Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Firefighters Gone Wild



Valid concerns about extended fire department emergency response times in Olivenhain are overshadowing serious competency and conduct problems within the Encinitas Fire Department.

Having more fire stations or faster response times will not improve public safety if the Fire Department is negligently managed.

In January 2011, the Encinitas Taxpayers Association was informed by Fire Department insiders that numerous acts of neglect of duty and dangerous violations of San Diego County EMS protocols had taken place under the command of current Fire Chief Mark Muir and his management team. Those acts are outlined below.

Attempts were made to clarify the circumstances surrounding the misconduct with the Fire Chief, City Manager and eventually the City Council. The Fire Chief did not deny the occurrence of the incidents, but attempted to obscure the misconduct, and refused to explain what his policy was for disciplining firefighters who endangered the public.

We are suspect that the Fire Chief grossly failed to take appropriate management action.

Unlike in other jurisdictions, the City of Encinitas does not regularly report to the public information on disciplinary action. Unlike other cities, Encinitas has refused to release any information related to disciplinary, corrective action or investigations of misconduct.

All appearances from the Fire Chief, City Manager, and all five council members are of a city-wide cover up.

The taxpayers have a right to know the circumstances surrounding these acts, how this misconduct has been mitigated, and if the root cause leading to these acts has been identified and addressed. The public deserves to know whether or not negligence is rare or has become commonplace in the city’s fire department.

We are asking the citizens of Encinitas to simply contact the city council and request that they see that the fire department report their disciplinary history, just like other California cities. 

Below is a subset of acts reported to the ETA by firefighter insiders:



ACT 1. Failure to Respond / Abandonment / Neglect of Duty / Making False Statements


A Fire Captain repeatedly and maliciously neglected his responsibility to respond with his fire company to emergency medical incidents.  To avoid having to respond to emergency calls, the Captain would deliberately and intentionally place his company out of service or state that his company was located farther out than other companies by manipulating the apparatus on-board dispatch computer system.

In the fire service this action is rare and when it does happen it is call "sand bagging."  Firefighters figure this act of negligence out quickly and know when a unit sand bags. Why did it take numerous incidents to discover this misconduct?  Is this an acceptable practice in Encinitas?   In any well managed fire department the Captain would have been fired.



Act 2. Neglect of Duty / Violation of San Diego County Emergency Medical Services Protocol
A Firefighter/Paramedic assigned to a Paramedic Assessment Engine Company responded to a critical medical call and initiated Advance Life Support.  In the treatment of the patient, he was required to use drugs and other life saving equipment. 

Following the transfer of care to an ambulance crew and subsequent transport to a medical facility,  the Firefighter failed to restock the medical box with the necessary drugs and equipment as is required under the San Diego County Emergency Medical Services Protocol.

The remainder of the 24 hour work shift passed and there were no emergency responses that required use of the medical equipment.

Upon relief the following day, the on coming Firefighter/Paramedic never conducted an inventory check of the medical equipment. The medical box containing life saving drugs and equipment was depleted and not ready for service.  Responsible paramedics review the medical boxes’ inventory by upon starting a new shift. The Captain is ultimately responsible for the readiness of the apparatus, crew and equipment. 

There were no emergency responses on this shift.

By the next shift, almost 72 hours after the medical call that required Advanced Life Support intervention, the inventory of the medical box had still not been checked. The Firefighter/Paramedic during this particular shift was called to respond to a critical medical incident.  Upon arrival the Firefighter/Paramedic found that a citizen was in serious condition and would need Advanced Life Support intervention.  When the Encinitas Firefighter/Paramedic opened the medical box, he discovered that he didn’t have the necessary inventory and supplies that should have been used to help save a life.

Standing over a patient in need of emergency care is not the time for a Firefighter/Paramedic to discover he/she is out of supplies. That is why cities that value public safety are managed diligently, have strong leadership and discipline.  Fire department members should be dedicated, loyal and adhere to strict policies and protocols.  

