Fall River Herald News Article

City Council notifies administration that it will not support budget staffing just 153 firefighters

Fall River Fire Department District Chief James Mellen, left, who is vice president of the firefighters Local 1314, points out what he says are discrepancies in Mayor Will Flanagan's statements regarding proposed fire department staffing levels. Seated next to Mellen is the union local's president, Firefighter Jason Burns. Union members in the audience are wearing white T-shirts.

Jo C. Goode
Herald News Staff Reporter
Posted Apr. 25, 2014

FALL RIVER — Mayor Will Flanagan was given notice by the City Council that it will reject any fiscal 2015 budget that includes the layoff of 60 city firefighters.

City Council President Joseph Camara said he polled his council colleagues and they all agreed that a fire department complement of 153 was not adequate and could even pose a public safety issue.

“When the fire chief comes and tells us that a first response can come on time but the second response will be delayed, that hurts,” Camara said. “That’s no way to run the city. The numbers don’t work.”

Camara said he’s informed Flanagan about the council’s intentions.


Fall River Herald News Letter

Letter: Common sense lost at Government Center

Posted Apr. 24, 2014

Attending City Council meetings or watching the same on local cable TV has been a habit of mine for many years, and that gives me a chance to know exactly what is going on in our city and be able to discuss important issues. Tuesday’s meeting was not an exception, with the major difference that the administration said it cut projected budget gap from $16 million to $3 million. Wonderful. Fantastic. Marvelous, right? Wrong.

The steps taken to balance the budget should have taken place many years ago. Let me explain. Instead of waiting for the last minute to fully fund the Fire Department and relying on grants, why was the administration not more active instead of reactive? The laziness of the administration should be pointed out. Or was it the lack of competency? One way or the other, lack of responsibility was obvious.


Fall River Herald News Article

Fall River Mayor Will Flanagan meets with fire department union to discuss concession offers

Jo C. Goode
Herald News Staff Reporter
Posted Apr. 23, 2014

FALL RIVER — As massive layoffs loom for 60 firefighters in July, dropping the complement from 213 to 153, Mayor Will Flanagan met with union leaders Tuesday and made an offer they may refuse.

In the meeting with Flanagan, Jason Burns, president of firefighters Local 1314, and union vice president and District Fire Chief James Mellen said the mayor laid out a plan the would save a few jobs if the union agreed to substantial pay cuts.

Burns said there were essentially two offers; the first was that the firefighters would take a 10 percent pay cut and increase staffing from 153 to 163. Through the second proposal, they would take a 15 percent pay cut and increase staffing to 171.

Burns said his membership is not opposed to concessions to help close the $4.5 million fire department gap but said Flanagan’s offer “is still on the backs of the firefighters.”

Flanagan, according to Burns, went on the airwaves to announce his offer before the union president had an opportunity present the offer to his membership.

The mayor made a similar move in January when he announced the pending layoffs to union leaders, then was interviewed by The Herald News immediately after and before union members would learn their fate. Flanagan acknowledged he made the concession offer to the firefighters but said his first goal is to deliver a balanced budget to the City Council.


Fall River Herald News Guest Opinion

Guest Opinion: The truth behind the NFPA standard and FRFD

Tommy Texeira

Posted Apr. 22, 2014

It’s 3 a.m. The lights are flashing but the sirens are off, it’s too early in the morning for sirens. The fire engine is screaming down the street as the smell of smoke begins to fill the nostrils of the approaching firefighters. They can feel the sudden rush of adrenaline, this isn’t a false alarm. We have a structure fire. The lieutenant tightens up the zipper on his turnout coat and checks his air as the engine approaches.

They arrive on scene and the three men race out of the truck. They can see the thick black smoke pulsing out of the second floor window as flames lick the side of the neighboring house. Somebody better hit that neighbor’s house with water or it’s gonna catch, too.

They have only just arrived but the second floor is now already fully involved; fire moves fast. They might lose the whole building if they don’t get some lines in there and fight that fire. The driver rushes to the fire truck’s pump panel to start running water. The hydrant is a block away and they only have a limited amount of water onboard. They need another crew to hook up to that hydrant before they run out. The two men mask up as the driver points upwards; they hear screams for help coming from a third floor window.

They arrived on scene within four minutes and met the NFPA standard response time. Now what? They’re alone and the next engine is 6 minutes away.

