Saturday, March 19, 2011

Guam Fire's Special Projects Section....Worth their weight in Gold???

After all the scrutiny brought upon the Guam Fire Department's uniform firefighters that are collaterally assigned to the GFD Headquarters regarding their compensation, what was it really all about?? Were they not working all their hours that they claimed? Were they shortchanging the government and not delivering the full worth of their salaries? What do they actually do? Let's examine this unique fire department special section in detail.

The unit's OIC, Fire Captain Ed Flores gives the following account of their duties, qualifications, past accomplishments, current and pending projects and future plans. OK, here we go.......

The Special Projects Section is an internally formed unit within the Guam Fire Department which was created to spearhead solutions for major problems or issues within the GFD in addition to their regularly performed firefighter duties.  The personnel were specifically chosen based upon their work knowledge and their overall motivation to accept the responsibilities.  The Special Project Section is composed of the following personnel:  Fire Captain Edward L. Flores (Officer in Charge) and Fire Lieutenants Edward C. Artero II, Philip J.E. Camacho, Joey C. San Nicolas.

Work Schedule:
The Special Projects work schedule is generally a 120 hrs bi-weekly work schedule which includes three 24 hour work shifts (however schedule adjustments are made based on the needs of the department).  Special Projects also performs duties to alleviate response manpower shortages.  This section mans the Major Alarm Scene Support (MASS) Unit and performs these duties on a daily basis.    The unit also has a 24 hrs, 365 days response requirement with the MASS Unit and responds regularly to support the GFD’s everyday operational activities and the Incident Command System (ICS).  The MASS unit is a federally funded unit which consists of two vehicles equipped with response equipment.  This equipment includes incident response, incident safety, and firefighter rehabilitation and vehicle extrication equipment.  Examples of work performed include long term search and rescue operations, structure fires, HAZMAT and Incident Command Post (ICS) operational functions; as well as multi unit/multi-agency training exercises.  The section’s personnel also fulfill manpower shortages outside of the MASS program.  The duties performed by the personnel are listed by the work that they perform in addition to the duties that are assigned them as part of their collateral headquarters assignment.  

Unit personnel perform firefighter duties based upon their qualifications during their 24 hour work schedule as well as performing these duties on a 24 hour “on call” schedule 365 days a year.  This unit’s personnel are also subject to work schedule alterations based upon the needs of the Guam Fire Department and have many times responded to alarms on regularly scheduled off duty days.  The following are the duties and qualifications of assigned unit personnel.

Fire Captain Edward L. Flores:  MASS unit, Fire inspections (National Fire Academy trained), Fire Investigations (National Fire Academy Trained), Engine officer in charge (Pro Board Fire Officer II Certified), Fire Service Instructor (Pro Board Certified), Incident Safety Officer (Pro Board Certified), Health and Safety Officer (Pro Board Certified).

Fire Lieutenant Joey C. San Nicolas:  MASS Unit, Advanced Life Support (ALS), Emergency Medical Technician Instructor and ALS Instructor, Acting Officer in Charge Fire Suppression, Fire Service Instructor (Pro Board Certified), HAZMAT Instructor (Pro Board), HAZMAT Specialist, Confined Space Rescue Technician, Coxswain (USCG Certified), Open Water Dive Certified (PADI), Rescuer CPR instructor (American Heart Assoc.),.

Fire Lieutenant Philip J.E. Camacho:  MASS Unit, Officer in Charge of Communications/E911, Emergency Medical Technician, Acting Officer in Charge Fire Suppression, Fire Service Instructor (Pro Board Certified), HAZMAT Operations (Pro Board Certified).

Fire Lieutenant Edward C. Artero:  MASS Unit, Emergency Medical Technician, Jaws of Life Instructor Training, Acting Officer in Charge Fire Suppression, OSHA General Industry Instructor, HAZMAT Technician, Rescue Diver Certified (PADI), Rescuer CPR instructor (American Heart Assoc.).

The following are major projects which are being handled by the Special Projects Section in addition to the fire service duties as stated above.  Please note that these projects are “conceived and executed” by this section utilizing alternate funding sources, new revenue streams, and federal monies; with almost no expense to the Government of Guam.

