Government

More News | | | Editor

Injured Augusta firefighter challenges department over injuries he suffered in January

Broken protocol, cover-up alleged 8 months after injury

  • Follow Government

The firefighter who used to brave flames is now afraid of air.

In crowded rooms, he is convinced all the other people will use up the oxygen until he’s gasping for breath – like he felt in a smoke-filled room eight months ago.

After being trapped alone in a room while responding to a house fire Jan. 18, Augusta firefighter Steven Jenne said he has been diagnosed with reactive airway disease and post-traumatic stress disorder. He also now deals with depression.

Jenne and fire union representatives say broken protocol is to blame and a lack of follow-up investigation by the department is covering it up.

Augusta Professional Firefight­ers Vice President Charles Mast­ers said the incident is part of a larger problem with the competency of the fire department.

“The day after this incident happened, there should have been an immediate safety review and investigation into this firefighter’s injury, but instead, this department chose to sweep it under the rug.”

In response to an open-records request by The Augusta Chronicle, the fire department provided a fire report and the investigation into the cause, but not an investigation into Jenne’s injuries.

On Monday, Masters called for an investigation into Jenne’s case through an e-mail to Deputy Administrator Bill Shanahan.

Shanahan did not respond to phone calls from The Chronicle requesting a comment.

According to the National Fire Protection Association standard 1500 clause 4.4.5, “All accidents, near misses, injuries, fatalities, occupational illnesses, and exposures involving members shall be investigated.”

Ken Willette, the manager of the association’s Public Fire Pro­tection Division, said that while this regulation is a recommended practice and not law, fire departments are expected to keep track of such information to improve procedures and prevent injuries.

Battalion Chief John Sheri­dan, who was the incident com­mand­er on the scene, said the investigation is ongoing and is being conducted by Shanahan.

But after eight months, Jenne, 49, said he has not been interviewed or alerted to any type of fol­low-up investigation.

“The more severe (incidents) are, the longer the investigations can be drawn out,” Sheridan said. “Depending on the situation and what we have going on … it can actually be drawn out. This firefighter is not going to fall through the gaps or nothing like that.”

What Jenne said happened inside the house on Dearborn Street, however, is not reflected in the fire report, which Masters said is falsified.

The fire department arrived at the scene, where smoke was coming from the home, around 1:40 p.m.

According to the fire investigation report, clothing lying on a mattress had caught fire after an electric blanket had shorted out and sparked.

At the time of the fire, a collection of ammunition stored in the bedroom was also exploding, the report said.

What happened next is in dispute.

Jenne said Sheridan instructed him to enter the house alone with only a hand extinguisher, as the homeowner told the responders he had already extinguished the fire.

When Jenne realized things were getting out of control despite the extinguisher, he returned to the truck for a hose and assistance. He then entered the room again with the hose and two other firefighters.

When the ammunition began exploding, the crew was told to exit the home, but Jenne said he lost sight of the doorway and was left alone in the smoky room, where he couldn’t see in front of him despite two hand lights.

Without a radio, he was unable to call for help, and his absence was not accounted for, he said. Jenne said he activated his Personal Alert Safety System Device, which sounds an alarm to alert that a firefighter is in distress, but no one came to his rescue.

From outside the house, firefighters broke a window to try to kill the fire, Jenne said. When he saw the window, Jenne lifted himself through and fell to the ground.

“He’s lost, nobody knows he’s lost, nobody followed protocol, they go around the house by accident and there (Jenne) is,” Masters said. “That, in today’s profession, is unheard of.”

Jenne said firefighters removed his gear and prepared him to get into a Gold Cross ambulance at the scene. It’s then, he said, that Sheridan directed the men to wait for the department’s Engine One ambulance to arrive and transport him instead.

From the wording in the fire report prepared by Sheridan, it was Engine 8’s crew, not Jenne alone, who entered the house and attacked the fire.

Sheridan said he stands by the information in the report. He also explained that officers who prepare the report do so quickly in general terms so the homeowner can submit it to the insurance company.

“Those (details) were put in there in the most general terms,” he said.

Since the accident, Jenne’s wife, Tammy, said her husband is a shell of what he used to be.

After eight months of leave on continued salary, Jenne returned to light duty Wednesday. Although the fire department got clearance from Jenne’s pulmonologist, Jenne said he never consulted with the doctor about returning to work.

Tammy Jenne said the man who used to work two jobs, volunteer with Boy Scouts, play with his grandchildren and run errands is now almost afraid to go outside his home.

The couple now sits in the back pew at church, because it’s close to the exit, in case of a panic attack. At home, Jenne keeps the air conditioner on 60 degrees and the fan blowing so he doesn’t feel like air is being taken away.

He sleepwalks in the middle of the night and doesn’t realize he is out of bed, Tammy Jenne said.

“Everything has changed for us,” she said. “I have to call and check on him what feels like 100 times a day. He came out of that fire, and he’s completely different.”

Jenne said he doesn’t believe he’ll ever be able to be a working firefighter again. But he understands that risks come with the job.

What he doesn’t understand is how his situation was handled.

“This is about what’s wrong, and nobody’s done anything,” Jenne said.

