BOW denies grievance
filed by Professional Firefighters of Kokomo Local 396
By George Myers
KOKOMO - The Kokomo Board of Public Works this week denied a grievance
filed last month by the Professional Firefighters of Kokomo Local 396
that alleged the city violated a contractual agreement.
On Wednesday, the BOW denied the grievance on the grounds that the
Kokomo Fire Department had acted within the contract’s parameters when
calling for assistance from volunteer fire departments.
The union’s grievance was filed on Nov. 14 following a house fire less
than a month earlier that required Kokomo firefighters to call for
Harrison and Russiaville volunteer fire departments for water supply.
On Oct. 19, KFD Battalion 2 was dispatched to the 3000 block of Oxford
St. on a report of a house fire with smoke, according to a findings of
fact document adopted by the BOW.
Tanker 1, located at Station 2, was not in service on that day.
Therefore, Battalion Chief Brad Myers called for Harrison and
Russiaville volunteer fire departments for water supply, and the
Harrison Township Volunteer Fire Department arrived on scene and
supplied water for KFD to “fight the fire without further incident,”
according to the findings of fact.
On Nov. 14, the union filed a grievance, alleging that, “Calling for
outside assistance from Harrison Township F.D. violates … our
contractual agreement. Tanker 1 was taken out of service on this day to
not pay overtime.
“This is common practice of the KFD administration to take Tanker 1 out
of service to avoid overtime costs.”
Local 396’s settlement request was “mandatory staffing of Tanker 1 at
During a public
hearing before the BOW on Nov. 30, Local 396 President Chris
Frazier questioned the safety of waiting until a fire is underway to
either call in firefighters for overtime or reach out to volunteer fire
Additionally, Frazier referenced a recent fire that caused the
battalion chief to take a firefighter off Engine 2 to run the tanker,
leaving Engine 2 short-staffed.
“Our choices now are we are either going by their contract and using
volunteers to do our job, or we are going to have to pull people off of
our own fire trucks that run as two-man trucks during this time,” he
The portion of the contract alleged by Local 396 to have been violated
states that, “Except in an emergency situation, no personnel except
those of the Kokomo Fire Department shall be used to fight fires. It is
not the intent of the City to call for outside assistance to fight
fires in order to deny off-duty personnel unscheduled overtime.”
Following the submission of the grievance, Kokomo Fire Chief Nick
Glover issued a written opinion concluding that KFD did not violate the
terms of the agreement.
Glover did, however, offer to award four hours of pay to any employee
of Local 396’s choice to “resolve the matter,” according to the
findings of fact.
During the Nov. 30 hearing, the findings of fact document states that
numerous “relevant facts” were presented. The first notes that Oxford
Street was annexed by the city and does not have fire hydrants, meaning
it relied on other sources of water.
Also, Tanker 1 has been out of service for more than 90 days, including
any partial days, but that this grievance was the first filed by the
union. Additionally, Engine 2 was stationed at Station 2 and qualifies
as a tanker truck. It was, however, out of service on Oct. 19, the day
of the fire, according to the findings of fact.
Most notably, though, it was determined that the house fire on Oct. 19
was an “emergency situation.”
Because the section of the contract highlighted in the dispute begins
with the wording “Except in an emergency situation…” the BOW ruled that
KFD did not violate its contract.
“Therefore, given President Frazier’s acknowledgement that the fire at
3112 Oxford St. was an emergency situation … the Board of Public Works
and Safety hereby finds KFD did not violate the plain language of
Article X Section 8 when the department called for outside assistance
to respond to the emergency situation,” read the findings of fact.
During the Nov. 30 meeting, Frazier said, “Every fire would be
considered an emergency.”
Frazier said, however, that he believes the city’s interpretation of
“emergency” is skewed. In Frazier’s opinion, a house fire does not
constitute an emergency for a city fire department, meaning the
department shouldn’t rely on outside agencies for assistance in those
Frazier criticized the city for, in his opinion, keeping the tanker out
of service for financially-motivated reasons, which requires the
department to rely on measures that are “against the intent of the
language” of the contract.
“Everything we do is an emergency. You’re talking about excessive
emergencies in the language,” he said to the BOW during the Nov. 30
In the findings of fact, the BOW stated that the contractual agreement
doesn’t allow for multiple interpretations of “emergency.”
The BOW stated that “the phrase is not defined in the Agreement
to provide further definitions or sub-classifications of when a
situation qualifies as an ‘emergency.’”
George Myers can be
reached at 765-454-8585, by email at email@example.com or
on Twitter @gpmyerskt.