Feb 4 2006
08:06 pm

Greetings everyone.

For my first post I figured I would just share my public forum address to city council last Tuesday night.

Mayor Haslam and City Council members,


On Jan 29th  a Knoxville News Sentinel headline read “Mayor Wants to Douse Politics at Fire Department” I stand here tonight to support you 100% in that cause.


For years while we watched the Knoxville Police Department grow in manpower, accreditation, and professionalism, the Fire Department became a bastion for old guard politics. Today that culture is fighting advancement with the current misinformation campaign we have seen in the media in recent weeks.


That culture led the Knoxville Fire Department to shrink in size while national standards for manpower have grown. We are understaffed resulting in increased overtime and decreased fireground safety.


The promotional process was never consistent. Mostly scheduled around elections, with hardly ever the same criteria for the final selections, resulting in grievances and lawsuits.


Lack of professional education, training, accreditation, and modernization has led to thousands, maybe millions of dollars lost in injury settlements, lawsuits, overtime, and grant monies, allowing that culture to survive.


Mr. Mayor you made the first crucial step in ending this archaic political culture when you hired the first professionally qualified and experienced fire chief through a non-political process. I urge you and council to stay on track and publicly support this chief and not give in to the same politics that you say you are trying to douse.


Allow this chief to modernize the Knoxville Fire Department, just as the Police Department has done. The citizens and firefighters deserve it.


Thank you,


knoxrocks's picture

K F D :fire and hire

what the citizens deserve is a first rate fire department. so, its time for those who are abunch of whinners and cry babies to go full time with thier second job,leave city employment and those who they serve under, and let the city hire really deserving individuals who will serve the citizens as professionals and not be concerned with thier own agenda and interests.if everyday people knew the inner workings and fire ground tactics, they would not be impressed at all ,  most people are not aware of the phrase, "surround and drown" which is K F D 's longstanding motto
BrockPlasma's picture



It still amazes me everyday when people offer up opinions and statements that have no merit or forethought



Bbeanster's picture

I presume you're not talking about Bobby Russell

His City Council speech was outstanding, and all the more impressive compared to the anonymous crap the other side is churning out.
BrockPlasma's picture


Not talking about Bob.
Skidwell's picture

What Crap?


What anonymous crap are you speaking of? You, being the queen of anonymous sources, should specify. If you are referring to the flier, you can look on a previous post where I tried to dispel false assumptions about it. If it is another anonymous piece of crap, let me know and I will either agree with you or try to edify you. I will give Captain Russell credit. He made his convictions known publicly without the mask of anonymity.

Bbeanster's picture

Yep, the Flier is exhibit A

And while I agree that you have stepped up and discussed it here, on this forum, that really doesn't cancel out the damage this scare tactic has done in those neighborhoods. Just ask Rob Frost, who represents them. Heck -- just ask me, since I live in one of those neighborhoods, and was really disturbed when I heard Firehall #3 might be closing. I give you credit for being a standup guy who has the courage speak out, unlike those who were responsible for the flier. What this mostly looks like is a bunch of guys who do not want to be transfered and who are willing to take extreme measures to circumvent it.
Skidwell's picture

  I still do not understand


I still do not understand how you derived from the flier that the station was closing. Show me the line where it says station #3 is closing. This flier was not meant to be a scare tactic. It was meant to show the apparatus and staffing changes after the proposed restructuring. I assure you, Councilman Frost has been made aware of the flier’s intent. He is also aware of the potential repercussions aforementioned in "exhibit A". As a point of reference, I am one of the bunch that do not want to be transferred. That does not make me a bad person or a bad employee. Informing the public about their welfare does not sound extreme to me.

