The International Association of Fire Fighters has filed a grievance against the Air Force Materiel Command over concerns Wright-Patterson does not have enough firefighters to adequately staff three-person crash rescue trucks.
Union officials say that violated a settlement agreement reached last fall with AFMC after years of appeals and arbitration rulings since 2008.
A Wright-Patterson spokeswoman said all parties to the settlement agreed current manpower required cross staffing, or assigning a firefighter to more than one fire truck.
The IAFF Local F88, which represents Wright-Patterson firefighters, filed the amended grievance last month after a diesel fuel spill June 26 in Wright-Patterson’s Kitty Hawk area. A commercial truck with a punctured fuel tank leaked diesel fuel into the drainage system off Kauffman Avenue in Fairborn, officials said. The off-base spill entered a tributary of Hebble Creek, according to a Wright-Patterson spokesman. Firefighters and an environmental incident response team contained and disposed of the estimated 50-gallon spill.
Union leaders said the number of firefighters who responded to the spill left too few of their colleagues to staff crash trucks if another incident happened. They’ve asked the base to comply with a command labor agreement and federal regulations, among other standards. The union also said fire department officials were required to notify base operations officials of the manning shortfall during the response to the spill, a point base officials dispute.
“There are no terms in the settlement agreement that require a report to base operations under any circumstances,” Wright-Patterson spokeswoman Marie Vanover said in an email.
IAFF officials said four firefighters remained at Fire Station No. 1 at the base during the June 26 incident. The base has on average about 22 firefighters on duty on a typical day, union officials said.
Three rescue crash trucks on base each require three firefighters, according to IAFF Local F88 President Brian L. Grubb.
“We want three people on the truck for our safety and the air crew’s safety,” said Roy Colbrunn, an IAFF district field service representative and former Wright-Patterson firefighter.
The trucks should be listed as out-of-service if full manning isn’t available, he said.
“That’s part of the problem here is that every time we get a call that means they are leaving some apparatus uncovered,” Colbrunn said.
Colbrunn said union statistics show roughly one in five response calls happens concurrently with another call.
Vanover said in an email all parties agreed in the settlement to cross-staffing assignments.
“By the terms of the parties’ settlement agreement, management is required to assign three firefighters to each” rescue crash truck, known as an Aerial Rescue Fire Fighting vehicle, she wrote. “At the time the agreement was entered into, all parties agreed that current manpower requires cross staffing in order to assign manning.”
She added no language in the settlement agreement stipulates three persons must be assigned to a crash truck “at all times.”
“Under a cross-staffing arrangement, the first vehicle dispatched has full manning and there may not be sufficient manning to fully staff subsequent vehicles if dispatched on other emergencies,” she wrote.
The base fire department has about 80 employees, and 56 of those are operational firefighters, according to Grubb. The department has 13 fire trucks spread across three fire stations on base plus several trailers to respond to specific emergencies, such as hazardous materials, or weapons of mass destruction.
The fire department was once authorized for 107 staff members, but the Air Force reduced those positions beginning in 2007 because of budget cuts.
IAFF leaders said they would like to have six additional positions each day to fully man the fire trucks, or a total of 18 more firefighters.
Wright-Patterson ensures base safety, Vanover said.
“Our number-one priority is the safety of all personnel assigned to Wright Patterson,” she said in an email. “Our firefighters are trained in all aspects of fire operations and at no time is the safety of personnel jeopardized.”
Wright-Patterson has a mutual aid pact with fire departments in neighboring communities.
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