After agreeing with a citizen who said the Harbor Rural Fire Protection District’s offer to train port staff amounted to a hustle, Port Commissioner Wesley Ferraccioli recommended the Port of Brookings Harbor Board of Commissioners decline a contract with Harbor Fire.
The contract for $15,000 would have paid Harbor Fire to provide port staff with safety, fire prevention and water rescue training and hazardous materials training.
At the port board’s regular meeting Dec. 18, Ferraccioli said he left service at Harbor Fire because it lacked training, among other issues.
“I left because there is no training, no education,” he said, “and that’s why they are being investigated.”
Ferraccioli said Harbor Fire was being investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the department of fire training.
The port was giving the district $15,000 for training — for nothing — he said.
The Pilot was unable to find evidence of an investigation by the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST).
DPSST Operations Director Brian Henson said the department does not investigate agencies, but accredits fire agencies based on the training they offer and whether it meets standards set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
The NFPA is closed until the new year; officials could not respond.
Harbor Fire Chief Bob Larson said the NFPA sets standards for fire departments, and departments follow them as a matter of consensus. However, following those standards is voluntary.
OSHA Administrator Michael Wood confirmed an open investigation on Harbor Fire and said it was based on an anonymous complaint filed against the department.
The complaint cited inadequate training in the use of ladders, lifting procedures, exposure to bloodborne pathogens, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), and other issues.
It further claimed Harbor Fire staff might have used SCBA gear that was not prepared or certified for use, had not been properly fitted for the gear and had filled tanks at an air station that had not had its breathing air tested.
Neither Wood nor Health Compliance Officer Timothy Capley — who examined the facilities at Harbor Fire — would comment on an ongoing investigation.
According to Ferraccioli, if one inspected the fire trucks at its fire hall, none of the trucks were equipped according to NFPA standards.
Commissioner Richard Heap said Larson had told him the port was not part of the Harbor Fire district and that Harbor Fire would not have to respond to a fire at the port.
Ferracioli responded that the port was deceived and that all local departments would respond to a fire under mutual aid agreements.
Larson said Ferraccioli was correct about Harbor Fire answering calls at the port.
“The port is not part of our district,” he said, “but we would absolutely respond.”
When informed the port budget already had allocated $15,000 for Harbor Fire, Ferraccioli said things had changed and asked, “When you set money aside for a cause that you determine is fraudulent, do you still give them the money?”
The board voted to deny the $15,000 budgeted for the training.
Harbor Fire responds
Harbor Fire Commissioner Ken Hall said Ferraccioli was asked to leave Harbor Fire last year by then chief John Brazil due to a personality conflict.
“Wes (Ferraccioli) came from Long Beach Fire, a professional group,” Hall said, “and he wanted this to become a paid department. That lead to a personality clash with John Brazil.”
Assistant Fire Chief Thomas Sorrentino said port staff were welcome to attend training at Harbor Fire and noted trainings had not occured at the port in the past because of a communication breakdown.
“I didn’t know we were supposed to train them,” he said, “and I am the training officer.”
Harbor Fire officials confirmed an ongoing investigation by OSHA and said OSHA representatives had examined the department and interviewed staff for two days.
According to Larson, two inspectors examined the entire facility, spoke to numerous firefighters and reviewed the department’s policies and procedures.
A couple of the air tanks’ inspections or use-by dates had expired, Larson said, and they had been pulled from service. The air compressor used to fill the tanks had a lapsed inspection as well, but had been inspected yearly up to last year. He said last year’s testing had probably been done but not certified because of the transitions in the department.
Officers are in the process of completing the certification, he added.
Larson said the department was reviewing its blood-borne pathogens policy to ensure it meets OSHA standards, but said he didn’t have a bad feeling about OSHA being there.
“If we have to make some changes, we will,” he said.
Sorrentino said he was looking forward to the guidance OSHA would provide.
Both said no other agency was investigating Harbor Fire.
OSHA officials said they would report back to Harbor Fire in a couple weeks, and Larson said he would share the report at that time.
Harbor Fire firefighters and officers are currently scheduled for, or engaged in, multiple trainings, according to Larson, including incident command, vehicle operator and monthly trainings in conjunction with the Brookings Fire Department.
In the last two months, members had attended two trainings on the SCBA systems as well, and he said seven or more firefighters would attend firefighter school with the DPSST in February.
The department’s trucks were well equipped to serve the community, according to Sorrentino.
“If we need something,” Larson added, “we have the means to purchase it.”
He noted Harbor Fire had purchased a ladder truck three years ago, and it was not fully equipped, but Sorrentino had recently ordered more than $4,000 of equipment to outfit it according to NFPA specifications.
Reach Boyd C. Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org .