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Poor Decision in Sugar Grove, PA

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  • Poor Decision in Sugar Grove, PA

    I would like everyone to take a minute to read the following story listed on the homepage of firehouse.com...
    http://www.firehouse.com/news/2001/1/30_dismissed.html

    From what I got out of it, it looks like five firefighters were dismissed by their Chief from a volunteer department because they took a department truck to the funeral service of a department member who had died in the line of service.

    I am absolutely disgusted at the lack of respect shown by the Chief for this fallen firefighter. What company would not recognize a firefighter who died in the line of duty by sending a truck?

    I know the chief had his reasons for giving the order to not take a truck and I agree that an order from a chief officer should always be followed. But perhaps the chief should take another look at the situation and rethink his actions.

    Please share your comments & opinions about this after reading the story on the home page....

    - Turk II

    (Opinions are my own, not my departments, etc etc).

  • #2
    Dismissal, harsh yes, justified maybe. I would have suspended them. I've been on both sides of hearing boards. Did the chief over-react a bit, highly possible, although having a direct order disobeyed would infuriate even the most mild mannered Chief. The Chief had other issues too. If that truck had gotten into an accident while en route to or from the funeral, the insurance company may not have paid up as there was nothing allowing the truck to be there.

    Comment


    • #3
      This is probably the key sentence in the article.

      "Sugar Grove Fire Chief Larry Oaks dismissed the five volunteers after they deliberately disobeyed a direct order not to drive a department vehicle to the funeral of the Rocky Grove fireman."

      I am absolutely disgusted at the blatant lack of respect for the authority of the Chief and the total lack of discipline exhbited by these people.

      The Chief is in charge. If you don't like the rules or the way the rules are being applied, get rid of the Chief or change the rules. You don't just ignore them.

      The department will ultimately be better off without these people.

      Comment


      • #4
        First off a department can show it's respect for a LODD without sending a front line vehicle. Just the 5 firefighters showing up would have shown the support of the department. The firefighters know this was wrong and took the vehicle anyway. Now it is time to pay for what they did. The Chief was thinking about the fire protection of his area. How can you fault him for that?

        It may be my Marine Corp time showing, but if an officer makes a decistion that is the way it is. If you think that the officer is wrong take him to the next level or vote him out. It seems to me that this is getting to be a problem in the volunteer system. Some think I am a volunteer what can they do to me. Lets make everyone in the fire department the same rank and everyone do what they want. That person is the Chief like it or not, it is his job to run the department.

        ------------------
        Henry C. Hoffman Jr.

        Comment


        • #5
          Ok, forget most of what I said (if you didn't read it before, all the better). I thought this was a member of their own dept, in which case, I would have felt the chief's original decision to only send 5 people and no trucks was wrong. I still feel that as a chief, he had a duty to personally represent the dept, in which case, none of this would have happened. Of course, he could have had a valid excuse to not go.
          I still believe that dismissal is a little severe. In a volunteer organization, unless someone's presence is ruining the organization, all it gets you is less people when the pager goes off as well as a PR problem.

          [This message has been edited by sponge (edited 01-30-2001).]

          Comment


          • #6
            The story didn't mention how many frontline trucks SGFD has or the how far outside their district they were. What would of happened if SG had a major fire and the unit was out of service. The dept chief should of known better.

            Comment


            • #7
              I don't know that I would have dove right into dismissal, but a serious discipline such as suspension would be handed down if I were chief. I realize this was a sensitive issue, with a lot of emotions for these FF's, but the Chief gave an order that the apparatus stays. By condoning the taking of the apparatus, does this mean we support insubordination? I'm not saying that the Chief is God here and if he told you to dive head first from the roof onto the pavement, I'd tell him where to go.

              In this day of "Lawsuits-R-Us" the liability factor the Chief cites in his reasoning is a very valid one. If he feels the liability is too great, the decision not to go is his, the same as if he feels the liability is too great on the fireground, he can request Exterior Ops. only.

              I have to stand by the Chief disciplining, again maybe not dismissal, but on harsh discipline for insubordination of his authority as leader of the department.

