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You be the judge – Sandy Part 2: NJ fire department handles fallout after dealing with firefighters who responded on their own to storm.

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Like the volunteer firefighter who lost his job as a truck driver while on a storm response, this is another interesting one from Sandy that is making headlines in New Jersey. Four volunteer firefighters from Manville, New Jersey were suspended because, on their own, they went to Toms River, the hometown of one of the firefighters, to assist in the aftermath of the hurricane. While the punishment for three of the four has been reduced, the fourth, Gary Barras, has been in a very public battle over this issue.

Manville officials are making the case that Barras misrepresented himself, got into a heated battle with his chief and violated established protocols for this type of response.

Barras argues that he as doing the right thing. Manville officials also believe they are doing the right thing, but understand the public relations problem that has resulted from appearing to punish someone for doing a good deed. Also, social media has played a role in this case with Barras’ picture on Facebook in Toms River becoming part of the evidence.

So what do you think?

Meghan D. Hodgin,  NJ.com:

All but one of the four North End Volunteer Fire Co. firefighters who were suspended after going to shore to help with Sandy relief were reinstated Thursday night, according to Manville Mayor Angelo Corradino Friday morning.

The firefighters were originally suspended for not following orders and for misrepresenting themselves upon their return, Corradino said. But firefighter Gary Barras became “almost combative and unruly, and that’s why he was dismissed,” the mayor said.
Barras — the firefighter who spearheaded the trip to help out East Dover Fire Co., in Toms River, his hometown — had permission from Capt. Joe Barilla to leave town, but he did not have permission to bring three others with him, according to Manville Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Ken Otrimski.
The firefighters were in violation of the Fire Service Resource Emergency Deployment Act of 2003, Corradino said, which could subject Manville up to a $10,000 fine.

WCBS-TV:

Gary Barras, a former volunteer firefighter, claims his superiors in Manville suspended him for going to Toms River to help residents down the Jersey Shore hit hard by Sandy.

“When he came back, the way he handled the situation misrepresented the truth and almost getting into a fight with the chief,” Mayor Angelo Corradino said.

Fire officials said Barras was told he could go and help hurricane victims, but he was not allowed to represent the Manville Fire Department.

Then they said they saw a Facebook picture of Barras wearing Manville bunker gear in front of a Toms River fire truck, expensive bunker gear that can cost close to $3,000.

Sergio Bichao, APP.com:

The disciplinary action, it was revealed Friday, was more than a local matter, involving officials as high up as the state Department of Community Affairs. The agency’s Northwest Regional Fire Coordinator Timothy Weiss emailed Somerset officials Nov. 4 to inform them that Manville volunteers had self-deployed to Ocean County.

The Manville volunteers had reportedly been spotted by Ocean County Fire Coordinator Brian Gabriel, who told them to leave because they had not been deployed through the proper channels.

Manville officials, however, also dialed back the punishments. Two firefighters who had been suspended for six months were reinstated on probation. Another firefighter who had resigned is welcome to rejoin, officials said. But Barras is likely to remain a man without a fire station.

Comments - Add Yours

  • Dickey

    He was wrong, plain and simple. He was ordered not to take his gear or represent his department in an official capacity. It was right to send him home too for self-dispatching. He should have taken his licks like the rest of them and moved on. He sounds like a hot head in this video too. Sorry bud, admit when you are wrong and move on.

  • Anonymous

    Even in the screwed up world of Volunteer firefighting you must have rules. People who think they are bigger than the system they are operating in will get someone hurt eventually.There are alot of out of control vollies running around who probably need a reality check including this guy.

  • Bubba

    Sorry buddy, you should have waited for your county coordinator to assign you to the detail, you would have saved your butt!! That’s what all the other departments in Jersey did, including my own.

  • mark

    OK, let me see if I have this right. He self-dispatchedfreelanced.

    He was sent home by someone in Tom’s River?

    So far so good?

    Then he lied about it? Oops, I mean “misrepresented”.

    I fail to see why he WOULDN’T be fired. Who wants someone like this under them?

  • FMCH

    I agree with you guys. This is why SOGs & SOPs are in place.

  • slackjawedyokel

    if you have time to pose in front of a fire truck, you had time to secure some loaner gear before you left. I really like his comment that he brought the gear, but he didnt think he was going to have to use it. And anyone that wears his hat backwards, proabley cant wear his ppe correctly anyway. No big loss.

