State Hoses Fire Department For Safety Violations In Deaths

Bridgeport Firefighters Lose Two Of Their Own from on Vimeo.

I’m wondering what retired firefighters Andy Fardy (town committee) and Ron Mackey think of this. From the CT Post:

The Bridgeport Fire Department has been charged with five serious state safety violations in the July 24 blaze that killed two firefighters.

The Connecticut Department of Labor’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, found that the department did not perform tests on the firefighters’ breathing gas tanks; failed to conduct medical evaluations and ensure firefighters were fit; did not make sure firefighters wore breathing equipment inside the burning building; and failed to follow “mayday” procedures.

Fire Chief Brian Rooney said the department is contesting all five violations. He said fire officials will be meeting with CONN-OSHA Monday in Wethersfield. He said the department is refraining from commenting while the state fire marshal is still investigating the events surrounding the fire and deaths. That investigation should be completed in April, he said.

The fire, which occurred on Elmwood Avenue, resulted in the deaths of Lt. Steven Velasquez and firefighter Michel Baik. The state medical examiner’s office stated Baik died from smoke inhalation complicated by a heart condition and that Valesquez died from smoke inhalation and asphyxia.

It was later discovered that the third-floor living area was an illegal apartment and had likely not been inspected by fire officials in many years.

The state inspection of the fire began last July 28 and ended Jan. 20, according to the CONN-OSHA citation. If the charges are affirmed, each of the five violations would carry a $1,000 penalty.

In the citation sent to the fire department dated Jan. 24, all five violations were classified as “serious.”

Both Velasquez, 41, and Baik were Bridgeport residents. Baik would have celebrated his 50th birthday last August and was the department’s oldest rookie. Millions of dollars have since been raised statewide for the families of the men.

At Monday night’s City Council meeting, the Fire Department awarded several plaques to the mayor, his spokesperson, the City Council, city employees, Police Chief Joseph Gaudett and Rooney for “showing support, sympathy, and condolences” to the families of the two firefighters.

“They are still weeping,” Rooney said Monday. “They are still depressed. They still don’t know why.”

Firefighters from around the country descended on Bridgeport to pay tribute to the two men in separate wakes that shut down parts of the city for several hours.



  1. Lennie I will comment on the OSHA report I first read, but first I have to wonder what is taking the State Fire Marshal so long to tell us just what happened.
    These “gas” cylinders as they refer to them are not filled with gas but with compressed air. When I was on the job they were required to be hydrostatically tested every 5 years. That is a large and necessary undertaking.
    The SOP for the fire department was and I am sure still is that these self-contained breathing apparatus are checked before the start of every shift. In my day it was the driver, pumper engineer who did this. It may have changed some since I left.
    Did not make sure firefighters wore breathing equipment inside a burning building. If they are referring to the 2 heroes who lost their lives that would be true but the reason they did not have their masks on was that they ran out of air.
    They cite the fact that no medical evaluations were taken to ensure the firefighters were fit. Firefighters are given a medical physical when they come on the job, any followup has been the responsibility of the individual firefighter. I did yearly physicals while on the job. Per the union contract or lack thereof I am not sure the city could mandate yearly physicals, BTW I favor yearly physicals for firefighters.
    Testing of face masks for each firefighter is something that is not done and really in my opinion I am not sure it could be done. These masks are what’s known as positive pressure masks that will keep contaminants out of a mask that may not fit exactly or if a strap has not been tightened.
    I cannot comment on the mayday procedures as we did not have them when I was on the job.
    The one question I have that has not been answered to date is were they in the 3rd floor looking for victims or were they there checking for fire extension. May their souls rest in piece and may their families find peace.

  2. TC, thanks for your input, it was very informative. It would be a good idea if Firefighters & Police were required to have yearly
    physicals. Not just for their sake but to make sure they are capable of helping extract a fallen brother.

    1. I agree, both jobs carry with them a lot of stress. In the firefighters’ case they are entering burning buildings wearing in excess of 60 lbs of equipment. Add to that load you are physically working and it takes its toll and you don’t know it. I know this from firsthand experience as I had a silent heart attack and it was only found after ekg’s went to the computer age, the old machines never picked it up. Yearly required physicals should be mandatory for all.

