LA Firefighters Blow the Whistle on Unsafe Buildings
Multiple firefighters from Fire Prevention Bureau (the Bureau that is responsible for all LAFD inspections in the City of Los Angeles) at the Los Angeles Fire Department have stepped forward to claim that many building fire inspections have been performed by untrained inspectors that were specifically directed to rush through inspections. The complaining firefighters informed their department that these rushed, untrained inspectors ultimately produced falsified documents, i.e., the inspections did not comply with law and were woefully inadequate, putting the lives of citizens and firefighters in jeopardy. These rushed, untrained inspections were a result of “Operation Catch Up” – a plan hatched by LAFD brass to resolve the backlog of fire inspections exposed in a June 2015 Los Angeles Times piece.
Seven firefighters reported the illegal activity to their supervisors Not only were their reports ignored, but as a result of their whistleblowing, these firefighters were retaliated against – stripped of their responsibilities, excluded from decision-making processes, prevented from working overtime or taking vacation and more.
As that started to occur, the seven (and many others from Fire Prevent Bureau) went to their union for help, which caused the union to go to LAFD brass and tell them what was happening. As a result of that, the LAFD brass sent people to the union hall to take names of people who were attending the meetings in order to deal with them.
As a result of the reporting of unsafe inspections and what the seven individuals were reporting to up the chain and to their union, the Los Angeles Times ran another article in May 2016 revealing that LAFD inspections were cutting corners. In the article, Captain Gary Carpenter, one of McNicholas’ clients, stated “They are saying the inspection is complete, and the public thinks the building is safe. The building is not safe.” The retaliation only worsened, with one member of the LAFD brass saying behind closed doors, “the people that spoke out in the article will be dealt with.”
Panel Counsel to the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, Matthew McNicholas with McNicholas & McNicholas, has filed several government claims against the Los Angeles Fire Department, Fire Chief, Fire Marshall and Assistant Chief on behalf of the whistleblowers. If the government fails to respond within 45 days, an official complaint will be filed and a trial by jury will be demanded.
“‘Operation Catch Up’ should be called ‘Operation Catch Fire.’ Not only was safety compromised in all of these buildings, but the firefighters who attempted to reveal this were punished for it,” McNicholas stated in the claim. McNicholas goes on to say, “when you don’t inspect a church, or school, or a hospital, or a 40-story building properly, and something goes wrong – it goes very wrong. This is not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s only a matter of ‘when.’”