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 "firefighter" ...

  • Under Fire

    In a powerful segment for Dateline NBC, Katy Tur investigates allegations of sexual misconduct in the United States Forest Service and asks why, after decades of complaints and two congressional hearings, many female employees still feel like they are faced with a terrible dilemma – commit career suicide by reporting their experiences or stay silent and never see justice.
  • L.A. Times: Gaming the System: How Cops and Firefighters Cashed In on L.A.’s Pension Program

    More than a thousand aging first responders joined a highly unusual retirement program and then took extended leaves – hundreds were out longer than a year – at twice their usual pay.
  • Drivers Under Siege

    They are not police officers or firefighters, yet Bay Area bus drivers who work for the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit) face some of the most dangerous working conditions with the fewest protections. Using public records and video footage, our analysis found that bus drivers with AC Transit faced more violent assaults than any other district in the San Francisco Bay Area. After we started asking questions, AC Transit announced it would test out new bus shields to protect drivers and California lawmakers introduced a federal bill in Congress with bipartisan support that will require transit districts across the country to reassess their safety measures. The new law would allocate $25 million a year for five years to pay for shields, de-escalation training, systems for transit agencies nationwide to track assault data and report that data to the Department of Transportation.
  • 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
  • Waiting for Help

    The breaking news was a mobile home fire on a bitterly cold night. A WSPA photographer captured the aftermath, wrecked home, shivering children, flashing lights on the trucks. The people there, the neighbors mostly, kept asking the same question, “Why did it take so long for firefighters to show up?” It was easy to check and see just how long it took those first responders to arrive and the answer didn’t make sense. WSPA discovered the 911 calls from the fire gave all the correct information including the right address and a full description of the emergency. 911 dispatchers heard that information clearly and repeated it back exactly. Then, they sent the wrong stations to the wrong address in a different city. WSPA used dispatch logs, 911 recordings and interviews to expose a problem with the automated dispatch software that was happening in agencies across the area. With lives at stake, a simple oversight was causing dangerous delays. As a result of WSPA's report, the 911 agency promised sweeping changes. The follow-up reports hold them accountable for that effort.
  • 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.
  • A Huge Hurt for Taxpayers

    The length and cost of job-related injury leaves taken by city of Los Angeles employees are growing rapidly, the Los Angeles Times found, primarily because the employees take home more money when they’re out with claimed injuries than they do when they show up for work. Payments to injured police and firefighters, who get 100% of their salaries, tax-free, while out on leave, rose 30% from 2009 to 2013, The Times found. Fewer than 5% of the injuries were attributed to acts of violence, smoke inhalation or contact with fire, city data show. About 50% were blamed on “cumulative trauma,” ailments that afflict aging bodies regardless of profession: back strain, knee strain, high blood pressure, carpal tunnel syndrome. Cumulative trauma was also the leading cause of injury among the city’s civilian workers, who typically get 90% of their salaries, tax-free, while on leave.
  • 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.
  • Disastrous Relief

    The Manitoba Association of Native Firefighters (or MANFF) was supposed to be an advocate for Aboriginal evacuees of the devastating Manitoba floods of 2011. Two First Nations communities were completely written-off by flood waters, leaving over 2,000 people homeless. MANFF was to make life easier for these evacuees as they waited-out government wrangling in hotels and rental houses scattered throughout the province, separated form loved ones and their home communities. $85 million (and counting) flowed through MANFF to care for these evacuees. And yet millions of dollars in bills went unpaid. Frustrated and frightened evacuees eventually contacted APTN with reports of bullying and mistreatment by MANFF staff. Melissa Ridgen looks for answers in APTN Investigates’ Season 5 premier, Disastrous Relief.
  • Public Service, Private Benefit

    This two-year-long investigation by AP reporter Mike Baker focuses on a Washington state retirement system for law enforcement officers and firefighters, exploring how some retirees managed to spike their pension values with late raises, how exorbitant medical expenses in the system are hampering local governments, how extreme numbers of disability retirements are costing the government tax revenue, and how some have been able to secure retire-rehire deals despite state efforts to stop such arrangements. The series is based on more than 100 public records requests, many dozens of interviews, the analysis of more than 30 government datasets and the review of thousands of pages of government emails, meeting notes, contracts and actuarial reports. Lawmakers, state officials and a pension oversight board have all taken action in response to the AP series, and the state Legislature is expected to consider alterations to the system during the 2014 session. Leaders in the state retirement system have conducted a variety of audits targeting the cases identified in AP’s stories and are now seeking to collect overpayments and recalculate benefits for some of those former workers. State officials believe they can collect or save nearly $1 million as a result of investigations completed so far, and the state expects to announce additional enforcement actions in the coming months.