US Department of Transportation (USDOT)/National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), Grantee Guam Office of Highway Safety (DPWOHS):

Vehicle Extrication Project:  Conducted Vehicle Extrication Instructor Trainer Course and Certified 11 GFD members as instructors in the use of “Jaws of Life” and other extrication equipment (also extended course participation to US Air Force Fire Department (2 slots).  GFD/DPWOHS purchased 1 set “Jaws of Life,” Combi-tool and power unit, as well as other associated equipment in excess of $70,000 during Fiscal Year 2010.   Project completion temporarily delayed awaiting the programming of grant funds by BBMR.  The program received a donation of 5 reciprocating saws via Firefighters Organization for Activities and Moral (FOAM) to equip response units.  Full scale training and certification will resume upon funds availability from BBMR.

Child Vehicle Passenger Safety:  Had certified 3 personnel in child safety restraint inspection and installation, to include 1 instructor trainer certification.  Participated in several outreach activities and training courses.  GFD continues to support this program with assembly demonstration and unit stand-bys.

Vehicle and Pedestrian Safety Education:  Included traffic safety message in Fire prevention week activities and distributed safety literature (fire and traffic safety coloring books) and other items to children in conjunction with Fire Prevention week and other safety forums.  Presented child safety restraint message in the form of a commercial in conjunction with DPWOHS and other public and private organizations.

Drunk and Drugged Driving (3D) Campaign:  GFD is currently a participating member in this years’ campaign providing support to this program with assembly demonstration, extrication demonstrations and displays, and unit stand-bys.

US Department of Interior:

Compact Impact 2005/2006:  Funds were scheduled to be expired on September 30 2009.  Funds extension requested and granted.  Scope of work also changed to allow for procurement of vehicles and equipment to meet allowable extension deadline of December 31, 2009.  Items procured were 4 Ford crew cab trucks, 2 jet skis with trailer, 2 sedans, 2 cargo vans, 1 Maintenance Truck with approximately $15,000.00 worth of tools, and other emergency response equipment.  The vehicles were purchased to serve as response and operations vehicles.  Grant completed in April 2010.

Compact Impact 2009:  $1,000,000 fund broken down to repairing ambulances/emergency vehicles and Fire truck purchases.   $240,000 set aside to repair ambulances, purchase 2 Advanced Life Support Vehicles (ALS) (Arriving in latter part of March 2011) and repair/convert a Fire Truck into a HAZMAT vehicle.  $760,000 set aside to purchase 2 custom cab-type fire Trucks.  Apparatus are currently up for bid.

Compact Impact 2010:  $750,000 set aside to purchase 3 commercial cab-type fire Trucks.  The fire truck specifications are currently undergoing final review by Attorney Generals (AG) Office.  Apparatus are currently up for bid.

Compact Impact 2012:  $2,200,000 requested to purchase 2 high rise apparatus.  These apparatus are 
tentatively specified as 100 feet Aerial Ladder trucks.  Approval for this grant is still pending.

Wild Life and Fisheries/Ritidian Point Refuge:  Equipment received from the Ritidian Point refuge was to aid in water borne rescue operation for the Ritidian facility.  Equipment received in 2009 consisted of 2 “Rescue Rocket” Personal Flotation Device (PFD) launchers.  2010 equipment consisted of 2 marine portable radios, 2 type IV PFDs, 2 throw ropes and 9 type II PFDs.

US Department of Agriculture:

2009 Rural Development Grant $59,000:  GFD purchased 5 Semi-Automatic External Defibrillators (S-AED) and 1 dually crew cab truck for use by Rescue-1.  A camper was donated by GTA for use with the truck.   Equipment has been distributed to the appropriate units and the grant is completed.

2010 Rural Development Grant $200,000:  Currently requesting funds to purchase 2 ambulances at approximately $100,000 each (equipped).  Applications have been submitted and are being processed.

Pumper Truck Transfer:  from US Navy Fire to include MOU preparation.  Vehicles currently in GFD inventory and MOU is complete with all necessary signatures.  Vehicles are registered and are anticipated to be placed in service by 18 March 2011.

Public Education Program:  Office currently working on joint fire prevention education package with Forestry division as well as joint training opportunities.  Approximately $40,000 for education program and is expected to be renewed and doubled in next fiscal year.

Office of Homeland Security:

Respiratory Protection Project 2008:  All quotes and specifications have been submitted.  A requisition order has been posted by GHS at GSA.  Request is for personal Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) masks to meet OSHA standards and other Federal safety requirements.  Also requested are voice communications amplifiers, Respirator Adaptors, SCBA sets, and repair parts.  Total request for respiratory protection/life safety equipment is $314,000.

