Fire Chief Incident Question

Wambulance

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Hey, my service is Fire/EMS. We had a structure fire recently where our fire chief had left for vacation and was out of town when the call came in, so our C2 was the incident commander.

But that didn't stop the out-of-town chief from getting on the radio and directing people and resources. Most troublingly, he created and staffed a landing zone for a med flight helicopter. The 'copter and its crew was very much needed for a critical patient. However, this was in a rural area with just one road to the LZ that the chief had chosen, and that road was thoroughly blocked by apparatus. The ambulance could not get through the LZ .

Anyone on the scene would have known not to choose that LZ, but instead, direct med flight to the LZ on the other side of the incident so that the ambulance was unobstructed in reaching it. That's eventually what happened: the LZ was changed, the patient was transported, and is alive in a Level I trauma center about 100 miles away.

But there was a long period of radio chaos and confusion while incident command, the ambulance crew, and dispatch tried to get a handle on the med flight situation and get it to the right LZ, along with the personnel to establish the LZ . It seems weird to me that the chief inserted himself into the scene system despite not being there, and he caused a lot of confusion and wasted time by doing so.

What do you think? Is this a violation of the incident command system?
 

Tigger

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Uh, yes. Seems like what ever department channels you have will have to deal with this.
 
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Wambulance

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He's the Chief; there's nobody else to call him on it. He does stuff like this all the time (assumes command on other agency's scenes, etc.). We're a rural area with mostly volunteer departments all around us; I don't think anyone wants to bother confronting him about it. It's more a situation where everyone just rolls their eyes and agrees that he's an a-hole. But I'm pretty steamed about the problems he caused on the last scene.
 

Aprz

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He's the Chief; there's nobody else to call him on it. He does stuff like this all the time (assumes command on other agency's scenes, etc.). We're a rural area with mostly volunteer departments all around us; I don't think anyone wants to bother confronting him about it. It's more a situation where everyone just rolls their eyes and agrees that he's an a-hole. But I'm pretty steamed about the problems he caused on the last scene.
Are you just posting to vent here then? Ask a question and then say nothing can be done after someone answers? :?
 
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Wambulance

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Sorry, I meant to continue my question: If I wanted to call him on it; would I go to the state fire marshall's office? The public safety commissioner?
Thanks for any ideas on how to proceed.

EDIT: (I also was asking for clarification on whether his actions violated incident command. That's important for me to understand before going forward. I feel like I asked that in my OP. Just because the situation is tricky and complicated doesn't mean I wasn't asking for help. Sheesh. This is a tough room.)
 

GMCmedic

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This is something that needs to be addressed at the most basic of local levels.

You can't really violate ICS. Yes, this is inappropriate by ICS standards, while most states requiring some level of ICS training, there is no requirement to strictly stick to it at the local level.
 
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Wambulance

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This is something that needs to be addressed at the most basic of local levels.

You can't really violate ICS. Yes, this is inappropriate by ICS standards, while most states requiring some level of ICS training, there is no requirement to strictly stick to it at the local level.

Thank you; that helps clarify things. So, what I understand is that I could complain, but there's nothing strictly prohibiting him from continuing to command from afar as long as the local local mutual-aid participants are ok with it. In which case it's not really my purview. Frustrating, but makes sense. Thanks for the feedback.
 

GMCmedic

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Thank you; that helps clarify things. So, what I understand is that I could complain, but there's nothing strictly prohibiting him from continuing to command from afar as long as the local local mutual-aid participants are ok with it. In which case it's not really my purview. Frustrating, but makes sense. Thanks for the feedback.
If im reading this correctly, he was in command of a structure fire that he wasn't even at?

If that is the case, there are a million things wrong with it, and if that is common practice then run far away because it's only a matter of time till someone gets killed.
 

ffemt8978

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The thing about being the chief is that he's still ultimately responsible for whatever his department does. If he had issues with how the scene was being handled, he should have communicated those to the on-scene commander directly and not run a competing command (so to speak).

When I was an officer at my previous volly department, our practice was the first officer on scene took command and notified dispatch. The only two officers who could relieve us once command was established were the assistant chief and the chief. Our policy was that the officer who established command was the one required to notify dispatch of a change in command, so technically we could refuse to relinquish command if we deemed it necessary. There would a major dust up at the debrief if we refused, but we all realized that on scene was not the place to have that discussion and that sometimes those on scene had a better understanding if what was going on.
 
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Wambulance

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If im reading this correctly, he was in command of a structure fire that he wasn't even at?
It was weird; he wasn't on scene (wasn't anywhere near the scene) but he didn't fully take command. What he did was get on the radio and arrange and staff a landing zone on his own, separate from the incident commander and without communicating with the people doing patient care. So he grabbed an engine and its crew and diverted it to an LZ that was inaccessible to the ambulance because it was on the wrong side of the scene. It wasted water and people that could have been helping with the fire, and caused a lot of confusion and delay of the med flight. Once the chaos of trying to correct his LZ mistake started, he was nowhere to be heard on the radio.

Maybe there's nothing to be done about it in terms of official reprimand, but boy I'd love to see his feet held to the fire on this if there's any way to make that happen.
 

Jim37F

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Simple, if you're on leave/vacation/whatever not physically present at the scene you are not part of the scene.

If they allow you to hold onto radios away from work (I'm sensing Vollie?) Then even if you're a Chief, you can buff and listen in, but cannot give orders or otherwise take part because you are not a part of the incident.

If you wanna be in command you gotta be at the scene, can't be on vacation and working at the same time.
 

CCCSD

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I don’t think there is a legal or civil definition or puni for “violation of ICS”. This is between YOUR Chief and the other one.
Perhaps you weren’t seeing the overall picture and he was?
Perhaps there is an MOU or SOP about this you don’t know?

Perhaps you are making a mountain out of a molehill because of …Feelz?
 

DrParasite

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everyone has someone they report to, even the chief. maybe it's a board of commissioners, or town council, or some other elected official. each department is different. look for who controls the funding for the department; thats where you will find who oversees the chief. Discuss your concerns with C2; it's likely not your place to be filing complaints about this behavior, that's why you have a chain of command.

should a chief who is out of area be setting up an LZ? no. the IC is (typically the ranking person on scene); in this case, C2 was in charge, so it's still his scene until he relinquishes it. if C1 was giving orders, but not on scene, why was anyone even listening to him?

As for assuming command of other agency's scenes... that's a political fight. our county will dispatch the nearest chief officer to a call based on GPS; sometimes it's the local chief, sometimes it's not. 99% of the time, a chief from the first due unit will add themself to the call. My chief is notorious for adding himself to calls, especially anytime one of our engines go mutual aid; but he doesn't assume command, he just likes to go inside and actually fight fires. 99/100 times the local agency is the IC, but the engine shows up with a 3 person crew, most captains will gladly hand off IC duties to a chief who wants to run the show, and they will handle interior operations.

While I can understand a chief wanting to know what is happening when they are on vacation (who am I kidding, I'm nosey like that too), if you are on vacation, out of the area, or simply off the clock, you shouldn't be giving orders to people on a scene, unless they specifically ask for you to do something.
 
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