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  • Accountability is key in fatal fire


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    Letters to the Editors

    Accountability is key in fatal fire

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published July 10, 2002

    Re: Condominium fire in Island Estates . . . two die.

    I read in the paper that the closest fire hydrant was discovered broken four days before the fire, was not tagged to alert potential users and consumed valuable time of firefighters at the scene trying to use it. Public utilities director Andy Neff says it was scheduled for repairs.

    First question: Why isn't information about any malfunctioning equipment relayed to the Fire Department and to firefighters en route to fight fires? We are only talking about saving lives here!

    Second question: Why isn't everyone who directly violated policy (regarding tagging broken equipment and preparing appropriate reports) and who directly overlooked the violations fired? Supervisors and managers are in the mix because they create the environment that allows it to happen.

    If we are going to hold senior management responsible and accountable for their actions (and we will), then we also must hold responsible people (such as the city utilities workers and their supervisors) that do and oversee the work.

    This calls for leadership and doing the right things. Will the Clearwater mayor and city commissioners step forward?
    -- Ronald J. Delp, Clearwater

    Firefighters conducted themselves professionally

    Re: Fire raises questions that still await answers, editorial, July 7.

    Citizens of Clearwater, please allow me to clarify the perception that is being played out by city management.

    Our forefathers fought for some basic constitutional rights that we are all afforded and one of those is the right to be represented when questioned. It is my duty as fire union president to make sure that all our members are afforded these rights and advised appropriately.

    The interviews (with firefighters involved in the June 28 Dolphin Cove condominium fire) were conducted with professional cooperation on both parts with no objections from our attorney, as the fire chief has suggested. He, as well as the city manager, are the two principal reasons why we had to invoke our rights (to representation) in the first place.

    Their quotes, which have appeared in the newspaper, are accusatory in nature and are as follows:

    June 30: "Fire Chief Rowland Herald conceded that firefighters broke standard operating procedures by using elevators in attempting to evacuate several residents from the burning high rise, including Jean Zetterberg."

    July 4: Chief Herald states, "This is part of an ongoing fire investigation. It's similar to an officer involved in a shooting."

    July 4: City Manager Bill Horne states, "After we know the truth, then we are in a position to assess who might've had some responsibility. Then we deal with those issues then."

    July 3: Chief Herald talks of the immunity letter.

    July 4: Chief Herald and the city manager speak of the immunity letter.

    July 6: The city manager confirms there will be no immunity letter.

    I ask you, is this any kind of leadership?

    I think that we should identify the problems encountered, create workable solutions, educate our citizens on the dangers they will encounter and move forward.

    I also would like to thank all my brother and sister firefighters who continue to put their lives on the line day after day. You are true heroes, and you have saved a lot of lives. To our injured, may you recover with Godspeed. We are here for you.
    -- John Lee, president Clearwater Fire Fighters Association International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1158

    Supporters for Largo library should speak up

    Largo's new budget is out with the 93,000-square-foot library and without a tax rate hike. One of the objections to the new library was that it would require a tax rate increase. I hope this objection has been laid to rest and the fear it generated has been allayed.

    Perhaps some of those who opposed the new library out of fear will now support it. Their opposition has, in part, caused the City Commission to vote to re-examine the design and cost of the new library.

    I hope the library's supporters will be as vocal as some of its opponents have been. The city of Largo needs to and can pay for a bigger, better library. Let's build it.
    -- Philipp Michel "Mike" Reichold, Largo

    Library cost outrageous; let citizens vote on it

    Re: Call for new library in Largo appears to be without basis, letter, July 4.

    I agree with the letter writer. There could be a less expensive addition to the existing library without hurting the pockets of the people of Largo. You have plenty of room for parking if you utilize it. The "Taj Mahal" proposed by the mayor and some of the commissioners for $22-million is an outrageous sum. The thought that "This is what I want and I'll stamp my feet till I get it" comes to mind.

    Let the people vote. Give the people their say.

    I have been to a few commission meetings; and no matter what you say, the only thing commissioners hear is their own voices.
    -- Grace Dowd, Largo

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