Buffer Zone Protection Program 2009:        $207,109.76 is allocated for equipment for infrastructure response and protection.  Request includes HAZMAT/CBRNE detectors, communications equipment and various rescue devices.  Unit is currently preparing Requisition order.

Buffer Zone Protection Program 2011:        Memorandum of Understanding signed allocating $93,800 in equipment for infrastructure response and protection.  Request includes HAZMAT/CBRNE detectors, communications equipment, extrication tools, and various rescue devices.  

Code Enforcement Reference Materials:  $13,000 of material requested due to code change from Uniform Fire Code (UFC) to International Fire Code.  Reference list submitted with quotes.  GFD is waiting for requisition of items by GHS office.

HAZMAT References:  References requested for response unit resources.  Reference list submitted with quotes.  GFD has received from GHS office.
Please refer to attached for details on programs.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)/US Fire Administration (USFA):

2006 Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG):  GFD purchased $329,000.00 of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  Grant closed in September 2010.  Reimbursement of funds completed to GOVGUAM in October 2010.  All GFD personnel were outfitted with complete turnout PPE in 2008.

2008 AFG Station Construction Grant (SCG)/American reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA):  Denied
2008 AFG Station Construction Grant (SCG):  Denied
2009 AFG Fire Prevention Grants: Denied
2009 SAFER Grant:  Denied
2010 SAFER Grant:  Submitted awaiting review.
2011 Fire Prevention and Safety, Assistance to Firefighter Grant:  Submitted awaiting review.

International Fire Code Fees and Fines Programs:
Currently the Fees and Fine Program is underway by committee chaired by this office.  We are approximately 70% completed with an anticipated draft completion of March 15, 2011 and Citation submittal to the court on that same day.  The fee schedule includes inspections, plans review, permits, and services fee.  We currently are registered through the court system for citations under the Uniform Fire Code.  The citation’s training is completed and the system for citations has already been tested.  GFD has received revenues already through this program.  What is pending is the conversion of UFC violations to IFC codes.  

GFD Fire Protection/Prevention Library and code sets:  Currently the Guam Fire Department is in possession of approximately $20,000 of code and fire protection publications to include the full set of all NFPA codes and various code handbooks, public education videos and references.  The code library is to be set up by the training section for access by all firefighters at the training room.  The Fire Prevention Bureau has also received a sister set to aid in code enforcement.

Medical Billing, Ambulance Fees:  This section has worked on ambulance billing specifications and contracts in conjunction with GFD Administrative Services Officer to complete billing requirements for ambulance services. This project was required by legislation in 2006 and near completion with a contract awaiting signature by the Governor.  This program is anticipated to bring in over $600,000 in revenues to the GFD by the end of 2011. 

Emergency Medical Dispatch Instructor Certification:  Five instructors were recently certified by APCO (Association of Public Safety Communications Officials) as EMD instructors.  This was an accelerated course and reciprocity was used to attain instructor certification (Pro Board Instructor I). Contract also includes update of dispatch guide cards to match EMS protocol and medical direction.  Anticipated date for EMD certification of E911/Dispatch personnel by May 2011.  EMD personnel expected to achieve EMD instructor certification by EMD (civilian) personnel upon their completion of EMT Course.

Emergency Medical Dispatcher Career Ladder:  This section has been in direct communications with D.O.A. since last year trying to establish a career ladder for our EMD’s. Currently the EMD position is the only one in GFD that has no direct upward mobility. There was some progress; however it is on hold at this time due to the initial implementation of the recent Hay Study, and then its eventual rescission.

Fuel Cards:  Early last year, this section was tasked to update the fuel cards issuance. There was progress made, however, all documents concerning this issue were returned to the GFD buyer by then-Fire Chief Peredo. In January of this year, once again, the task to facilitate the fuel/gas cards were brought to this section to be completed.  The commanders were tasked to provide lists of personnel who need cards, whether lost or damaged. The commanders were also to decide which service members were to be issued gas cards as well.

Pro Board Certification:  In conjunction with the Training Office, F/C A.S. Arceo, and AAFB Training Officer, Asst. Chief Stanley Torres, we have picked up Pro-Board Certifications with the plan to certify all GFD fire fighters with this certification. This is to help us as a department achieve in meeting what is the National Standard.  

