Pensacola Firefighters

Letter to Pensacola City Manager Tom Bonfield

Do you know how important your safety is? We ask that in jest, of course, as the City has decided to put off the hiring of a fire chief until the new parks and recreation Director is on board. Interesting. We now know where the hearts and minds of the City Council and the City Manager are.

They don’t care what happens to the fire department. It is a non-revenue generating division of city government. Or so the City Manager is putting out.

Did you know that the City could be getting millions of dollars for public safety through the Fire Act Grants from the federal government and associated grants from the State Department of Emergency Management. Guess we didn’t learn enough about free money during Ivan, Dennis, and Katrina. Let someone else get it because we have enough services here in the City. Perhaps this is because the fire chief is too lazy to research what we need and how to get it. Or yeah, he can’t read a spreadsheet with the budget on it. Susan has to do it for him. Too bad for her.

Well, we hate to tell you that the fire department will not grow with the meager amount this community invests in its personnel. We are under paid compared to comparable departments in this area and around the country. We are understaffed and under trained for the jobs we do. Or sure the City is making an effort at making sure the drill tower is ready for training. Too bad it took a certificate of non-compliance from the State Bureau of Fire Standards and Training. Again, we wait until we are in trouble and then we only do the minimum to get the State off our back. This training center is NOT a training center for use all the time. It is a joke at best.

Now lets talk about the closure of Fire Station #6. We have been complaining about the mold problem for years. Paint peeling off the walls. But again, the fire chief, interim fire chief, deputy chief (again Waters and current Madison) and city manager have refused to do anything about it until this week. Explain why we are putting firefighters in harm’s way because the city manager it tired of living in the lap of luxury. He never spent one day in a trailer during Ivan recovery. It is important to get city functions back up and running, but why are we doing this at the expense of firefighters health and safety.

We are the last on the list again.

The only reason we were given other places to live was that the airport needs this station to keep from closing the airport. So that non-revenue generating department again is vital. Too bad memory is short.

As the City prepares for negotiations with the firefighter’s union, we won’t hold our breath. The City needs a fire chief that is worth his salt. But, again we fear we will never see one because Mr. Bonfield is too interested in the Taj Mahal, police salaries, sidewalks and parks.

Again, last on the list.

Some of us recently attended a conference in Jacksonville, Florida. Why is it there we feel left out and left down. People at this conference were progressive. Why can’t Pensacola. Is it the good ol’ boy system? It sure appears to be. During the hiring of the “unqualified (according to Mr. Bonfield) chief” we passed on some qualified talent. Why? Because they are a threat to the good ol’ boy system that is in place. What does it take to provide good services? A death in the family. One of ours, or one close by. In 2000, we experienced the unthinkable. We lost a firefighter in the line of duty because of the management we have in place today. Thank you Mr. Coby and Bonfield. We will face that everyday until we get training and safety as our focus. This will not happen with the good ol’ boys in Coby, Bonfield and Stalcup.

Again, we are last on the list. Yet, we take greater risks daily than a lawn boy ever will, or the tennis pro, or the swim coach. Remember the water is heated where he or she works, but the fires are uncontrolled. We suggest everyone take a good long look at what is happening in this community.

Economic development – ha. The city wants the development, but has a chief that does not understand the meaning of the word. High-rise? We don’t have any stinking high rises in this community. Well we do…..any building over 74 feet is a high-rise. But we don’t have any procedures for big buildings. Darn, isn’t Mr. Bonfield’s office close to the top of the building. Darn. People will come to a city that has good infrastructure. Ours is like the Hollywood facades. What people see on the outside is beautiful and looks sturdy, but when you come behind the building, you see the tent behind the front. Is that what the future holds for Pensacola. We were talking with someone who was involved with the chamber on economic development, and it seems like the fire department is a vital link.

We NEED a fire chief. We NEED to be treated with a little respect. The days of the good ol’ boy system need to come to an end. The days of not following the laws are over. We saw during the last fire chief hiring, Employee Services violated privacy laws by releasing addresses of certified firefighters. Tisk, tisk, tisk. Good thing nobody complained or we would be looking for a new Director of Employee Services Ms. Stalcup. There is still a lawsuit pending by the black firefighters. Is there a trend here.

Get off your butts and make this the city we want to work for. You will lose qualified people to other departments (not City departments, other area fire departments) if you wait until the dust settles. This working behind closed doors must stop.

But then again, we are the last on the list.

–Dennis Smith