Hamilton union criticizes report on fire that killed firefighter in 2015

An internal report on the arson fire that killed Hamilton firefighter Patrick Wolterman on Dec. 28, 2015, ignores some factors and was flawed in its development, according to the firefighter union.

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In early 2016, the department created a committee to investigate the factors that contributed to the death of Wolterman. A draft internal report was completed in late 2016.

It was later amended by members of fire administration without consensus of the full committee, according to Hamilton Firefighters IAFF Local 20.


The union cites:

• The internal report took nearly three and a half years to complete, much longer than most internal reports. For reference, the NIOSH report was completed in July 2017 and released in December 2017.

• The committee makeup changed due to fire administration involvement in the process and changes were made to the report that excluded certain committee member’s points of view.

• Engine 22 (E22) closure in 2013

• Station 27 (Quint 27) closure in 2013. A significant increase in response time to this area of Pater Avenue due to the closing of Station 27 was completely omitted from the report, the union said. The average response times for first arriving fire units was 2 minutes and 59 seconds prior to Station 27 closure and increased to 6 minutes and 23 seconds after closure.

• Delayed Rapid Assistance Team (RAT) response is an ongoing safety issue, the union said. RAT teams are dedicated units meant to rescue downed firefighters. The RAT team on that night did not arrive on-scene until 10 minutes and 16 seconds after dispatch, only 42 seconds before the mayday occurred, the union said.

• The lack of a safety officer was highlighted, but no resolution has been found and firefighters continue to operate on dangerous scenes without a committed safety officer, the union said.

“While we appreciate the work that went into it, this is not a complete and full report,” Union President Tony Harris said in a press release. “We acknowledge the improvements in officer development, scene size-up and fire tactics. There is more work to be done, as an increased focus on training for all members should be a priority. We will continue to work to find resolution for all of these issues as we seek to never have this happen again. We owe this to the memory of our fallen Brother Patrick, our citizens and our firefighters.”

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