GHURA:  Last year, our unit worked diligently along with the former Fire Chief and his management team (Asst. Chief Uncangco and the Commanders) and with GHURA officials after receiving the GHURA Community Block Grant to have a new Agat Fire Station built. Late last year, the new Station 5 opened its doors to serve the communities of Agat/Santa Rita, and the island as a whole. This year, we are once again applying for this block grant in the hopes of building a new station on either Rt.15 (back road to Anderson AFB) or Rt. 9 (Anderson AFB to Agafa Gumas area). Deadline 4/25/11.

To satisfy an agreement that the GFD and GHURA has had, this section has been working on converting the old Eng-12 (Darley) into either a heavy rescue, or HazMat vehicle.  The importance of this is because it was GHURA who purchased the Darley truck to be housed at Sta-12, and GFD agreed to have a pumper there since its breakdown. One of the new trucks should be assigned to Sta-12, but in the interim we have housed a scout unit, and now a responder. One of the recently received Navy pumpers should be assigned there until the new truck comes in.

Head Quarters and Facilities Bill:  There is a bill in the legislature (Bill 301-30 COR) that basically states to build a Head Quarters for GPD and GFD. The initial bill submitted a few months before the general election last year was submitted as “GFD Head Quarters and Facilities.” In his revision, Senator Palacios took out the “facilities” portion in the heading, but the meat of the bill states it. GFD has never had a true HQ. We have been basically nomads: Pedro’s Plaza, Sunny Plaza, Station 2, Tiyan, and now the DNA Building have all been used to  house our HQ. The goal is to build a permanent HQ and within its compound have the vital facilities that will make even prouder fire fighters. They include: a state-of-the-art E911 Center, Training Office and Field (EVOC, Burn Pit etc), Prevention Office with arson investigation capabilities, and possibly a fire house. All in one compound.

GCC MOU:  Currently there is an MOU signed by the acting Fire Chief, and the GCC President that is awaiting review and signature by the AG’s Office and the Governor. The MOU is to have the GCC auto/body shop assist the GFD by allowing their students and instructors work on our ailing fleet of vehicles.

This will help in our government’s cash crises because the GFD will only be paying for parts and not the labor involved.  It is a win-win situation for both GFD and GCC because we will be providing the vehicles that the students need to work on in order to get their certificates (instructors will evaluate and authenticate work done by students, and some have been willing to volunteer their own time to help with repairs), and GFD will be able to have more response vehicles road worthy.

Communications:  Last year, this office was able to procure 125 portable batteries for our radios. This came at a needed time because the older stock was not holding charges. Mr. Paul Rolinski was tasked with issuing the new batteries out to the stations, retrieving the old stock for reconditioning and general servicing; with the eventual re-issuing of the reconditioned stock back out in the field.

We were also involved with the 11 mobile unit radio installs by Motorola. M.A.S.S. units, commander’s vehicles, and some EMS units had new radios installed.

Other Items: 
This is a list of equipment that our section was responsible for: Hydrant wrenches, spanner wrenches, Fire Maxx tools, rescue kits, winches, chains, 1 ¾” hoses, K-12’s with cases, Sawzaws (donated by F.O.A.M.), campers for rescue vehicles (donated by G.T.A.), sledges, clappered Siamese (Storz), AFFF foam and Class A foam, come-a-longs, sirens, siren boxes, light bars, ALS AED batteries and others items I may have forgotten.

This section has been aiding the maintenance section since our fleet crises began, and is still involved as it continues. We have been and should continue to be involved with issues that concern our department. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me, or any of the upstanding lieutenants in the Special Projects Section. The phone number to the Guam Fire Department Special Projects Section is 671-472-3422.

Well that is quite mouthful from Capt. Flores. But you can tell that his crew is very busy. If this outfit was replaced by civilian workers, do you really think that those civilians would be able to do all of this work to the extent that these firefighters have? I will leave that up to you.

One other item that I would like to add is that this past year, this unit has accounted for approximately 4.8 million dollars worth of federal grants into the GFD coffers and saved the Government approximately another $475,000 worth of salaries that would have been paid to civilians hired to fill these job billets.

So ask yourselves this question, do you think that you have contributed $5.2 million to the government's economy? If not, then you have no room to criticize any of the men in this unit.

Are they worth their weight in GOLD??? I will leave that up to you to decide. One thing is for certain, they are definitely worth their meager salaries.....many times over.

Until next time....


  1. The only missing piece on this team is Fire Captain Olivas

  2. He says he wouldn't make a difference. This team is doing an excellent job. OORRAAHHHH!!