Bbeanster's picture

It is unquestionable that the flier scared people

That is why Frost asked for the public meeting to reassure them that the firehall wasn't closing. And maybe this line is at least part of the reason: "On any given day, you will will drive by and see the doors closed to Station 3 and no fire trucks inside! This is the future of the station! " I wouldn't want to speak for Rob Frost, but I have talked to him about this issue (and quoted him, in fact), and he sure didn't sound all that comfortable with the flier, regardless of what was said to make him "aware" of its intent. p.s.: I do not think you are a bad person. Even those who disagree with you say you are a good guy. I personally am not qualified to run a fire department, and don't know enough to have an educated opinion on the proposed changes. My beef is what it's always been with KFD -- its politics, and the tactics that some of your co-workers use. I tried to answer your question, now I have one for you: What do you think of Bob Russell's statement?
Skidwell's picture

  On any given day.........

"On any given day, you will drive by and see the doors closed to station 3 and no fire trucks inside.” The five sentences before this one state, “They are bringing in a rescue truck that will never be there due to its volume of calls and responsibilities. They are eventually replacing the engine with a multitasking fire truck called a “quint”. Due to this truck being a multi-tasking truck, it will be used at times as a ladder, engine, and squad. This means it can be used in other areas as well, being out of service due to its special uses. This is a great truck, don’t get me wrong, but when you look at the big picture of the station as a whole, you have 2 trucks that at any given time could be “out of service” on other calls.” Please take it in totality, not one sentence out of context. The volume of training that is required to achieve technical rescue status (which is the plan for station 3) is enormous. That training cannot take place at the station. It must be simulated at a training facility and those facilities are not in north Knoxville. The training must take place on duty due to overtime restraints. Thus, station #3 on any given day may be empty. The plans also call for the rescue team to be a regional response team. It could answer a call in south Knoxville or Blount County. Consequently, there will be an empty hall. Captain Russell believes what he believes and I respect that. I do have reservations about some of the things he says. Information instead of misinformation is one. I believe the past chiefs of the department had only the best intentions of the department in mind. The promotional policies of the last two chiefs have been the same as this one. They went straight down the line according to civil service testing procedures. Culture did not reduce the manpower in the department. No one that I know of rejected the idea of hiring a new recruit class. The blame lies at the foot of city administrators. Chiefs in the past have tried to get funding for new trucks, which are desperately needed. Again, rebuffed. I also disagree that our past chiefs have not been experienced or qualified. Thirty years of service in this department more than qualifies. I am in favor of modernization as long as we prioritize, stay on task and remember to whom our number one responsibility lays. Just a personal observation of 28+ years in the department; when things go our way, all is right in the world. When things don’t go our way, it’s politics.       

Oren Incandenza's picture

Taking it in totality

-- "Please take it in totality, not one sentence out of context."

You could take what I know about firefighting and shove it up a gnat's ass, and it would rattle around like a BB in a boxcar.  But I do have a passable mastery of English, and I can tell you that the entire flier -- all of it, in its totality, not isolating phrases -- was a scare tactic written in the shrill, panicked, disorganized tone of someone who knows, deep down, they're off-target.  Maybe if you had written it, or had been on the committee that wrote it, it would have been more carefully presented and persuasive.  Maybe it would have explicitly and clearly stated that No. 3 would be thinly staffed instead of darkly pronouncing that its "future" was to stand empty.

As it stands, however, that flier has done more harm than good in the community.  The upside is, however, that the ensuing flap has exposed Haslam as a spineless leader who doesn't even support his own direct hires -- not that anyone should be surprised or that anyone off this site, apparently, is watching.

James Rickett's picture

Reply to fire and hire

The citizens have a first rate class 3 fire department.Maybe in your world we sound like whinners , in my world we care what happens not only to our department but to our community. Most of the employees of the fire department have to have a second job to survive in this world. None of us can gripe about that , we knew the pay when we joined the ranks of KFD. The employees of the fire department are deserving of their job and i'm sure you are of yours. Every job has a few people that are rough spots. The letter sent out was not a scare tatics letter, just the facts and nothing more. Anyone can read something into any letter , just look at the facts thats all the letter states. KFD never has and never will stand by and just say "surround and drown".That phrase is only used when conditions of a structure are fully involved with fire and the structure IS going to collapse. Please know what your talking about and use your real name when when you wish to complain.