  3. God Bless the fallen firefighters and their families. I hope the report is wrong. I’d hate to believe lives were lost because some procedures were not followed.

    The Post article said the Mayor’s Office was notified a week ago and only commented after Keila Torres uncovered the story. Why?

  4. I feel the amount of work a fireman does and the way they put their life at risk every day, there should be a way to make sure we have the best equipment and everything for them instead of sending billions of dollars to other countries. Why the heck can’t we invest here and provide the best for people like firefighters because in my opinion not too many people would do the stuff they do and it’s not like they’re making a fortune. I might not agree with TC 100 percent of the time but I do appreciate his service and what he has done because I sure as hell would not be a firefighter.

  5. *** In the Prison system all gas & air pack masks are fitted to the person & applied for proper fit by the buddy system. Forty hours of mandatory refresher training is done on a yearly basis covering many different safety, lifesaving issues, etc. As a cert team member, a yearly physical & P/T test is also done to check members’ health & performance issues. So why is a city Fire Dept. that answers so many life & death calls on a regular basis “not” prepared in looking out for the personal well-being, of its men & women doing such a dangerous job? Seems the city, Fire Dept. Admin, Union & OSHA should all really make an effort to enforce better safety issues & training for all if these state safety violations prove to be true. Teamwork, equipment, proper training, safety & personal physical & mental preparation is key to any job, no? ***

  6. I worked the job much more recently than TC, and most operating procedures are similar at this time. As far as the fire department checking the air tanks … it goes like this. Each shift change, the firefighter reports to his apparatus and his assigned SCBA. (That’s the harness, tank, regulator and mask.) It is visually checked, donned, including the facepiece, and a sheet is checked off. The company officer is charged with making sure this is adhered to every shift/day. Those sheets are at the front watch desk and can be verified. The hydrostatic testing is a function of the BFD maintenance division. They have a list of all air bottles that need testing. They call for them, and have them done. Whether or not it was done, I have no way of knowing, but they do. Why aren’t the firefighters tested for their physical prowess … probably because it would have to be negotiated and never has. That’s another whole can of worms. Did they wear their masks in the fire … duh! You have to wear your mask or you will die. You can’t breath products of combustion for more than two breaths … never mind heated air. Besides, whadya gonna do, send another man into the shit to observe the others?
    Mayday … this is the big question. Everyone is trained in mayday procedures. At the first day on (when one of the four shifts starts a new 3-day cycle) the mayday evolution is run. The 911 center, or whatever it is called now, selects a company and that officer calls in a “mayday.” The whole procedure is gone through like the real deal.
    Now … what’s not being investigated by OSHA is the new communication system the BFD was using at this fire. I only know through hearsay that there is lots of information that is not being presented … could be exactly why the state Fire Marshal hasn’t made the report public. There are plenty of people out there with more knowledge than I, but this is as accurate as I remember.
    Inspections of city buildings and homes is another whole subject!

  7. I will address Inspection of city buildings. The Fire Department inspects all commercial buildings, apartment houses and 3-family dwellings. They do not inspect 1- & 2-family homes due to privacy issues. There is also a Fire Marshal’s Office that does inspections of new buildings and structures reported to have multiple violations.
    It is my understanding that this dwelling was a 2-family dwelling with a 3rd family living on the upper floor in what has been described as an illegal apartment.
    If in fact this was an illegal apartment, was anyone cited for having this illegal apartment? I cant say whether this illegal apartment contributed to the death of the 2 firefighters or not.
    It seems to me the city as a whole chooses to ignore illegal apartments such as the ones that house college students. There is going to come a day when one of these college houses is going to cause multiple fatalities. Then what does everyone responsible say, what a tragedy?

  8. The comments by “town committee,” “BARF” and “Mojo” are very good and right on point. The citizens of Bridgeport should know that they have one of the best fire departments around. The men and women of the Bridgeport Fire Department always perform their duties at the highest level; we all should be proud of them.