TIMELINE OF CASE

JAN. 18: Augusta firefighter Steven Jenne is trapped in a room during a house fire, and later diagnosed with reactive airway disease and post-traumatic stress disorder.

JAN. 28: Fire department completes investigation into cause of fire.

MONDAY: Union representative Charles Masters calls for an investigation into Jenne’s injuries.

WEDNESDAY: Jenne is called back to light duty after eight months of leave with continued salary.

THURSDAY: Battalion Chief John Sheridan said an accident investigation is ongoing but not complete.

Comments (17) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Iwannakno
1533
Points
Iwannakno 09/18/11 - 03:44 am
0
0
I know Steve from the
Unpublished

I know Steve from the ambulance service.Upstanding man. If he says this is the way it happened then I have no doubt it happened that way.

Riverman1
87474
Points
Riverman1 09/18/11 - 04:59 am
0
0
This must be the case of the

This must be the case of the firemen injured because of lack of radios that some have mentioned. Exactly how does that personal alert device work? It makes a loud sound and no one heard it?

Is this the only incident?

nothin2show4it
120
Points
nothin2show4it 09/18/11 - 07:07 am
0
0
Having been a firefighter my
Unpublished

Having been a firefighter my heart goes out to the Jenne family. Sheridan told Jenne to go into a house alone with a fire extinguisher based on the testimony of the house owner? Two huge mistakes here. Sheridan should not have told Jenne to go in alone in an unknown situation. You always send in two not one. It does not matter what the homeowner says. Second mistake is that Jenne went in alone. Every firefighter is taught from day one to never enter a fire scene alone. So if the article is truthful then both men didn't follow protocol. Mistake number 3 happened because mistakes 1 and 2 are the normal way of doing business. Losing a man and not knowing about it is inexcusable.

fftaz71
108
Points
fftaz71 09/18/11 - 10:14 am
0
0
Riverman...a Personal Alert

Riverman...a Personal Alert Safety Device is generally a piece of equipment that is attached to the firefighters air packs (AKA SCBA- self contained breathing apparatus). The sound they emit is fairly loud and should have been heard over other fire scene noises. There are 2 ways in which they function- one is that after a specific pre-set time frame they automatically alert if there has been no movement. This usually happens between 10-20 seconds depending on the particular unit involved. The second way they operate is by manually pushing a button, which is what Jenne did according to the article. The sound is pretty distinctly different from any other sounds on the fire ground. This link to youtube shows a demonstation of a PASS alarm on one brand of SCBA. When the firefighter initially turns on the bottle, you hear a chirp- this indicates the air pack is functioning as expected... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3nThzsNHZU

Taylor B
5
Points
Taylor B 09/18/11 - 10:49 am
0
0
Personal alert device tracks

Personal alert device tracks movement. If it doesnt sense movement within a few seconds (thinking ours was set at ten seconds), it will sound an ear piercing alarm.

traumaqueen
48
Points
traumaqueen 09/18/11 - 10:57 am
0
0
Steve is a personal friend &

Steve is a personal friend & someone I have worked with & beside on both EMS & Fire calls, he is an outstanding man & friend. I would find it EXTREMELY offensive if anybody questions his word or his credibilty. Thoughts & prayers are STILL with you Jenne!

Discussionstarter
495
Points
Discussionstarter 09/18/11 - 11:28 am
0
0
This demands a full

This demands a full investigation by a 3rd party... GBI?

fftaz71
108
Points
fftaz71 09/18/11 - 11:34 am
0
0
Taylor thanks for answering

Taylor thanks for answering riverman...apparently AC doesnt like my answer because it was put into moderation....not sure why though. I have a link from you tube in my answer Riverman...it shows the exact operation of one brand of these alarms (if my post ever shows up).

tudihall
0
Points
tudihall 09/18/11 - 11:59 am
0
0
Steve & Tammy are very

Steve & Tammy are very upstanding & honest people if thats what he says happened, thats the way it happened. Period. We love you Uncle Steve & Lucy Tammy, everything will work out!

Pu239
284
Points
Pu239 09/18/11 - 01:28 pm
0
0
Sounds like a breech of
Unpublished

Sounds like a breech of protocol regarding the two-in, two-out rule. Given the extent of the injury, how does something like this incident escape scrutinty of some reviewing authority. I think this review needs to go above our dysfunctional county commission. As stated above, this incident as well as any others that are questionable, need independent review.

PR
0
Points
PR 09/18/11 - 01:47 pm
0
0
This accident screams
Unpublished

This accident screams cover-up. From all that has been in the paper the last few weeks about the AFD it really sounds like the leadership needs to be replaced. The current chief has health issues, and there have been issues raised about his qualifications. Just because he has been on the FD for many years doesn't make him chief material. There have been many changes in the fire service in the last few years and lots of 'old-timers' don't like them or agree with them. They have been recommended for the safety of the personnel not just because someone likes the idea. Its time to clean house at AFD and get some educated, and really qualifed, chief officers in leadership positions.

Cassandra Harris
-3
Points
Cassandra Harris 09/18/11 - 02:01 pm
0
0
My heart goes out to Mr.

