Firefighters for the City of Pullman went above and beyond the call of duty last April when historic rains soaked Washington State. They managed to rescue 22 people, including an infant, who all became trapped as the water rapidly rose around them.
While most people were proud of the firefighters for risking their lives and ensuring that nobody was injured during the storms, bureaucrats with the Washington Department of Labor and Industries found faults with how the firefighters saved people's lives.
The City of Pullman was fined $2,700 for three separate violations for using a front-end loader as part of their rescue efforts. The first violation was assessed because the maintenance worker operating the machinery lacked "swift water rescue training." The second issue the agency had was that firefighters were not secured in the bucket of the front-end loader and were not wearing equipment suitable for water rescues. The third fine was because they allowed a city employee to ride in the bucket with the firefighters.
Some of the firefighters were not happy with the Department of Labor of Industries for launching an investigation into the rescue operations.
"It's hard when people come in and second-guess the decisions that were made in an emergency situation," said Mark Johnson, president of the IAFF Local 1892 union representing Pullman firefighters. "I think that's the frustration that most of us have at this point."
City officials decided not to fight the fines and the fire department enacted the changes suggested by the Department of Labor and Industries.
"Did our officers and our firefighters and maintenance operation crew do their best under extenuating circumstances? Yes, they did," Pullman Mayor and Fire Department spokesman Glenn Johnson told KREM-TV in a phone interview. "The fact that L&I could find some way to improve safety, that's fine, and we have instituted those changes."