TFD chief holds meeting on fatal fire, state of department Tuesday in wake of harsh NIOSH report

TFD chief holds meeting on fatal fire, state of department Tuesday in wake of harsh NIOSH report

TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) - The Toledo firefighters' union Local 92 is planning an upcoming vote of confidence or no confidence in Toledo Fire Chief Luis Santiago. Now the chief is responding to the criticism he is facing.

The chief's performance came under scrutiny after a

that resulted in two firefighters' deaths in north Toledo last year was released by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). WTOL 11 was the first to bring you a detailed analysis of that report, and now many firefighters say they are upset they weren't briefed on what happened at the fatal fire so they could learn from mistakes made.

Chief Santiago says he erred on the side of caution, not making anything public in order to protect the criminal case against Ray Abou-Arab, who has been accused of intentionally starting the fire.

The chief says the department is continuing to make changes and train firefighters, but he did not comment on whether he will follow the recommendations of the NIOSH report.

Others with the union and in the department have said someone should be held accountable for the mistakes made that day in January of 2014.

“People have to be held accountable on a lot of things,” Santiago said. “Someday that might happen, but all we can do is try to learn from this, make the proper adjustments and move forward.”

The chief says he doesn't know how the vote the union takes will be validated or what will happen after, but said he answers to the mayor and the city's safety director. He also says he's not taking the vote personally.

“My focus is to the department and the citizens, and if there are efforts to take such a vote, I can't be concerned with that. There are too many other important things to be concerned about,” he said.

The chief held a private meeting for the department Tuesday night. Firefighters were able to address any concerns about the fatal fire and the state of the department.

One firefighter, who did not want to be identified, said there was some tension at the meeting. He said the main topics discussed included the Niosh report, administrative, accountability in general and the safety of the firefighters.

The firefighter also said that during the meeting someone asked why this meeting was being held when the main union reps are out of town.

WTOL tried to talk to several other firefighters after the meeting, but no one wanted to comment.

Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson released the following statement on the situation Tuesday:

I would like to make it clear, I have full confidence in Chief Luis Santiago and his ability to provide service and protection to the Citizens of Toledo. The City of Toledo and its citizens are fortunate to have one of only 207 fully accredited fire departments in the country. Our Fire Department has received national recognition for many of the innovative programs put in place by Chief Santiago and his Command Officers. Toledo is fortunate to have a Fire Chief and department staff with such a high level of commitment to excellence in public service.

I have heard the concerns of Local 92. I take the NIOSH report seriously. I have established a committee to review the NIOSH report; with the first meeting held today. I am dedicated to reviewing their comments after their review is complete.

The administration of the City of Toledo, including the Toledo Fire and Rescue Department is the exclusive responsibility of its' Mayor as granted by the Charter. I approach my responsibility with a serious dedication to the safety and protection of the citizens of Toledo.

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