              Comment


              • #8
                First of all I am one of those mild manner chiefs who would have blown a gasket,if it happened to me.
                I have been on both sides of the fence but face it guys the chiefs first duty is the life safety of the community he serves.This does not mean that you can not go out of town for LODD but in a small department by taking on truck out of service for a day my mean leaving your town unprotected.
                Now for the act of leaving on their own I would have not dismissed them since then you lose 5 good members but some other type of punishment could have been found.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by sponge:
                  The chief has demonstrated his complete incompetence and inability to lead. He should be removed from office immediately.
                  His decision to not send the truck was way off base. Only 5 firefighters at a funeral for your own member, killed in the line of duty? Why didn't he even go? The entire department, apparatus and personnel, should have been at that funeral. I doubt they would have had any trouble finding cover for their district.
                  Respect is a two way street, and this chief obviously has no respect for his members, especially the one who made the ultimate sacrifice for his department.
                  Incompetence, no, lack of leadership, no. I couldn't find a website for Sugar Grove FD, but I did find one for neighboring Rocky Grove FD that covers Sugar Grove, maybe they're the same, but unlike Valley Stream FD that boasts 275 members, they only have 40. The Chief made a calculated decision, and gave a direct order that was blatantly disobeyed. That cannot be tolerated in a para-military organization which, like it or not, a VFD is.


                  Just noticed that you must be the webmaster for the VSFD page (nice page by the way), http://home.gci.net/~pempeld/vsfd.html
                  but surely you must realize that you can't compare what a busy Nassau Count Department would do compared to a rural Pennsylvania department.



                  [This message has been edited by iwood51 (edited 01-30-2001).]

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Come on! Does taking a truck out of town and lowering that town's fire coverage show your sympathy more? Does it ease the families pain faster or better? Look at it this way: Imagine if every department that went to the Worcester Memorial had brought a truck! OY! We rode in busses, vans, personal vehicles, and public transit and we still showed our support. As far as disobeying an order not to take a truck and doing it anyway, that to me equates to freelancing. The fire service is a paramilitary orginization and if those members don't like taking and following orders then maybe this isn't the job for them. This sounds similar to the situation we had earlier where volunteers were quitting because they couldn't have lights and sirens in their own cars. Please. The chief is the chief, rules are rules, and ordrs are orders. It isn't like the guy ordered them to streak thru the village square for goodness sake.

                    ------------------
                    FF/EMT Jay Ellingson
                    Newington,NH FD
                    &
                    New England Dragway Safety Team (Sundaaayy!)
                    Be Safe!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Bottom Line: A direct order is a direct order.

                      If the order did not but the life safety of his Firefighters in jeapordy, it must be followed or face the consequences.

                      Was it in good taste......NO
                      Should it be disobeyed....NO

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        It's easy to form opinions from the outside. Why did the Chief make his decision would be one question I'd want answered.

                        Does it make a difference? Not really because as others have said, an order is an order.

                        I'd like to know so I could judge the frame of mind of the 'violators'. Was there other apparatus or official vehicle they could have taken? Could some compromise have been reached? Did they try?

                        Running out of town with a front line vehicle against direct orders is never acceptable. What state was the town left in? What backup was there for the vehicle they took? Who knew about it? Was there a history of problems with these folks? With the Chief?

                        The issue here is the punishment given. We'd need to have more info to really make a good judgement.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Give me a break. I can't believe some of these posts.

                          -You do not need to drive a firetruck to a funeral to show support. When 6,000 firefighters show up for a funeral for a fallen brother from FDNY, they all don't bring their rigs. Same with Worchester.

                          -Taking the first line rig out of service puts the public at risk, because fd protection is decreased.

                          -When the Chief makes a decision, you listen to him. (Especially this type of decision...this isn't a fireground decision that might put someone at risk and could be debated...it was an executive decision with no reason to debate it.

                          end of story.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            First of all, my sincer condolences to the family, friends and fellow firefighters of the fallen brother. Secondly, I believe the chief was justified in his decision to diciplin. I personally would have looked at another action besides getting rid of the firefighters altogether. However, that was his decision, and I have to back it. I hope the department can work through this without it falling apart.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              While I do agree with the Chief disciplining the FFs for taking the truck, as has been already said, an order is just that, an order. It is not up for interpretation. However, I do disagree with some who say that the truck did not need to be there. I'm sorry, a neighboring company whom these guys have probably run 100s of mutual aid calls with, the truck needs to be there. Unfortunatly my dept went through this last year, and yes all of our neighboring cos were there with at least one rig. It really wasn't a problem finding cover companies.

                              Just my $0.02



                              ------------------
                              Mike DeVuono

                              "There are few atheists inside a burning building."

                              These are my opinions and not those of my department.

                              Comment

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