Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

Most of our stories are not available for download but can be easily ordered by contacting the Resource Center directly at 573-882-3364 or rescntr@ire.org where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

Search results for "Fire Department" ...

  • Fire Mutual Aid

    Several years ago tips to our newsroom led to what would be come a multi-year effort. Over the course of the years Action News Investigates uncovered slow fire response times as result of a broken and poorly managed system. In 2015, those investigations told in a station-produced documentary won a 2015 Peabody Award. That was only the beginning. Investigative reporter Paul Van Osdol has continued to stay on top of all fire and EMS response stories in the years that followed. In 2018, those stories were prominent once again. This entry highlights several failed responses to fires that in some case, if more efficient, could have saved lives. The entry also highlights the results of these investigations, a state commission review of local fire departments.
  • The White Helmets

    In most Syrian cities, there is no police, fire department or government emergency service left, but there is the Syrian Civil Defense, known on the ground by the stark white helmets they wear.
  • Cal Fire Scandals

    Samples from a 10-month investigation into shocking misbehavior and deep cultural dysfunction inside California's state fire department. http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/the-state-worker/article17577701.html
  • Historic Flood: Houston’s Emergency Response

    Within days of historic flooding that left 8 people dead and parts of Houston devastated, the KPRC investigative team began digging for answers on the city’s emergency response to the hardest hit areas. Our primary focus started with the deaths of 3 citizens who were thrown into raging flood waters when a fire department rescue boat capsized. Our Open Records Request for the boat’s maintenance logs and emergency communications during that rescue yielded a shocking discovery about how unprepared firefighters were for this severe weather event. https://youtu.be/nDKfvSiujpI
  • Burning Questions

    When your house catches fire, every second counts. An investigation by WTAE TV in Pittsburgh found a wide gap in response times by Western Pennsylvania fire departments. WTAE’s investigation found little has changed in the volunteer firefighting system since Ben Franklin started America’s first fire department in Philadelphia in 1736. Investigative Reporter Paul Van Osdol obtained data that revealed response times for communities throughout Western Pennsylvania. But that was only the beginning. http://vimeo.com/wtae/review/131571086/99ea45739d http://vimeo.com/wtae/review/150830783/ada0681965 http://vimeo.com/wtae/review/151430643/c0c500ace0
  • 911 Dispatch Delay

    In November of 2012, a man dialed 911 for help from his apartment which had caught fire. The fire spread quickly while he was on the phone with 911. The fire took his life. An internal investigation that began the next morning and continued for the next year determined a failure to properly dispatch the fire department led to a nearly five minute delay in response. It was only the second time in the history of the Onondaga County 911 center a dispatch delay had led, in part, to a fatality. The delay was never revealed. Not to the man's family, the fire department or the public. Three years after the fire our investigation of more than eight months led to all of those parties learning of the deadly delay. We also discovered the dispatcher who was determined to be at fault served no punishment and was not retrained. http://cnycentral.com/news/local/911-commissioner-5-minute-dispatch-delay-blamed-partly-for-fiery-death http://cnycentral.com/news/local/fire-victim-tells-911-call-taker-i-dont-want-to-die-during-dispatch-delay https://youtu.be/WqkQpYKN65E https://youtu.be/TAsu2G4oWpo https://youtu.be/vLbMZltc-sE https://youtu.be/IGy14aM64GI
  • Killed in the Line of Training

    Neal Smith had excelled at his first day in an elite firefighter training exercise. But on Day 2, trapped in a small space and weighed down by 75 pounds of gear, he became disoriented in the fog and collapsed on the second floor of the building he was making his way through. A trainer screamed at him to get up, but he couldn't. His internal temperature was 108 degrees; his brain was swelling. When Mayday was called it was too late. Rushed to a nearby hospital, the experienced firefighter died there later that day. Most people assume that all firefighters are trained by their own fire departments. But departments in small town Texas actually have been sending their personnel to the East Texas Firemen's and Fire Marshal's Association, a nonprofit trade group for volunteer firefighters. And unlike a governmental agency, there is no oversight of that group's methods or standards. As a subsequent investigation by the state fire marshal's office and by the National Institute of Safety and Health revealed the training camp was so poorly run that several other firefighters had dropped out (saying they didn't want to risk their lives), passed out or been taken to the hospital. Had safety procedures standard in most fire departments been in place – such as a simple tub of ice – Smith could have been saved at the training camp site.
  • Relative Advantage at the Los Angeles County Fire Department

    A Los Angeles Times investigation uncovered a broad pattern of nepotism and cheating in the hiring of Los Angeles County firefighters, findings that prompted immediate reforms in the agency and an ongoing investigation into possible wrongdoing by employees. Although hiring for the highly coveted jobs is supposed to be based solely on merit – and 95% of applicants are rejected – The Times found that the Fire Department employed an improbably large number of sons and other relatives of current and former firefighters. It also found that relatives had ready access to confidential questions and answers for job interviews. In addition, the story disclosed that the son of a high-ranking department official was hired despite failing 13 of 14 exams on EMT work, a critical part of the job. The story included a digital presentation of the findings.
  • Raked Over the Coals

    For a decade the Phoenix Fire Department presented its arson squad as one of the nation’s best. Boasting it has the highest arson clearance rate of any major city fire department in the country. In 2013, 12 News Investigative Reporter Wendy Halloran began looking into the claims. She discovered the arson squad relies heavily on the nose of a dog trained to detect accelerants. In fact, the dog’s handler has stated under oath his lab (Labrador retriever) is better equipped to detect arson than the laboratories used by fire departments across the country which specialize in the skill. When alerted by Halloran to Phoenix’s methods national experts examined the cases Halloran reviewed and challenged the Arson squad’s finding. Halloran discovered the dog is fallible. At least four people were falsely accused of arson as a result.
  • WTAE Investigates Fire Chief's Truck Deal

    Our stories resulted in a City of Pittsburgh investigation at the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire that is still ongoing at this time. The stories revealed that the City of Pittsburgh spent millions of dollars buying fire trucks from a company that formerly employed the Pittsburgh fire chief. Records obtained by WTAE showed the chief's former company won three consecutive contracts even though it was not the low bidder. The chief never disclosed his relationship to his boss or the agency that bought the trucks. The story also exposed a little-known city agency that operates in secrecy.