Bridget Pensa's picture

I just wanted to commend you

I just wanted to commend you on making the statement about using your real name and not a screen name, just as you did in your response.  If you're going to be man or woman enough to say it, be man or woman enough to use  your real name! 
Ken Burnette's picture

surround and drown

I would like to ask first and foremost ,who is knoxrocks? and where did he or she get their information?

the inner workings of the k.f.d. has never been kept secret from the citizens of knoxville.

it is people like knoxrocks that hear a story and then embellish it so it will sound better when they tell it.

k.f.d. is an offensive firefighting dept! for the lay person that is when you arrive on the scene of a house fire you enter the burning structure to save lives and property by extingushing the fire in the quickest posssible time and decreasing life and property loss, I have been a fireman for 34 years and have never heard the motto (surround and drown) used at a fire scene.


                                                           Ken Burnette/K.F.D.

jgoucher's picture

KFD voice

I will give BobRussell credit for speaking outside the whiteboard and not using the disgronoficator to alter his voice here, but I will have to take issue with your message here, and with tonight's TV news interview. As an outsider myself (having made Knoxville my home for only a few years), I have a fairly objective point of view. I do not believe this current controversy is all about GOB's and 'old guard politics'.

Anonymous's picture

well when you get over the

well when you get over the whinning, maybe one day you will have  the years experience that i am sure you strive for (retirement package). i shudder the day when a high rise actually has a fire, and the experince and training will need to be there.
jgoucher's picture

Mr. Anonymous, I quote here

Mr. Anonymous, I quote here from the usage and rules for participating in this blog.  "Stick to the facts.  Dont post rumors, innuendo, conjecture, speculation, or other information which is not public record or about which you have no verifiable first-hand personal knowledge."  I dont see any post discussing years of experience or a retirement package.  Did I miss something?  As for 'the day when a high rise actually has a fire, and the experince and training will need to be there.'  Read the local paper or watch the local news - it's not always comprehensive coverage, but it's information.  There have been numerous fires over the past couple of years at various high rise buildings here in Knoxville.  I guess if we (my fellow firefighters of the Knoxville Fire Department) had not gone IN and put out the fire, saving lives and property, you would have heard much more on the news.  The Knoxville Fire Department is very experienced and does an excellent job.  So, load your brain with ammunition before you shoot next time.
Tara Dunlap's picture

if you you are bold enough to write then at least say your name!

First of all, you have no clue as to what you are talking about.  These firefighters are standing up against a chief that has been brought in that was extremely low on the list of qualified men to take this very important position.  The high rise that you spoke of has been a reality and if the men fought that fire in the so called "surround and drown" that the chief pushes then a certain building down town would not still be standing.  For the record, whatever retirement package these brave men and women do end up getting, I can assure you that it isn't near enough to compensate for the countless times that they risk their lives.  Most of these firefighters are in this profession because that is who they are and because they love what they do.  This chief has made comments in the past that "if these guys are having to work second and third jobs then it is because they are living above their means".  Given the recent publicity about the chief's overspending, it appears that he needs to take some of his own advice.

Bbeanster's picture

"Pissing and moaning?"

KFD is Knoxville's First Responder and handles health emergencies as well as fires and hazardous material events, so it seems worth worrying about for those of us who depend on them.
(Anonymous)'s picture

KFD Dirty Laundry

jgoehring I would like to start out by saying that I have been with the Knoxville Fire Department for almost four years. My rank is Senior. Therefore, I don’t think that this qualifies me as one of the “good ol’ boys” or the “old guard”. I am still too new for that.

I have learned several valuable things in these four years though. I have learned that the majority of the men and women of this department are honest, hard working people who will go into a burning building for someone they don’t know and risk their life saving them.

These same people will work their hardest giving the best EMS to those who are sick or been injured. The same people who will get up several times in the middle of the night to answer false alarms or just help grandma or grandpa get back in bed (it is nights like these that I would like to call some members of city council and the mayor and wake them up out of a sound sleep to let them know we are working).

