Brothers and Sisters,
I want to let you know about my most recent station visit last Friday in Baltimore and pass along some thoughts about our affiliates there, like so many of you, who find themselves in the line of fire. Budget cuts in Baltimore have led to a raft of RIFs, station closings and rolling brownouts. Our two Locals (#734-#964) have been in a pitched battle with public officials for what seems like years to hold onto the resources their members need to do their jobs safely and get resources restored that have been taken away.
Despite the hard times that our Baltimore members are experiencing, I had a fantastic lunch and meeting with them at the kitchen table at Squad 40, Truck 12 with a couple of additional nearby companies joining us. Nearly 30 brothers and sisters attended, and we had a valuable conversation.
Many of them were still upset by the events of April 7, when one of their brothers was critically injured.
FF Jeffrey Novack remains in shock trauma as I’m writing this, but he should never have been in the position he found himself in – clinging to a third-story window.
Here’s what amazed me about the April 7 fire – it occurred literally across the street from the fire station. But because the city continues to make cuts, some of the resources needed to respond safely were not close at hand. The engine in the station was already on a call. The 2nd due engine was on a call and the third due engine was “Browned Out” which left the fourth due engine as the closest one to the fire.
Brother Novack’s was on Truck 12 in the station next to the fire and they responded immediately with the third story apartment fully involved.
Despite having to wait on an engine and water to arrive, Brother Novack made at least one save, perhaps two. His brothers say he was going in for another when the place lit up he had to bail out, literally hanging on a third story window for dear life – until he could hold on no more. Then falling to the concrete slab below
I tried to visit Brother Novack on Friday after the station visit, but he was still physically unable to see visitors.
My thoughts and prayers are with him but what happened to him is inexcusable. Could the engine that was browned out have made a difference on how quickly they could get some water on the fire? We all can be the judge of that. But I think Brother Novack is living, breathing proof that public officials jeopardize public safety and the safety of our members when they begin slashing fire department budgets, cut companies and close stations.
This among so many similar incidents reaffirms that we must do everything we can to get our members back on the job, those Riffed positions filled, and those closed companies reactivated. His accident reaffirms that even in the worst of economic times public officials must not ignore their responsibility to protect their residents and protect their fire fighters.
I look forward to seeing many of you along the way over the course of my travels. God bless all of you, and stay safe