City Cited, Working On Fixing Violations After Newell Street Fir

City Cited, Working On Fixing Violations After Newell Street Fire

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What happened during February's fire on Newell Street in Watertown, which injured two city firefighters, is at the center of a labor investigation where the city faces a serious violation.

The violation has to do with who's in charge at a fire scene and the city is currently in the process of training firefighters on a new protocol.

Fire Chief Dale Herman says communication about who was in charge wasn't at its best the night of the Newell Street fire. The fire resulted in injuring two firefighters - one seriously.

T.G. Kolb was hospitalized for 6 weeks. He suffered a broken pelvis and hip socket, requiring 2 major surgeries. He's still out of work.

After the injuries, the labor department came in and investigated. Herman says one of the violations said the incident commander wasn't aware that the firefighters were in a hazard area.

"Was it critical? In hindsight, PESH (Public Employee Safety and Health) thought it was important that the incident commander know about their whereabouts and so therefore we're putting in procedures that will help track our people on an incident scene," said Herman.

Herman says the department will now probably divide a fire scene up into sections and have someone specifically in charge for each area.

"So that we have clear lines of communication of who's in charge, who's calling the shots in what area," said Herman.

Herman says all personnel will also have their own procedure book so that they are aware of new or changing procedures.

City Manager Rick Finn says the city isn't facing any penalties for the violations, but they have to have firefighters trained on new protocol by the first part of November.

Herman says the department still doesn't have all the pieces to the puzzle about what happened that February night. But he says the fact that firefighters are required to act as captains at some times could have had an impact. Eight captains were demoted in 2016.

"I'm not certain what the PESH investigator found because what he finds and what he speaks to the people are basically sealed. I know that it is one of my concerns that at times this is a firefighter and then at times, this person is in charge on the fly like that and sometimes that catches people off guard or sometimes people aren't aware of that change in elevation," said Herman.

The fire department also faced other violations, including one for not having training documented and a couple of bookkeeping issues that were corrected. 

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