Dead Man Walking

My colleague Mark Newgent writes below about the damning report issued on the Baltimore Fire Department’s training academy and the goat rope that led to the death of 29-year old trainee Racheal Wilson.

In the best case the academy was running without anything approaching supervision from senior leadership. In a worst case Chief William J. Goodwin knew the callous disregard of the academy staff for the lives and safety of trainee firefighters and approved. Fired training director Kenneth Hyde claims that Chief Goodwin knew the details of the “live burn” exercise and presumably that the fire academy managed to violate 50 national safety regulations on these exercises.

In the best of times training programs can deteriorate from tough and realistic training to hazing and stupidity. It is often a fine line to the outside observer, but the bright line is leadership. In this case trainees were sent into a live burn without the presence of their instructors. This was a gaggle of partially trained recruits led by their classmates. This is inexcusable.

But there is more to this report than the criminal laxity of the training. Ms Wilson according to the report was 5’4″ and weighed 192 lbs. By Body Mass Index she was obese, she had failed one agility test when she applied to become a firefighter and reported to the fire academy in worse condition than she was in when she applied. Why was she even in the academy in the first place?

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Now the mayor is saying that her “confidence level is very questionable” in regards to Chief Goodwin and his staff. Ya think?

It is difficult to see how either Chief Goodwin and his senior leadership survive this fiasco or why they deserve to survive it.

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