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Fire Fighting 101

Fire FighterFire fighters work in a variety of settings, including urban and suburban areas, airports, chemical plants, other industrial sites, and rural areas like grasslands and forests. Some fire fighters work in hazardous materials units that are trained for the control, prevention, and cleanup of materials like oil spills.

When an alarm sounds, fire fighters respond rapidly, regardless of the weather or hour. Fire fighting involves the risk of death or injury from sudden cave-ins of floors, toppling walls, traffic accidents when responding to calls, and exposure to flames and smoke. Fire fighters may come in contact with poisonous, flammable, or explosive gases and chemicals, as well as radioactive or other hazardous materials that can have immediate or long-term effects on their health.

Between alarms, fire fighters clean and maintain equipment, conduct practice drills and fire inspections, participate in physical fitness activities, and read about new firefighting technology.

About 9 out of 10 fire fighting workers are employed by municipal or county fire departments. Some large cities have thousands of career fire fighters, while many small towns have only a few. Most of the remainder worked in fire departments on Federal and State installations, including airports. Private fire fighting companies employ a small number of fire fighters and usually operate on a subscription basis.

Fire fighting requires teamwork. At fires, they connect hose lines to hydrants, operate a pump to send water to high-pressure hoses, and position ladders to enable them to deliver water to the fire. Fire fights also rescue victims, provide emergency medical attention as needed, ventilate smoke-filled areas, and attempt to salvage the contents of buildings. Their duties may change several times while the company is in action.

When forest fires break out, crews of fire fighters are brought in to suppress the blaze with heavy equipment, hand tools, and water hoses. One of the most effective means of battling a blaze is creating fire lines—cutting down trees and digging out grass and all other combustible vegetation in the path of the fire to deprive it of fuel.

Some fire fighters become fire investigators, who determine the origin and causes of fires. They collect evidence, interview witnesses, and prepare reports on fires in cases where the cause may be arson or criminal negligence. They often are called upon to testify in court.



Furniture Store Fire Settlement

Labor News

Families of eight fallen firefighters sued for wrongful death because of a June 18, 2007 fire at Sofa Super Store in Charleston, S.C. Thirty defendants which included the furniture store and various furniture manufacturers were sued. The settlement was $1.2 million.

In late 2008, 12 other defendants settled for a total of $5.6 million.

A panel of experts produced a report concluding the firefighters had inadequate training, outdated tactics, and aging equipment which led to their deaths.

The report also concluded that the blaze would have been confined to a loading dock where it started had sprinklers been installed in the store. The specific cause is not known but the likely cause is either discarded cigarettes or someone lighting materials at the store loading dock were likely causes.

The ninth victim’s family sued solely.

This was the nation's worst single loss of firefighters since 9/11.

Related Article: Flammable Furniture

Source: and


Calculate Compensation

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This roundup of headlines from across the nation provides a snapshot of what's happening with
workers' compensation in the United States.

Coffee Break

Should an employee who suffers a serious accident while on a coffee break driving the company vehicle receive workers compensation?

A master plumber and foreman went to a job to discuss the details of that job. The person he needed to talk to said that he was running late and wouldn’t be there for 45 minutes. The plumber decided to go get coffee at a deli five miles away. On his way there, he was involved in a serious accident breaking one of his arms and both of his legs.

The New Jersey Division of Workers’ Compensation awarded the plumber 100% disability.

The plumbing company appealed, arguing the accident didn’t arise out of and in the course of employment.

A state appeals court rejected the argument. The court said the plumber engaged in “exactly the kind of brief activity which if embarked on by an inside employee working under set time and place limitations, would be compensable under the personal comfort doctrine.”

In other words, accidents occurring during coffee breaks for off-site employees, which are equivalent to those of on-site workers, are eligible for workers’ comp benefits.


Whistleblowers Bust Medicare Fraud

Rush University Medical Center is one of several defendants in a suit brought in 2004 by two people under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private citizens with knowledge of fraud against the government to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the United States and to share in any recovery.


The lawsuit involves allegations that Rush entered into prohibited financial relationships with certain physicians. The two whistleblowers will each receive $270,760.

Rush University Medical Center has agreed to pay $1.5 million plus interest to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act. Rush is alleged to have submitted false claims to Medicare from 2000 through 2007 by entering into certain leasing arrangements for office space with two doctors and three physician practice groups that violated the Stark Law.

The Stark Law prohibits a hospital from profiting from patient referrals made by a physician with whom the hospital has an improper financial arrangement. The Stark Law is intended to ensure that a physician's medical judgment is not compromised by improper financial incentives and are based solely on the best interests of the patient.

This settlement is part of the government's emphasis on combating health care fraud.


Toyota Whistleblower

A former Toyota whistleblower lawyer has shared documents demonstrating that Toyota deliberately withheld records that they were legally required to produce in response to the discovery process.

Toyota denies the allegations.

Many of these documents concern rollover cases in which a driver or passenger was injured, including cases where victims were paralyzed.

According to the whistleblower, documents indicate a systematic disregard for the law and routine violation of court discovery orders in litigation. People injured in crashes involving Toyota vehicles may have been injured a second time when Toyota failed to produce relevant evidence in court. It also raises serious questions as to whether Toyota has also withheld substantial, relevant information from NHTSA.



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