In well run Fire Departments, emergency responders are responsible to ensure that all of their emergency equipment is ready.  They are mandated to perform daily, weekly and monthly checks of there apparatus and equipment-both medical and firefighting. Encinitas firefighters failed to do their job, they neglected their responsibility to serve the public and threatened the safety of the people they serve.

We have been informed by one fire department insider that the initial Firefighter/Paramedic who failed to restock the medical box had a history of disciplinary problems including an arrest for DUI, possession of cocaine and concealed handgun.


ACT 3. Delayed Response

A Paramedic Assessment Engine Company in the Village Park area of Encinitas regularly responds to a housing track that has access through a fire gate.  This gate greatly reduced response times to this track of homes. This company was unable to open the fire gate due to the fact they were unable to locate the keys to the lock.  The incident they were responding to was a cardiac arrest.   The unit decided to drive around to the community entrance.  This added an additional delay of over 10 minutes before vital life saving intervention could begin.  The patient died. 

The home in which the patient resided was within walking distance of the fire gate.

Again the department displayed a lack of readiness and discipline by not ensuring that the apparatus inventory is complete and prepared for emergency response.  There seems to be a pattern.


Other Acts

There are other act of unprofessional behavior, which we think the residents of Encinitas would be disappointed to discover.  We hope the city will promptly release the department’s disciplinary history to the public, as in other California cities, and once they do we will gauge the city’s reporting against the list of acts for which we have knowledge of.

Fortunately for the citizens of Encinitas there are some honest and diligent firefighters who work for the City.

It is up to you decide if we want a fire department with just some good Firefighters or a fire department that is well managed, loyal and dedicated to serving the citizens. 

Please, email your representative at city hall and ask that they release the fire department’s disciplinary history. 

The council’s email is council@encinitas.org.

Steve Meiche
Leucadia Resident, 26 years
Active Los Angeles City Firefighter/Paramedic, 31 years
Board Member, Encinitas Taxpayers Association

22 comments:

  1. I am betting the missing medical apparatus was a roll of tape or a pair of rubber gloves, because that's about all the ambulance drivers use these days. If it wasn't something silly, then why not disclose it?

    Frankly, to have a professional fire department in a town full of dinky one and two story houses is questionable. I'd much rather have the money in the bank than pay people to sit around. A volunteer fire department would be great. The keg parties we could have in that fancy new oceanview building would RAGE!

    So, yes, I will write my councilman. I will tell him about the ingratitude of these future-pensioners as displayed by their misconduct and slacker behavior. And I will suggest a "Keg party - Volunteer FD" as the answer. I will also gladly volunteer. I can squirt the wet stuff on the red stuff just like the paid firemen. I will take a 2-week class. I'll fight fires for cold beer.

    BTW, has anyone toured that fire department building? They have special tubes that go on the exhause pipes of the trucks so that when they drive out of the garage it doesn't leave it stinky! OMG! DO you have that in your garage? Hell no. I never knew such a thing existed.

    Gimme a cush job with an ocean view, weight room, lots of time off, and a big pension... I'll follow the ambulance around and drive in the parade. WINNING.

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  2. Encinitas City Council

    Encinitas City Manager

    Regarding the recent post on the Leucadia Blog “Firefighters gone wild” concerning “serious competency and conduct problems within the Encinitas Fire Dept.”

    This simply is a symptom of a systemically serious and completely unacceptable management practice within our city.

    The gross level of neglect and overall misrepresentation of your own policies and procedures, and complete lack of approachability is beyond any reasonable rational.

    The Fire Chief of our city, Mark Muir, unto witch you all endorse as a highly effective officer. Is a self-serving, politically motivated, yes man, who lacks the courage, physical stature, and strength of character to effectively lead any aspect of our first responder organization.

    In my 25-year career in the Los Angeles Fire Dept. I have worked with numerous fire officers, inside and outside my department. They have ranged from the exceptionally outstanding, to the much needing of improvement, and in comparison, Fire Chief Mark Muir, is without a question. The bottom of the barrel in quality, with an absolute no confidence vote.