And I know what many people say to this, “it’s our job”. YES IT IS and the guys I work with and I love it! Unfortunately, this is not the message in the media.

And before I go any further, let me say this. It is not my job to speak on behalf of the department like Captain Russell did. My thoughts and opinions are mine and I am not going to pretend to represent the department with comments that are positive or negative.

So in saying that, I would like to share some of my thoughts.

I feel that we look really bad right now in the public’s eyes. Many people are writing that we are acting like children and being crybabies and that we are trying to stir a hornet’s nest. This may be true. However, if done correctly, I believe that I have that right afforded too me.

For example, morale does not seem to me to be the greatest in our department. One of the statements Chief Perez made in the paper about firefighters just “taking naps and watching tv” was a bothersome statement for me. As a matter of fact, in our last chief’s advisory meeting, I brought this up and Chief Perez stated that he was “misquoted” in the paper. Fine, I will buy that. However, as the head and leader of this department, a public apology or interdepartmental email/fax should have been sent out that explained the misquoting.

Anyway, on to the juicy stuff. And mind you, I am speaking on what I feel and see. My opinion represents myself. It is no secret that there are people who like and dislike Chief Perez. As the news reported, our budget is not in the best shape either. Station 3 is not closing, but it is going to be a rescue hall. And on this topic, when Engine 3 and Ladder 3 are in the hall, they are only going to repond on calls in their immediate territory unless one or both of the trucks are called out as a safety company for a fire or pulled out on a second or third alarm. When a rescue company occupies station 3, they will be called out on car wrecks and fires that could be as far as straw plains. Thus the answer to the comments about seeing empty bays more often.

Anyway, on to more rumors. It is no secret that there are people in this department who just like to stir trouble, those who are the biggest suck ups I have ever seen, and those who only care about their personnal gain. I would like to believe that I don’t fall in to any of these categories. There are those who will complain about our firefighters union but will never go to a single meeting. There are those who will complain about the department but once again, will not get involved in fixing anything in a positive manner.

And then there are my favorites. Those who will complain, gripe, write letters and make statements but refer to remain anonymous. If you are going to bitch, be a real man/woman and step up. Get involved if you are going to. And please, don’t make statements representing what you think I feel or believe unless it has been voted on and represented by my union!

Anyway, another issue that has been covered up was a witch hunt that occurred at Heaquarters. Several months ago, we had a wife of a firefighter that was so concerned about my safety, she called than union president Mike Brown to report that there may be explosives in an unassigned A shift locker (13A). As a result, a bomb dog was brought in and an EOD team with it. Guess what, nothing was found but some fireworks (sad to say that they were mine and I was reprimanded). Now, lockers were searched that the bomb dog didn’t hit on and all of us on duty felt a little violated and upset that it wasn’t handled inhouse. Granted, the lockers are the property of the city and can be searched at any time.

This is not the issue though. After the smoke cleared (no pun intended), many of us wanted to know who the low life was that made such a ridiculous call. Still waiting for that answer. My problem is if for example, I don’t like someone at station 9, it is now obvious that I can make a call and say that someone has something in their locker or car and get it searched and not get in trouble because I am “so concerned for others safety”. Bullcrap. It is my opinion, and I told Chief Perez in person, that I feel that this was a witch hunt and I still feel that way.

On to a different subject. I find it laughable when people say they are trying to take the politics out of the department. Now lets be honest, is there any job in the United States that doesn’t have politics in it? It is hear to stay. And for that matter, if politics are so bad, why do council members show up at the firehalls bringing goodies trying to garner our support. Why did we walk the streets with the mayor and put signs out for him and have fundraisers. Not because we didn’t have anything better to do. It was because I believe in the system and I felt that Mayor Haslam was the best candidate.

