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Fire Department Responds to Report

By Margaret Lyons in News on Sep 20, 2004 4:53PM

Fire Department SealFire Commissioner Cortez Trotter will unveil a new organization for the Fire Department today. The overhaul comes in response to the scathing report on the fire department's failures in the Loop fire in October 2003 by the Mikva Commission, a county-appointed panel, chaired by Abner Mikva, convened to analyze the Fire Department's response to the high-rise fire.

Six people died in that fire, and the Commission pointed to the FD's inadequate training, lack of physical fitness standards, jumbled communication, and a lack of command order as major factors in the tragedy. Firefighters did not discover the six victims until 90 minutes after they arrived on the scene because they were not conducting search-and-rescue operations.

The new protocol includes assigning some firefighters to search-and-rescue ops and others to firefighting. "This new order affixes accountability and responsibility. It's very, very detailed. It says who is supposed to do what right down to firefighters. The only thing that's not included are the names of the individuals," Trotter said. The proposal also outlines plans for annual physical fitness testing, additional high-rise drills, and additional training for all uniformed personnel.

The Mikva Commission also calls for competitive exams rather than patronage as the means for job advancement. Apparently, that is a "volatile" (Sun-Times's word) suggestion, although we're not sure exactly why. The CFD links to lots of relevant info about the fire, including, gruesomely enough, audio files of the 911 calls.