    Like my neighbor and coworker Steve Meiche, and the neighborhood of Olivenhien, I have taken an activist role in trying to establish a reasonably effective first responder organization in our city.

    You all have been beyond approach and are grossly failing us.

    David W. Smith

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  3. Don't your spellchecky thang underline mispeelled words an da run. on. sentences?

    I vote: Keg Party Fire Dept!

    We'll be just as worthless and you don't have to pay us!

    And we can spell "which"!

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  4. Mark Muir is a dear friend of mine, so I really find this post more than a little unsettling. In the next few days, I will add more things about the L.A Fire Dept. , as well as a response from Chief Muir, with his permission. I cannot believe that Mr. Meiche finds the need to sink this low. We had a fire on Oxford in Cardiff many years ago before Mark was Chief. He was the man in charge of this particular fire. The response time was great, the firefighters were great. I respect all of the firefighters in Encintas and I wonder if Mr. Meiche has another axe to grind, as he did regarding dog parks. He got Turko in on that one. Perhaps someone might want to ask Mr. Meiche how many times he has applied to the Encinitas Fire Dept.? It might be interesting.


    Friday, July 6, 2007
    L.A.'s million dollar court payouts a burning
    concern
    Black, lesbian firefighter who won $6.2 million settlement added -
    $2,500 Thursday to be paid by her supervisor.
    Los Angeles Daily News
    LOS ANGELES -- The ex-boss of a black, lesbian firefighter who won a $6.2 million discrimination suit this
    week against the city was slapped with a $2,500 fine Thursday in the biggest total payout in Los Angeles Fire
    Department history.
    The jury award for Brenda Lee is more than double the $2.7 million settlement proposed for Firefighter
    Tennie Pierce, an African-American whose separate case against the LAFD will head to trial in September.
    Pierce sued after he was fed dog food during what colleagues said was a prank. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
    vetoed the deal in November after photos revealing the firefighter engaging in firehouse horseplay himself
    caused public outcry.
    Still, Lee's award makes Pierce's proposed settlement seem like a bargain. It also raises questions about
    liability and current reform in the 3,500-member department, where personnel problems have now cost
    taxpayers more than $1 0 million since 2000.
    "Each case has to rest on its own facts," said Laurie Levenson, professor at Loyola Law School and director
    of the Center for Ethical Advocacy. "But it does give more of a financial incentive to pursue these lawsuits.
    "It sure provides a huge incentive for the Los Angeles Fire Department to settle cases if they can. ... A big
    verdict does tend to shake things up."
    After more than two weeks of testimony that put fire staffers on the stand, a jury this week agreed that Lee,
    39, of Mission Hills was mistreated by her colleagues because of her race and sexual orientation, and that
    the city failed to do anything to stop it.
    Lee, a 12-year LAFD veteran, has been on unpaid leave from the Fire Department for two years. Roughly
    half of the $6.2 million the jury awarded Tuesday covers lost wages, pension and health benefits. The other
    half covers emotional suffering.
    After the hearing at Los Angeles Superior Court, Lee said she hopes the verdict will help speed up reform
    within the LAFD.
    "I still believe in the Fire Department and in people helping other people," she said. "I'm hoping that some
    people in the Fire Department will change their minds and change how they treat people.
    "This award helps me, but what I really want to prevent is people going through what I've gone through."
    Article - News - L.A.'s million dollar court payouts a burning concern Page 2 of 3
    Some

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  5. Dr. Lorri back in action.

    remove this stupid sign in requirement and lets get the blog going again. Promote dialog and promote free speech.