  • Fire21

    I agree that he broke the rules and needed to be punished. I don’t see in the photo where one can determine that the gear he’s wearing can be identified as Manville’s. I do feel, however, that if you’re going to get your picture taken, pull your pants up and look like a firefighter! Oh, and turn your hat around…you look stupid!!

    Things like this make me glad that, as a volunteer, I retired as an asst. chief and am now just an engineer again!!

  • Former Chief

    Barras is wrong and insubordinate. With that said, Manville did a poor job initially in dealing with this issue. Local media reports included a comment from the Manville Chief that said something to the effect that as a public entity, this was a private matter. Excuse me Chief, as a public entitiy, almost nothing is a “private matter”. The Fire Service Resource Deployment Act in New Jersey was established to stop freelancing and self deployment of fire resources, both career and volunteer. It’s not perfect, but it works fairly well. Not to go off on a tangent, but for reasons too numerous to mention here, we as a fire service must do a much better job of selecting who we want as Firefighters, both career and volunteer, and who we choose as Fire Service leaders. I’ll get off my “soapbox” now.

  • Tree

    The first thing that always comes out from our county coordinator’s office any time there is the possibility of deployment for a disaster is “DO NOT SELF-DEPLOY!”

    So far, we haven’t had a problem, even though there are lots of people (and departments) around who have good friends in other parts of the state.

    We may be chomping at the bit, but until they say “go,” we stay. There’s a mechanism in place for that.

  • Dmgdriver

    There is something that seem to be missed in the discussions for those who self dispatch themselves. Insurance!!! If an injury was to happen, or unintended property damage because of the actions of a self dispatched person while performing what would be considered common duties of a firefighter, the law suits would come so fast your heads would spin. As not part of a responding department this is a liability no department would desire to take on. As soon as these men donned their department identified bunker gear, there is an assumed liability on the part of the home department. This opens the possibility of that department to be sued as well. IE: if there was a flood in the area covered by Statter FD, and I respond wearing Dmgdriver bunker gear, and while helping rescuing a victim in a boat, I hit an underwater obticle, sink the boat dump myself and the victim into the water, Statter FD, the town of Stater, Dmgdriver FD and the Town of Dmgdriver are all liable and can be sued as such.

  • Curly in CT

    How bout the people who “self-deployed” to 911 in NYC? Let’s not make a big deal outta nothing. People helping people…isn’t that our mission?

    • mark

      Did you miss the part about lying?

  • sinnerscastingstones

    Very, very good point Curly. a lot of people like to Monday morning qb these things but really don’t stop and think of the grand picture. I fault the guy for wearing his departments gear and then lying about it. But I would never fault anyone for going to their hometown and volunteering to help with their skills as needed. All of those communities were in need of some help in one form or another and to discipline these guys for doing exactly what they signed on to do is nothing more than a joke to me. I understand if it were a house fire in the town next door and vollies in your town took it upon themselves to go and try fighting it without any requests for mutual aid…that’s one thing. When it comes to the disaster that struck these communities and guys know where help is needed or have a place they can get a foot in the door to help, that is our calling for Christ sake! It is why we choose to do this. This is why I choose not to volunteer and will stick to the professional job I am in. Obviously I would get “fired” from the jolly volley town God forbid I went somewhere else to help someone.

  • Bullets

    Curly, self-dispatching is a big issue. Its a safety issue and liability issue. Without being sent through the right channels, there is no accountability and that results in people doing whatever they want or whatever they think needs to be done. This can result in freelancers getting hurt or hurting others who know what they are assigned to do.

  • RJ(in florida)

    freelancing sucks and is wrong for a varity of reasons and to Curley, you have to understand that a good chunk of FDNY members are vollies outside of the city in NY and NJ so that was expected (even i was tempted to go from florida because i lost 4 buddies) but self deploying and disreguarding an order cant go….}on the lighter side{–being suspended in a volunteer department is like getting charged with a offence while being in prison

  • Mike

    Lets see freelancing and bragging about on facebook, once again social media further bites someone for doing something dumb. The hard hit areas have received coordinated mutual aid from throughout the state to assist them with coverage. I’m glad to see the fire coordinators sent them home.

  • DCres

    You don’t self deploy. I don’t care if you are volunteer or career FF, you just don’t do it.

    As for 9/11, read the after-action reports to see some of the problems caused by all the self-deployment at Ground Zero.