By Walt Hunter, Steve Beck
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Philadelphia firefighters claim they are being punished by the department for being injured on the job.
Representatives with the Philadelphia Firefighters’ Union say a member of Ladder Company 15 is being punished under a new department policy.
The firefighter saved two lives during a fire, but union officials say he is now facing disciplinary action.
The controversy stems from a house fire in Frankford in November of last year. The firefighter and his co-workers pulled a couple to safety from a third-floor window. The firefighter suffered burns during the rescue.
Shortly after the fire, the firefighter received a department memo that cited him for failing to properly wear his protective gear. The firefighter was then ordered out of Ladder Company 15 to another station, miles away. The union referred to the action as a “disciplinary transfer.”
Fire Union President Bill Gault says blaming the firefighter, and five others recently transferred, for the injuries they suffered as they risked their lives is flat out wrong.
Gault pointed out that even the hoods and coats that the firefighters rely on carry disclaimers that, in flames that can reach 2,000 degrees, they can’t guarantee protection.
“They’re disciplining members for getting wounded,” Gault said.
Gault believes disciplining the firefighters is an attempt to frighten other firefighters from reporting their injuries, thus cutting the number of injury claims and saving the city money.
When asked if the city was trying to save money, Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said “it actually sounds ridiculous when I hear it.”
Ayers said it’s not about saving money or discipline. He said it’s about keeping firefighters protected.
“It’s about safety.”
The union is in the process of filing grievances for the disciplined firefighters.
In the meantime, fire department officials said there are no plans to change the policy.