Pasadena Firefighters, Chief Clash Over ‘Mourning Bands’ Tribute

Published : Monday, July 30, 2018 | 4:37 PM

Pasadena Fire Department Firefighters will join with their counterparts in some other departments in wearing black ‘mourning bands’ over their badges in honor of five firefighters and support workers killed in the line of duty from Long Beach to Shasta County in just over a month.

Fire Chief Bertral Washington made the announcement in response to a public outcry from the Pasadena Firefighters’ Association, which accused the chief of “refusal” to allow department members take part in the tribute.  The department said it was all a misunderstanding.

One firefighter and one bulldozer operator have died battling the ongoing “Carr Fire” near Redding, which has also claimed four civilian lives. Another firefighter and another heavy equipment operator have lost their lives battling the Ferguson Fire near Yosemite National Park. And a Long Beach Fire Captain was shot to death while rushing into a burning senior citizens’ home in late-June.

The union issued a public statement Monday.

“The Pasadena Firefighters Association, Local 809, is deeply dismayed by the refusal of Pasadena Fire Chief Bertral Washington to allow Pasadena firefighters to wear mourning bands to honor the recent line of duty deaths,” according to the statement. “In the recent past, Pasadena firefighters have been permitted to wear mourning bands for fellow firefighters who died in training accidents or from medical conditions while on duty.”

The union pointed out that Governor Jerry Brown has ordered flags at the State Capitol to fly at half-staff in honor of the fallen firefighters, and other nearby fire agencies, including the Glendale, Burbank and Arcadia fire departments, have been wearing black mourning bands over their badges.

“Sadly, through his decisions, Chief Washington has refused to join with these leaders in honoring those who died in the line of duty protecting the public. We hope Chief Washington reconsiders his decisions.”

But Pasadena city spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said Chief Washington never told firefighters they could not wear the bands.

A union official inquired about it on Sunday, and the Chief said that he would consult the policy and respond on Monday, according to Derderian.

The chief issued a statement of his own, in which he characterized the union as trying to politicize the issue.

“All City of Pasadena firefighter personnel are permitted to wear mourning bands at this time,” the statement said. “The loss of a firefighter, whether one in our community or one unknown to us, is a tragedy that has a profound impact on all of us. As Pasadena’s Chief of the Fire Department, I fully support the wearing of mourning bands as a sign of tribute to our fallen brothers and sisters.”

The department’s written policy states that personnel will wear mourning bands over their badges for 30 days after the death of a Pasadena firefighter, through the day of the funeral of a firefighter from Los Angeles or an adjacent county, or while attending a firefighter’s funeral.

“In light of recent events, I reviewed the policy with members of our Command Staff and, while current circumstances may not fall strictly within the (line of duty death) policy, I am permitting all Pasadena fire personnel to wear the mourning shrouds, should they choose,” Washington said.

“Our focus will continue to be on the courageous response by our fellow firefighters, the recovery efforts and on ways to honor and support those who have lost their lives and property,” the chief continued. “Premature social media posts and statements made to the media regarding the wearing of mourning bands should not be allowed to politicize this situation nor to take away from honoring our fallen brothers and sisters.”


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