March 30, 2023

USA: Building On A Barge Caught Fire With 4,000 Gallons Of Fuel On Board on Ohio River In Cincinnati. Shelter-In-Place Lifted. Cincinnati Fire Chief Fired Over Hostile Work Environment.

WLWT news published March 29, 2023: Crews battle barge fire on Ohio River; shelter-in-place lifted. Cincinnati fire crews are at the scene a barge fire on the Ohio River, Wednesday afternoon.
Mar 29, 2023: Fire chief gives update on barge fire along Ohio River. Fire chief gives update on barge fire along Ohio River.

WLWT5 NBC News, Cincinnati local
written by Gianna Vitali
Wednesday March 29, 2023

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati fire crews battled a large barge fire on the Ohio River, Wednesday afternoon.

According to CFD, firefighters were dispatched just after 4 p.m. on reports of a barge on fire on the Ohio River just east of 5400 River Road.

Responding units were delayed to the scene by a passing train cutting off access to the dock area from River Rd and power lines that had come down at the dock because of the fire, CFD officials said.

Firefighters arrived on scene to find a moored barge being utilized by McGinnis Inc as a service barge with fire and heavy black smoke coming from the roof of the metal structure on the barge.

There were no employees on the barge at the time of the fire.

A shelter-in-place was issued for residents in the area shortly after the fire was reported.

Due to limited structural access to the fire, it took approximately 2 hours to knock down the fire and reduce it to hot spots in concealed areas.

The shelter-in-place was lifted just before 7 p.m., officials said residents in the area can expect to see light smoke throughout the night.

Officials say there are no known hazardous materials involved in the fire, and that the burning diesel fuel is creating smoky conditions.

Officials are currently testing the water for contaminants, and say there are no toxic chemicals in the air.

The Cincinnati Fire Department says no injuries have been reported.

A fire watch is being established to monitor the barge and prevent any possible rekindle of the fire overnight.

Cincinnati fire officials are investigating the cause of the fire.

WLWT news published March 30, 2023: Cincinnati firefighters weigh in on leadership changes at Opening Day parade. Firefighting is one of those critical professions that cannot afford to miss a beat, not even one, regardless of what occurs.
WLWT news published March 24, 2023: Cincinnati fire chief fired; city manager cites 'concerning workplace culture'.

WLWT5 NBC News, Cinninnati local
written by John London
Wednesday March 29, 2023

CINCINNATI — The blowback from the unprecedented firing of Cincinnati's Fire Chief was underway Wednesday.

It was unfair, unjust, and undeserving for Michael Washington to be drummed out the way he was, according to Washington's attorney.

In an interview this afternoon, Stephen Imm told us City Manager Sheryl Long was out to get him.

Washington's side of the story is that the hostile environment Long described was actually what she created with him as a target.

"Yeah, exactly. Mike was never really sure what the motivation for that was," Imm said. "And that's one of the things we're looking at, why she was so hostile to him."

Long told us last week that she tried to give Washington direction, but he resisted it and that she lost all confidence in his ability to lead.

She described "a boys club mentality" under Washington's tenure.

With a 30-year career in firefighting, Washington's time at the helm of the nation's oldest professional fire department preceded Long's appointment as manager.

According to Imm, Washington took a number of actions to elevate females and was in the process of doing more in that vein when he was summarily dismissed.

"It would not be an overstatement at all to say that Mike is devastated by this. Mike and his family," Imm told us. "Mike's son is a firefighter with the Cincinnati fire service. Mike's whole life has been devoted to the Cincinnati fire service. And all of a sudden, he found himself stripped of his gold, stripped of his badge and sent out into the street with what he considers to be a complete lack of cause or a complete lack of reason to do so."

Will West, President of CAFA, Cincinnati African American Firefighters Association, was also speaking up today, describing Washington as a good, educated, dedicated leader.

"I was very shocked, first of all," West said. "Our entire organization was shocked. It was kind of disbelief that it was actually happening."

West expressed the hope that city lawmakers would "be fully cooperative and transparent during this difficult time."

In a press release, CAFA stated the character and integrity of two of its members had been tarnished.

He was referring to Washington and to Lt. Brandon Freeman, whose assault case is pending.

Long had said Washington disobeyed her instruction in the Freeman case.

CAFA noted it was publicly included as one of the reasons Washington was let go.

"Chief Washington made a decision based on past practice and the best interests of the city and fire department," the statement read.

The impact of all this turmoil in the department is something that will be measured over time.

"In the history of the fire service, no one has ever experienced this before, a termination of a fire chief," West said.

Interim Fire Chief Steven Breitfelder will be front and center next Tuesday at City Hall to address lawmakers and outline the direction of the department going forward.

City leaders will want to learn more about department morale.

CFFU Local 48 President Matt Alter told us last Friday it had deteriorated for a variety of reasons that needed to be addressed.

"It's worth noting that there's not a single reprimand, there's not a single corrective action, not a single written warning anywhere in his file during his twenty-two months as Fire Chief in the city of Cincinnati," Imm said.

Washington is said to be devastated by what has happened.

"He's basically trying to stay focused on keeping his head up and clearing his name," West said.

As a youth pedaling a bicycle to trail fire engines on the way to an emergency run, Washington dreamed his name would one day be associated with firefighting.

He worked his way up through the ranks to attain the highest possible position in fire service.

His name is now attached to a historic and dubious distinction as the city's first Fire Chief to be fired from the job.

His name might soon be on a lawsuit against the city.

We're told litigation is one of the options under consideration.

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