So for my own hard work I ask this, Mr. Mayor, please listen to our Firefighter’s Union when they meet with you. Listen to those who have helped you in the past from this department when they speak to you. Please put pride aside and realize that we are not all bad and that most of us are good people. But there is a problem, and it needs delt with immediately. Just because you and members of city council that we supported are in office now, it doesn’t mean that you can’t stop by the firehalls and get the feelings and opinions of us all.

I apologize for dragging on. So I will wrap it up with this. I believe that we are one of the best and most aggressive departments around. We are taking a black eye in the media right now and I find this very sad. Our firefighters and our community are too good for this. But the taxpayers of this city need to know the truth and right now, there are too many sides of the story being played out. Chief Perez has done some good things for this department. However, there are things that I and others feel are not so good. Honesty, integrity, and loyalty are what makes a great leader. Not a gold badge.

So in saying that I give this challenge, Chief Perez, if there are things that the union and members of this department feel are wrong or are not in the best interest, listen to us or at least hear us out. As for the citizens of Knoxville, and that includes you Councilwoman Pelot, make no mistake, if you are hurt or you house is on fire, our differences will be put aside and this department will do anything to protect and save your property or life.

R. Neal's picture

Metulj, the anonymous

Metulj, the anonymous comment to which you are probably replying has been removed. Further action is pending.
Jefferson Scott Kindrick's picture

Bob Russell is entitled to

Bob Russell is entitled to his opinion, as is everyone in this city. Where he went wrong was the means by which he went about airing those views (local news) - a means which, regrettably, makes evident his mistaken and misguided impression that he speaks for all Knoxville Firefighters. More to the point, the implications of some of the things he says regarding professional qualifications, experience, and non-political processes - besides making me laugh until I nearly wet myself - might give tax-paying citizens the wrong impression.  Some of what Bob says about the department's need for growth is on track: but a lot more of it is in fact an extension of the very old guard politics he decrys. I respect him for his willingness to put his name to his views, but he needs to use an appropriate forum and unburden himself of the crass illusion that he speaks for a large group of people who, from what I have seen and heard first-hand, would love to take him to task for some of the things he has said. Oh, and Anonymous: live the dream, son - man up, stop shuddering and put a name to your old-school nonsense.
Robert Roche's picture

Firehall Politics

Everyones got an opinion and heres mine. Like Justin, I havent been on that long (10 years), but there are some things that we all learn early. All the polititians want politics out of the firehall unless its an election year and then THEY are in the firehall looking for help and or money.

The boys at Station 3 have never seemed to me like they thought they were special. I have some good friends over there and they have always treated me as their equal.

Someone getting on the news or a website and giving their opinion is fine, but dont give mine or the departments unless we have voted on it and then give the majority opinion. 

The firehall is a unique blend of people with varied backgrounds. You never know if the guy answering your call to service has a Masters degree, is a printed author, a former rodeo cowboy, a decorated war veteran, an ordained minister or some of the many other personalities out in the halls. The one constant to our crew is that we treat the prince or the pauper the same way: with compassion and the best care we can give. 

There are lots of folks always eager to jump to the front with new ideas and methods when a new Chief is hired. You have to wonder if its for the good of the department or for personal gain. I didnt know some of the "new guard" had all this knowledge and ability. they did a good job of hiding it all these years.

The longer I work at the firehall the more I admire Bruce Cureton. How did he survive a Mayor from both political parties and stay out of the news all those years. One thing he did, was if there was a problem, he sought out the source and made it quite clear that the problem would go away. Speaking of Bruce, he started requiring all recruits to be Haz-Mat technitians over 10 years before the so called elite departments did. Score one for us. We way not have been in the dark ages after all.

We may have a black eye right now and our dirty shorts are hanging on the line for all to see. Some of the guys that are referring to the "good old boys" are just wishing they had ever been one of the boys. Rest assured Knoxvillians, when you need us we will be there, even though your neighbors are blocking the driveways at Stations 18 and 14, and some are trying to run us over on the side of the interstate, and parking in the fire lane at every store in town.

These are my opinions and not the folks I work with. Thanks for your time.  Robert Roche

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