Fire Chief Under Fire: Why All the Heat?

There’s Rats in the Firehouse.

by Howard Melamed 12/24/01

Chief Haupt

If you have been reading the Sun Sentinel lately, Sallie James has reported that  Fire Chief Don Haupt is not certified in the State of Florida. Apparently he neglected to get his Florida Certification. It is required for anyone who is called to the scene to fight a fire.

The Sun Sentinel made it seem as though this situation was unique to Coral Springs but in fact 20% of all of the fire chiefs in Florida are not certified also. Oops. They forgot to tell you that. Even the Fort Lauderdale Fire Department’s chief doesn’t have the ‘Made in Florida’ shingle!

The Chief doesn’t fight fires. The trained firemen of his Fire Department do. That’s the same as the coach of a football team not playing football. His players do. Why then is the Fire Chief under fire about this issue? It has a lot to do about nothing made into something by two groups of people with questionable interests: Disgruntled ex-volunteers  because they got their toys taken away from them, and the Union who wants to assert themselves and disagree with the Chief’s employment practices. I know that the first group is waiting on the sidelines for the Chief to fall or the department to fail so that they can say “I told you so”. This is the same group that thought a response time of 12 minutes is acceptable, and that using the Fire Department equipment for personal use was ok. Are you forgetting? The Union, who  once hailed the Chief, has turned on him because of his policies towards not hiring only union personnel. Both would love to see Haupt loose his job. Both would love to see this city go back to the good ol’ times in ‘Hooterville’ when there was no chief in town and they were the law.

Where the Rats Are

Police Composite Drawing of the person who ratted on the Chief

Perhaps the greater question is who ratted on the department in the first place. The Sun Sentinel reported a few weeks ago that observers were riding the fire trucks and were issued ‘Bunker’ gear. Confusion at a fire scene might make someone think that these people are actually firefighters. Who would have even thought that? The same people that were volunteers that didn’t have the right training and passed themselves off as firefighters. So someone picked up the phone and called Sallie James directly instead of writing a letter or calling the chief to tell him of the potential problem.  Then came the issue of the Chief’s certification. Once again someone picked up the phone and called Sallie James (probably the Union). I know Sallie James, and she doesn’t stand around the fire station waiting for something to happen. She has more important things to do with her time. Given the calls she checked out the facts and fair is fair. It was a good scoop. But who are the rats?  Again, it had to be someone from the two groups who want to see the Chief fall.

Government Red Tape

The State of Florida red tape is not making it easy. Chief Don Haupt has an outstanding record of more than 30 years in the Fire Department of Norfolk Virginia. He was their Chief before deciding to come to our town. They have a fire department staff of more than 500! That’s 10 times the size of our fire department. If his credentials are good enough for them, why is it not good enough for the State of Florida? Because the government red tape has to make the process harder, and doesn’t take into consideration that other states have similar or better standards then ours.  All they have to do is the right thing here and declare the Chief as certified. They should come of their high horses and do the same for all of the other fire chiefs in Florida that are not certified and have similar credentials.

Hooterville Fire Department of past

animated logo

Members of the Hooterville Fire Department

Today we don’t have the ‘Hooterville’ Fire Department any more where the siren would sound and the volunteers would come a run ‘in from all over the town. There was the barber, the drug store owner, farmer Joe , and the hairdresser. The Hooterville Fire Department is never coming back to our town.  Some of the volunteers got their toys taken away and were told that they can’t play anymore unless they pass the ‘Haupt Test’.  All they have to do is put in the time and make the effort and maybe , if they are good enough, they will be able to play with their toys again. Their are many volunteers that did pass the test and are currently volunteering  their time to our fire department. They ride along side the paid professionals and you can’t tell them apart. In fact, the guys know that they can count on each other. A few volunteers failed the test or refused to take up the challenge and are sore about not making the team.  These people would rather all of us accept the Hooterville standard of the past. These people that have made it their personal agenda to hang the Fire Chief from the highest branch on the tree.

Support for the Chief

I am pro-Haupt. If you take a close look at the results he has been able to achieve in the past year, it is an easy decision. Most of the fire fighters in Coral Springs will tell you that we have a safer, better and more prepared fire department than ever before. They feel safe going to a fire knowing that each person had to pass the ‘Haupt’ standards.  We have full time protection with fully paid responsible fireman. Our trucks are outfitted with the latest technology and our fireman are trained with high standards. We are progressing in response time with the aid of computer technology and better placed resources. This was done because Chief Haupt insisted it be this way. Our residents are safer because of it.

Let us all be careful about placing our support behind any group that has their own agendas. They want us to go back to the Fire Department of 2 years ago in the wild wild west when their was no Chief in town and the monkeys were running the zoo.  Hey Sallie! You missed the real story. It’s about rats in the fire house.

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Unless you have actually been a volunteer of any organization, you may want 

to right a letter of apology to those who put their life on the line for 

people like you, who obviously has no clue and facts about what it takes to 

volunteer in your community. For over thirty years the Coral Springs 

Volunteer Fire Dept. took care of this City without any major incident and 

always had the manning to respond without extra cost to the City. Why don't 

you tell the citizens of this City why its costing the City over two 

thousand dollars a day in overtime to keep a station open (St-95) because of 

the lack of manning, which brings me to the issue of the under staff manning 

in the Dept. There is no way a fire engine or rescue truck can operate with 

two personnel on each unit, if a first arriving engine gets called out to a 

structure fire in a residence (hopefully its not your house)you need at 

least three personnel to get the job done. #1 f.f. (driver) takes care of 

the pump and gets a water supply, #2 f.f. (usually an officer or most exp.) 

has to size up the incident, establish a command and radio his findings, #3 

f.f. gets prepared with the equipment needed (hose, ax, rope, flash light) 

for the job. Also hope that none of your family member has a heart attack if 

you live in the City, it also takes a least three people to work a code, two 

on the victim and one to drive the unit. As far as the Chief, he knew he had 

to get his Florida certificates when he got hired, I do think that if your 

are a leader of a job that involves the safety and well being of humans, you 

must be able to meet the minimum qualifications of those who follow you. As 

for you, I think you need to do a little more homework and get you nose out 

of the Chief butt and print true facts about your stories. This was my first 

time and probably my last time in your website and I will ask everyone I 

know not to go in it also, start printing the truth.

Author: HelpMeHoward