    The Connecticut Department of Labor’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health found that the department did not perform tests on the firefighters’ breathing gas tanks; failed to conduct medical evaluations and ensure firefighters were fit; did not make sure firefighters wore breathing equipment inside the burning building; and failed to follow “mayday” procedures. These are the most serious charges against the Bridgeport Fire Department that I have ever heard of in my life. The blame must start at the top with Fire Chief Brian Rooney, everything starts at the top. Brian Rooney should have never been selected as the fire chief, he has no management background and is only a high-school graduate. “town committee,” (aka Andy Fardy) has more training and certifications than Rooney. Rooney placed third on the fire chief exam, the person who came out number 1 and really wanted the position was Daniel Andrus. Daniel Andrus was named fire chief of Concord, N.H. two years ago after a 28-year career with the Salt Lake City Fire Department. He was deputy chief of administrations when he left. Andrus has a bachelor’s degree in fire services administration and another in business management. He also has two master’s degrees: one in public administration and one in economics. He has graduated from the National Fire Academy’s executive fire officer program. And Bridgeport picked Brian Rooney with his high-school diploma.

    The state Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health division found the fire department failed to perform tests on the firefighters’ breathing gas tanks, did not conduct medical evaluations of firefighters, did not ensure facepiece respirators were fit tested and failed to follow “mayday” procedures. Those problems and failure are not those of Lt. Steven Velasquez and firefighter Michel Baik or the members of the Bridgeport Fire Department.

    We all lost two great firefighters, Lt. Steven Velasquez and firefighter Michel Baik, I never had the pleasure of working with firefighter Baik but everything I heard about him was outstanding. I did have the pleasure to work with Steve and he was a fireman’s fireman. Steve Valasquez was one of those few firefighters who come along from time to time who was loved, liked and respected by everyone.

  9. Ron, it is too early to start throwing blame around. Let’s see what the city’s rebuttal is to these charges many of which are easy to prove or disprove. First off, the air cylinders for the self-contained breathing apparatus are not gas tanks. They have a 5-year life before they need to by hydrostatically tested. The tanks are easy to check as the dates are stamped on the tank and there will be paperwork to go along with the testing.
    The face masks are of a pliable material and furnished by Scott when you buy the SAPs. They form around your face and are face-fitted. They are positive-pressure masks that will keep contaminants out.
    The physicals for firefighters which I support were a bone of contention with the union when I was on because of the fear of how the results would be used by whatever administration was in power. It is certainly incumbent on everyone on the job to take care of their health and to stay in shape as this is a very tough job as you know.
    Ron, do you know or have you heard why they were in the 3rd floor of this building, was it for search and rescue or was it to check for fire extension? I have not read anywhere about this.
    I think civil service should be looking at the department and its requirements for all the positions. I would think the upper management positions would require a certain amount of advanced education. I think they should also be looking into entry level requirements as they relate to age and physical conditioning.
    This is a hazardous occupation that requires good conditioning and health. If sop’s need to be changed then let’s do it now.
    Ron I do have a lot of training and a lot of certifications but you are right I do not have a college degree. Does that make me smarter than Rooney? I don’t think that’s material.

  10. Chief Rooney as a deputy chief did little, and as the current chief is way beyond his “span of control!” It’s his way or the highway. His deputy chiefs make few decisions on their own. He believes he knows more than anyone else, and they all have more training or education. He has shown very little in the way of leadership, and if you ask the members of the department … they just shake their heads in despair. He has cost the department much in money and morale. Why did he get to be chief over the much more qualified candidates, I don’t know. It probably doesn’t hurt that his next-door neighbor is Mario.

  11. Ron; One of the problems in the fire department and in all city departments is the lack of management training. WE do not send our department heads and the upper or lower management people for management training.
    We appoint a chief of police or fire, give them a multi-million dollar budget and say have at it. Change the department.
    I firmly believe the Deputy chiefs of both the police department and the fire department should not be in their respective unions. They should serve at the pleasure of the chief.
    I believe that a firm set of qualifications should be set up and implemented for both of the chiefs, police and fire. I don’t believe you should have civilians picking the final 3 candidates as the city did in the police department.
    These are important jobs and the people interviewing and making recommendations should come from outside the state and should be the best we can find.
    I think the requirements should include advanced studies with a degree interwoven with practical experience. Will it happen in my life time? I hope so.

  12. “town committee,” I’m in agreement with you but I would take it a step further by having management training starting at the level of Lieutenant after a Lieutenant has serve three years in that position. Just passing an exam does not train someone in dealing with personnel and in coaching and counseling firefighters.


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