Mayor Will Flanagan has been pushing the fact that after layoffs, Fall River Fire Department will still meet NFPA standard response times. But that’s not the whole story. Sure, we’ll meet the response time for the first responding engine, but everyone’s in agreement (the mayor included) that the response time for the first arriving engine is the only part of the standard that will be met.


Fall River Fire Department Pickets for Support

Approximately 75+ firefighters and their supporters peacefully picketed outside of Government Center prior to the beginning of a City Council meeting.

They held signs of support, along with wearing “Support FRFD” t-shirts.


Fall River Herald News Article

City administrator says administration has identified options to cut budget deficit from $16 million to $3 million

Jo C. Goode
Herald News Staff Reporter
Posted Apr. 22, 2014

FALL RIVER — What was purported to be a more than $16 million shortfall in the upcoming fiscal 2015 budget has been whittled down to $3 million, City Administrator Cathy Ann Viveiros told the City Council on Tuesday night.

As the city braces for a 35 percent reduction it its fire department, Viveiros made it clear that shutting the budget gap was the administration’s prime priority and that the city would look for solutions afterward in an attempt to save some of the firefighter jobs.

“We are looking at changes to the way we deliver services,” Viveiros said. “The budget is not sustainable in its current state.”


Fall River Herald News Guest Opinion

Guest Opinion: The perfect storm brewing at Fall River Fire Department

Sean Flannery

Posted Apr. 18, 2014

On March 26, the Boston Fire Department responded to a basement fire that quickly engulfed the four-story structure. The wind-driven fire grew so fast and intensely that the fully staffed BFD became overwhelmed and struck nine alarms, their largest response. Tragically, the fire claimed the lives of Lt. Edward J. Walsh, father of three, and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy, a combat Marine.

Whenever firefighters die in the line of duty, I dread listening to the radio transmissions from the incident, but I do so out of responsibility to my fellow firefighters, their families, and to my family and myself. These transmissions often include last words to loved ones in terrifying conditions: They’re lost, running out of air with zero visibility or being overcome by fire with no defense, and always in their last moments of life. It is the most heart-wrenching audio one can ever listen to. But I listen. And I make fellow firefighters listen as well. Although haunting, we learn from it and it makes us better firefighters.

In 11 years, as a Fall River firefighter, I’ve responded to some horrific incidents and part of me has grown accustomed to many of the tragic calls we respond to. Repetition will do that. One thing I can never fully detach from however, are those transmissions and the horror these brave, fallen firefighters experienced in their final moments, the Boston transmissions being no exception. The sight of the crying family members at the funerals, especially the children, never really leaves me either.

One hundred fifty firefighters responded to that deadly fire in Boston — an ominous number as 153 firefighters is what Mayor Will Flanagan is proposing to staff our entire fire department in Fall River. (For perspective, we operated with 232 in 2007.) This may result in just 25 firefighters providing daily all-hazards emergency response in Fall River and doing the work that 40 firefighters currently perform.


Fall River Herald News Article

FEMA informs Fall River that city will not get SAFER grant

Firefighters at the Central Fire Station, shown here, said that, by 2:30 p.m., they hadn't heard directly from officials about the potential cuts.

Herald News Photo | Dave Souza
Jo C. Goode
Herald News Staff Reporter
Posted Apr. 7, 2014

FALL RIVER — The Federal Emergency Management Agency informed the city on Monday there will be no SAFER grant, which could have saved the jobs of 16 firefighters, Mayor Will Flanagan announced.

That means Flanagan will go forward with the layoffs of 60 firefighters this summer, reducing the Fall River Fire Department from a complement of 213 to 153.

“We are going to see a more nimble fire department on July 1,” Flanagan said.

The city’s fire department has been bolstered by SAFER grants for nearly the past four years.

Firefighters Local 1314 President Jason Burns said it’s disappointing news, but the firefighters knew it was an uphill battle.

He noted the fire department has brought in $26 million to the city coffers to fund 158 firefighters in past years.

Two years ago — after learning the city was awarded what was, at the time, the largest SAFER grant ever given to a municipality — Flanagan said the city had to start planning for the future.

“We need to assure in two years we’re not in the same place we are now — relying on a bailout by the federal government,” Flanagan said.

“We thought we were making headway,” said Burns, “but obviously that wasn’t the case. Whatever it was, it didn’t work. Where are the solutions coming from the sixth floor?”