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  6. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
    Tony Brandenburg is making a noise in Olivenhain claiming there is a need for a sixth fire department in our city (if not the relocation of coastal station #1 ). Wanting to assess things myself from the sky, I google earthed to see where the closest fire station to Olivenhain is. As I thought, it's station #4 at 2011 Village Park Way and Mountain Vista - a location that's only 4 blocks away from the intersection of Lone Jack Road (11th St) and Rancho Santa Fe Road - the heart of Olivenhain. But guess what? Because of an landscaped and impassable road block, it takes emergency vehicles 7 minutes to respond that "as the crow flies" distance of 4 blocks.
    I think that blockage needs to be removed and potentially save the taxpayers another 5 million dollars for a new station, and untold millions for new employees and equipment. And while they're at it remove that other gate that may be killing people when emergency personel cannot find a key. Outrageous.
    Check out for yourself how Mountain Vista veers from 11th St on Mapquest below. Opening that inlet for emergency vehicles is not a fire dept management issue I think as much as someone else's politics. Opening that inlet would cut response times to residents almost anywhere in Olivenhain in half.
    Personally, I think Tony is grooming himself for a council seat once again, and like the current lay of the land in Encinitas, is taking the wrong avenue. But frankly, being an advocate of emergency personal here in town (as they have come to me and my family's rescue numerous times), I think we just need to use our heads better and give good access for emergency vehicles to all of our citizenry. And go figure, I'm not even running for council.
    Map of [2200-2220] 11th St, Encinitas, California | MapQuest

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  7. Winston is right on the money.

    Get lost Tony B.... the last thing we need is 510 million going to another fire Mcmansion and 100 million going to union pensions for the few lucky ones.

    I have a better idea- Open the gate and use the public access for emergency access. Its only fair to our citizens.

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  8. They should make insurance companies pay for fire departments. They'd pass the premiums down to the homeowners and the stupidity of million dollar firehouses fully staffed with pension-earning ambulance chasers would come to a quick end.

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  9. Joe:
    When I read something that is not factual, I usually stand up and say something. This post is missing a large part of the truth. And I am not speaking of Brandenburg, pensions, or new firehouses. That might be right on, for all that I know. I certainly am not in favor of building a new fire station and Kristin Gaspar promised us that she would fight to have CalPers pensions removed for new hires and replace them with 401K's. I am all for that, and I hope she keeps her word on it. We will see when the City manager is replaced. Also, since Chris Hazeltine is gone, we have 2 chances at getting 401K's for new hires.

    I'm not quite sure what my old tricks are, but if you want to tell me, I would be most interested. I will say that it seems kind of insulting to your friends and neighbors if you are saying that they cannot figure out how to post. I am sure they are computer literate. I am perhaps one of the older posters on this blog and I managed to figure it out. You and I have the courage to put our names on our posts. Most newspapers also make a person put their name on a community commentary or letter to the editor. Seems like a reasonable thing to do, don't you think? Then we can be sure it is not just one poster, saying the same thing over and over again, such as perhaps Jerome Stocks in the past? However, Kevin and J.P. have the right to do as they please with their own blog. I was merely pointing out a few things about the LAFD, since this post was written by a firefighter. And, since he did not mention it here, I will say that his concerns were addressed by the Fire Chief in a direct e-mail to him. Mr. Meiche somehow forgot to leave that out.

    After considering it, I will not say any more about the LAFD. People can learn the truth doing their own research if they want to.

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  11. Dr. Lorri

    I want to thank you for your continual posting. You always have quite insightful things to communicate. In your earlier post, you brought up some interesting points, and I hope you don’t mind if I expand upon them.

    Your friend, “Chief Mark Muir” is a charming likeable individual, and the press coverage of the Los Angeles Fire Dept is accurate. The point being that managing and maintaining a quality professional first responder organization is a challenge at any size and it is imperative that reasonable efforts are taken to do so.

    The point I understand that Steve is trying to make is how the lack of appropriate management, accountability, and transparency is grossly lacking in our Fire Dept and over all city management.

    As the press you posted very well explains. If these management deficiencies are ignored and left unchecked, our future tax dollars will likely go to unnecessary court settlements and not to services that that we need as a community.

    The point Steve is trying to make is not that there is a presence of misconduct in our fire dept. There is misconduct in any organization.

