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 departments" ...

  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Yarnell Hill Fire Investigation

    On June 28, 2013, multiple lightning strikes triggered a series of small fires around the community of Yarnell, Arizona. The fires remained small in nature through Saturday night, but several were moving closer to homes. Thirty-seven fires were being managed by hot shot crews and local fire departments. On Sunday, a series of weather events, poor communication with crews in the field and the lack of aerial fire suppression support led to a series of events which culminated in the deaths of 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hot Shot team. The Yarnell tragedy was covered exhaustively by local and national media through the July 9th memorial which was attended by Vice President Joe Biden. Within days of the tragedy, KPNX-TV, 12 News in Phoenix, assigned it's Watchdog team to find out what happened, follow the financial donations and benefits to hot shot families, make sure the money was going where it was intended and provide background on the person charged with finding out what went wrong at Yarnell. The stories included in this submission provide a comprehensive overview to our reporting. It should be noted these reports were exclusives at the time they aired.
  • The Shell Game

    On April 24, 2013, a fertilizer plant exploded in West, Texas, killing 15 people, destroying scores of homes, and leaving a 93-foot deep crater at the blast site. Among the dead were 10 first responders, including five members of the small West Volunteer Fire Department which protects the town of 2,800 on a budget of about $10,000 a year. Within hours of the blast our investigative team pinpointed state records showing how the Texas State Legislature has denied rural volunteer fire departments access to millions of dollars in tax revenue that was collected specifically to help those departments better train and equip for disasters. Our investigation would eventually find that the West Volunteer Fire Department was among the hundreds of departments asking for help from the state but unable to receive it because of a giant shell game run by lawmakers in Austin.
  • Fire Department Corruption

    This investigation revealed that hundreds of commercial building and large apartment buildings in New York City have been allowed to operate with defective and potentially dangerous fire alarm systems despite obvious violations found by Fire department civilian inspectors. This includes some hospitals, schools and department stores. Two inspectors alleged that, because of corruption, the fire department allowed buildings to get letters of approval needed for legal occupancy even with numerous fire alarm safety violations when certain former inspectors, working as consultants or expediters, were hired by the buildings' owners. Because of this investigation, the city council will hold public hearings on these allegations and comptroller William Thompson has turned over information from this investigation to "criminal authorities."
  • The Gender Boondoggle

    Christine Pelisek probed a department steeped in tradition yet struggling to improve its image following a series of fire house pranks and allegations of racism and cover-ups. The result was a fascinating, controversial story that helped fuel calls for an inspector general or independent assessor to review the LAFD's problems with minorities and women. A proposal linked to this story was slated for the 2009 Los Angeles municipal ballot
  • Sofa Super Store Fire

    "An ongoing investigation into what went wrong at the Sofa Super Store fire that killed nine Charleston firefighters on June 18, 2007. The Post and Courier's reports revealed numerous instances in which the fire department's leadership, training, equipment and tactics conflict with other area fire departments and national practices and standards. The newspaper also reported on shortcomings in the city's building inspection and water departments that contributed to the fire's rapid spread."
  • Fire Alarm

    Long Island, the last densely-populated region of the country served almost exlusively by volunteer firefighters, is now paying as much for its small-town service as many U.S. cities do for fully paid departments. In their efforts to cope with waning volunteerism, fire departments here spend extraordinary sums on premium trucks and equipment,travel junkets, enormous firehouses and costly perks- and for paid staff who answer calls, but are hired under every title but firefighter. Despite all the spending, most volunteer fire departments are not getting fire crews to respond as fast as volunteer standards say they should.