for example, punch an on-the-job paramedic (covered by both laws), the maximum penalty upon conviction of assault will be more severe than if you punched a preacher, a retired grandmother or a newspaper reporter.

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