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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Three Bethlehem Firefighters Injured in South Side Blaze

Four families lost their home when what turned out to be a three-alarm blaze broke out on May 26 at 1613 East Eighth Street on Bethlehem's South Side.

Fire Chief Robert Novatnack reports that three firefighters were injured while fighting the blaze in hot weather.
[A]s three members of the Bethlehem Fire department conducted aggressive interior firefighting, rapidly changing fire conditions forced our three firefighters to use emergency measures to evacuate the building as conditions deteriorated. Incidents like this happen fast on the fire ground, and on his day our firefighters relied on their training and instincts to remove themselves from imminent danger. Two of the firefighters were back at work the same day, while the firefighter with the leg injury is still recuperating.
Chief Novatnack adds that fire officials will continue investigating this incident as it happened and make any recommended changes needed to protect firefighters and the public. Mayor Bob Donchez stated “that the mission of the Bethlehem Fire Department is, first and foremost, to protect the lives of the residents within the City of Bethlehem, and the lives of our firefighters”.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's an old story. Minimum manning is expensive, and the city has two options. Hire enough personnel to meet the minimum at all times or utilize overtime, which also costs money, but not as much as hiring would.

These serious incidents are relatively rare, so this issue will be pushed around for awhile and then forgotten until the next near tragedy or worse. Taxpayers who rally and support our firefighters today, will be the first ones calling for blood when OT surpasses the budget, which it always does.

Anonymous said...

A ground ladder at a 2nd floor window would have prevented this. I don't know if there was insufficient staffing, or one of the basics was passed by. But, what I do know is that there was no ground ladder.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I don't know the details myself. I do know that inadequate staffing leads to OT, and that in turn leads to OT abuse, and that gets people upset. But the right answer is to always have a few more people than you need bc someone is always getting sick or hurt. In other departments, you can suffer. But not with public safety. I think everyone would agree on this point.

Anonymous said...

If the city would follow the recomndation of the studies that were done a few years s ago and the recommendations that the city paid for, along with the guide lines of governments FLSA ,a lot of these problems would be solved. However the city would rather play politics which is not their advantage

Anonymous said...

What about staffing levels for Bethlehem PD? Let's look into that as well. Public as well as officer safety.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9:30

Thanks for the Monday morning quarterbacking. The second floor was laddered. Not every window. It is not 'one of the basics' to put a ladder at every window, there isn't the manpower OR ladders available to make that feasible.

I'm sorry you couldn't pass the test. I'll be by later for my usual. Don't be so stingy on the fries this time. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I'd be curious to know if the three firefighters followed proper protocol or if they didn't and that's what got them in trouble. You can have a 100 firefighters on scene but if they aren't following the proper procedures incidents like this can and will happen.

Anonymous said...

It's the simple fact that fire can be unpredictable that got them into 'trouble'. It was their training and following emergency procedures that got them out alive.

Anonymous said...

Problem is that most of the time the guys are sleeping and aren't needed. They rest for their second jobs. To overfill as the union wants would cost tons of money.

Anonymous said...

Open the city to volunteers and that would add all the additional help. Reading Pa and a lot of other communities in the sate do it without problems.

Anonymous said...

That's like having the local PD call on Burns security for backup.

Readings volunteers couldn't cut it and the city went full time paid department years ago. Allentown has had nothing but trouble with their mutual aid system for years, but it's free, so they don't care.

Studies have shown that using volunteers as backup is problematic for a number of reasons..

1) Inconsistent availability- call for them Saturday after noon, and you'll get a bunch. Call for the on Monday afternoon and you may not get a single one.

2) No criteria- Professional firefighters go through a series of rigorous tests to prove they are up to the job before they can even go off for 6 months of training, which they must pass. Volunteers do not have to do any of this.

3) It can be a liability nightmare for the city- Unvetted and improperly trained volunteers...no more needs to be said.

4) Workers do best when they work with those of similar credentials and training. All BFD members have been trained the same way to use the same equipment. Professionals work best with other professionals.

Volunteers are a proud tradition and serve a definite purpose, in small communities with few hazards. Bethlehem taxpayers deserve the paid professionals we've been promised.

I'm sorry you couldn't pass the test, but go play fireman in your own community, thank you.

Anonymous said...

@7:11,
Spoken like a true union rep. Everyone who isn't you is shit.

Anonymous said...

@ 7:11 needs to go back to sleep at the firehouse so he is wide awake for his grass cutting business.

Anonymous said...

Why on earth would I waste my time working on my valuable free time? I make a good enough living as it is. You could be too, if you could have just passed the test!

Anonymous said...

@4;14,
What makes you think that everyone who disagrees with you is a failed candidate? You may know some of them.