    The point Steve is making is the gross lack of acknowledgment and disclosure of misconduct. This practice will cost us as tax payers ten of millions of unnecessary dollars if left unchecked.

    Thank you Steve
    Thank you Dr. Lorri
    and thank you HH. I do need to watch my spelling and punctuation.

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  12. Ok, C'mon? What was the "missing apparatus?"

    A band aid? rubber gloves? Which crucial item left our society at risk for 72 dreaded hours?

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  13. HH,

    Why do you think the Olivenhain residents want quick response times? So they can get access to a bandaid?

    No they want to be injected quickly with things like epininrphrine and adenosine which better be in the medical box.

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  14. Lorri,
    There are lots of details about the incidents that we don't know about and without the city coming clean we can't verify anything. That is why we asked the fire chief to clarify and address them. Although he replied, he did not respond in any manner that addressed the details of the incident, the subsequent investigations, any disciplinary or corrective action and preventive measures that ensure that they will not happen again.

    If you are privy to those details please inform us and clear the air. Please be the spokes person for the chief. This is public information we want to know the truth.

    The Fire department only has around 50 members just the incidents I described could potentially implicate at least 15 members involved directly with the misconduct. That is almost 1/3 of the department. We need to make sure that everything is on the up and up.

    I welcome any additional dialogue from you or the fire chief.

    Please help rectify this matter and put it to rest.

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  15. So, basically, you want somebody's job because you're tired of driving to LA?

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  16. HH- Meiche is already a 30 year veteran of PERS. He already ownes his publicly funded Millionaire pension.

    What he is trying to do is help Encinitas.

    You should try it too. Its good for the children.

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  17. I don't read it like that... HH- you need to see HH has 30 year in PERS... He is already a pension millionaire winner.

    He is trying to do something positive for Encinitas.

    Under the direction of Jerome Stocks this City has become very corrupt.

    Like Chicago style.

    Its time for Change and I mean big change.

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  18. LA fire is not in CalPERS. LA Fire has had pension reform. Their union is less greedy.

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  19. Yes, you are right the LAFD is NOT CalPERS retirement. We have our own self funded pension that last I heard, was 102% funded.

    With regard to pension reform, in the 30 years I've been a member we have gone through 5 tier changes. We are presently at tier 6. The latest reform being this year, voted in by the taxpayers in the March election. The taxpayers decide on pension reform not city council.

    Lastly, we pay our pension contributions. The latest is tier 6... 14% is payed into the pension. Encinitas 0%

    The tier I'm in, I work 30 years to receive maximum pension of 70% of my BASE pay. Encinitas can retire at 30 years and pad their base and receive 90%.

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  20. thanks for sharing steve. still a nice pension. Got to admit. Plus everyone wants to be a fireman. we just had a girl in our office apply for one spot in Washington. 2000 applicants for one position. I am glad you got yours and are fighting for the betterment of Encinitas.

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  21. SACRAMENTO ---- The pension system for California's teachers has $56 billion less than it needs to cover the benefits promised to its 852,000 members and their families, the fund reported Thursday, as big investment losses in 2008 continue to reverberate.

    The drop in value was enough to trigger an automatic increase in the amount the state must pay into the California State Teachers' Retirement System, which is the nation's second-largest public pension fund. That will boost the payment from California's already-strained general fund by 20 percent ---- from $573 million to $688 million ---- in the fiscal year starting July 1.

    The pension shortfall as of June 30, 2010, was $15.5 billion greater than it had been a year earlier, CalSTRS officials said. The fund had expected the shortfall to be even greater, but educators received smaller raises than projected, reducing the ultimate amount of their retirement benefits, and the fund's investments performed better than expected in fiscal 2009-10.

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  22. It is important to note that Encinitas is not LA nor do we want Encinitas to be LA. The point being that the financial and political accountability of LA is only adequate at best. In compairisant the city of Encinitas is horribly worse. When it should be exceptionally better.

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