Anonymous said...

I've seen some of those guys with 15 or more years in the department. You can tell there was a lot of recliner time between alarms.

Anonymous said...

So, after 15 years, and hundreds of working fires, they look a little like most wackers do they day they show up at The Run, hoping to find a place they fit in for the first time in their lives?

Anonymous said...

Wow, I had no idea there was so much resentment and jealousy among volunteer firefighters over the paid guys. Sheesh, get a life already, or take the test like the guy said....

Anonymous said...

Ifvolunteers work in other cities it could work hear, Long Island N.Y. With a lot of their communities operate well with volunteers .

Anonymous said...

Do you have any idea what the call volume is for the career departments in the Lehigh Valley? There is no way volunteers could handle that many runs.

Besides, one of the reasons this taxpayer chose to live in Bethlehem is trained, professional 24/7 emergency services. Seconds matter.

This isn't a pd/volunteer issue, it's a safety issue. Bethlehem needs to either properly man their fire department or prepare for the inevitable.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I had no idea that volunteer firefighters were so jealous and hostile to the professionals.

That's really sad, you could learn a lot from them, and aren't you both supposed to be on the same side?

Anonymous said...

why is firefighting the ONLY job that someone will do for free?

Bernie O'Hare said...

That's not really true.I blog for free bc i enjoy it and believe it provides a pubic service. I am sure many volunteers feel that way, too, though what they do is a bit more important.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of jobs that people do without thought of monetary compensation.

The real question should be, why on earth do we allow unvetted and untrained volunteers to do one of the most important jobs in the world?

Would you allow a hobbyist to perform surgery on you?

Anonymous said...

@5:17,
"Unvetted" and "untrained" is a thing of the past. Today's volunteer firefighters go through the same training that the paid boys do, sometimes more. Municipal governments are urging those volunteers who are lacking in training to improve themselves. Even the smallest of VFC's have a fair complement of certified firefighters. The days of leaving your bar stool to answer a fire call are over. Face it, today's volunteers are better trained and are in better physical condition than many of the career guys with 15 years on the department.

Anonymous said...

Profesional firefighters are required to take and pass a battery of tests before they can even be considered as a potential candidate. A civil service test, physical, psychological exam, police background check and a challenging physical agility test.

This is called 'vetting'.

If they pass all of this, they get to go to the academy for 6 months or so, where they continue to be required to take and pass a battery of tests before they go on their first run.

This is called 'training'.

Please provide a list of volunteer departments with the same criteria. We'll wait.

Face it, there's no comparison.

Anonymous said...

@9:20,
We? Do you have a mouse in your pocket. I don't see anyone else taking your side.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I would definitely like to see anonymous 9:07 prove their claim that "today's volunteers are better trained and are in better physical condition than many of the career guys".

Anonymous said...

@5:56,
Just look at some of the career guys who have been there for 10 years. Some of them look like they've been driving the recliner.

Anonymous said...

Actually, they look like they 'passed the test' and are now a professional firefighter. Something no one will ever say about you!

Colin van Horne said...

Many "anonymous" posts here... I guess it's easy to say sickening things in a public forum when you don't attatch your name to it. We almost lost good men- our brothers- and many of you seem content to spit on us. Fighting fires is a grueling, dirty, dangerous job with sufficient staffing, let alone 1/2 that. We have a hugely increased cancer risk and one of the highest injury rates of any profession among other hardships. Our purpose- the reason we don our uniform at the start of a tour and our gear every time the bell rings- is to preserve the lives and property of every citizen of and visitor to our city. I point these things out not looking for your sympathy or accolades. You don't have to shower is with compliments or even say "thank you" if we're called on to help you. I just can't imagine feeling how so many of you apparently do about public servants sworn to protect. I don't see comments about problems you may have with compensation or benefits packages policy issues... You're just personally attacking men and women (I assume) you don't even know over a situation where we almost lost not only co-workers, but good friends we call our brothers. I'm not angry at the things posted about me and my brothers here and I will not reply in kind, but it is sad, disheartening, and yet another blow to morale.

Colin van Horne

-I speak ONLY for myself- Not my employer, supervisors, co-workers, or union.

Colin van Horne said...

*Sorry for the typos- I should have proof-read that.

Anonymous said...

@8:16,
Never took the test. Never had a desire to take the test. Not a wannabe. But, looking at some of the guys who have been there for 15-20 years, you can tell that you only have to pass the test once.

Anonymous said...

Most career departments have mandatory annual or bi-annual fitness assessments until the day they retire. Generally, this is the same physical agility test they take to get hired, although they are often modified for age.


If they don't have this in the valley, they should. Volunteers too.