My heart goes out to Mr. Jenne and his family. I remember hearing about this when it happened, but do not remember seeing this in the press at the time. Perhaps that is why so many suggested I was lying about the injured fire fighters on the other thread. That said, thank you AC for showing Augusta that Mr. Master's claims of our injured fire fighters who were almost killed were true.

Ethansdad
0
Points
Ethansdad 09/18/11 - 02:38 pm
0
0
I agree with you

I agree with you Discussionstarter. There should be some kind of external investigation to this incident. This isn't the first time that one of Augusta's firefighters was injured on the job, the fire department did not do a thorough investigation and is now out work without any explaination of what happened in their case. Maybe the GBI should go back a few years and see how many people this has happened to.

paulwheeler
137
Points
paulwheeler 09/18/11 - 02:39 pm
0
0
So why wait until now? This

So why wait until now? This firefighter has obviously been suffering from an employment related distress, why has Masters and this firefighters association not been screaming to the top of their collective lungs to have this man helped? Why such a delay from this group, why did they wait for the timing of the Alvin Mason show to speak publicly? And if Masters is correct and the fire report has been falsified, there should be an ongoing criminal investigation. Has the firefighters association been pushing for this? If so, how strongly and loudly? If one of our firefighters has had to endure this we should have been hearing about it for months!

Ethansdad
0
Points
Ethansdad 09/18/11 - 02:43 pm
0
0
My heart goes out to Mr.

My heart goes out to Mr. Jenne and his family. I'm glad that there is someone out there is helping him stand up to the people in charge of handling this situation. Dont let them sweep you under the rug like they are trying to do.

Riverman1
87474
Points
Riverman1 09/18/11 - 02:43 pm
0
0
Thanks, FFtaz and Taylor for

Thanks, FFtaz and Taylor for explaining the device.

Ethansdad
0
Points
Ethansdad 09/18/11 - 03:16 pm
0
0
Hey Paul. Maybe Mr. Jenne was

Hey Paul. Maybe Mr. Jenne was being brushed off. I know for a fact the administration of Augusta's fire department have swept other incidents similar to this under the rug. Not only have people been injured while doing their jobs they have also lost those jobs without any remorse from their employers of 15 to 20 years. This isn't an isolated incident and it would be disrespectful to ignore this due to the timing no matter who has made a public show. Maybe it's time for a public show to expose some secret practices.

fftaz71
108
Points
fftaz71 09/18/11 - 03:55 pm
0
0
Mr. Wheeler, it very well

Mr. Wheeler, it very well could be that we havent heard about it before because the firefighter and then the union were going through proper channels before airing "dirty laundry" publicly. There is alot at stake here and its not something that one should go directly to the press about.

t jenne
0
Points
t jenne 09/18/11 - 05:49 pm
0
0
On January 18, 2011 things

On January 18, 2011 things changed for us. It's unforgettable to have someone call you on your husbands cellphone informing you he has been hurt and he has been transported to University Hospital. It is also unforgettable to look around the room see on his co-wokers faces and the stillness surrounding the room as his blood pressure stayed elevated, as he fought to breathe. I'm a veteran firefighters wife and have lived through almost 22 years watching Steve help people, as a Paramedic, working for University Ambulance Service, Burke Co (BCEMA), Gold Cross and the Augusta Fire Department, but never this!!!!!!! Public service workers (Police, EMS, Firefighters are true heroes of your community. If you want to know true helplessness follow Rescue 1 with someone riding watch over your husband enroute to Doctors (Joseph M. Still Burn Center for smoke and possible internal burns) and live through the next 9 months with his health issues and mental anguish since January, and waiting for some type of investigation to give us closure, all we have to show for 9 months is uncertanty about our future......And that is life as you now KNOW IT!!

InChristLove
22481
Points
InChristLove 09/18/11 - 07:13 pm
0
0
t jenne, first let me say

t jenne, first let me say that I am truly sorry your huband, you and your family are going through this difficult time. Coming from a family of EMS, Law Enforcement and a couple former fire fighters, I can understand the stress your family is going through.

Several individuals, myself included, have asked questions concerning when these injuries occurred, who was injured, why had it not be in the news, was this one occurrence or many and why no word publically of an investigation. I hope you understand that this was out of concern for the men and women who serve our community and not out of disbelief that these incidents had occurred .....as someone has falsely indicated.

elhawthorne
0
Points
elhawthorne 09/19/11 - 01:19 pm
0
0
Wow, I cannot believe they

Wow, I cannot believe they still have people in command who would give a Firefighter a directive to go in alone inside of a Structure that is on fire without a Charged Hoseline. The Fire Report does not indicate that fact. Wow. Do the Police tell Officers to go fight crime without a Handgun? Close Call, Close Call. Could Police Officers file reports that do not report facts? Why is a Fire Officer able to not report facts that his/her actions almost cause someone in his/her command life? Masters keep fighting for what is right!!!We never got along while I was there, but I always respected you because you were not scared to stand up for what was right!

fftaz71
108
Points
fftaz71 09/19/11 - 07:40 pm
0
0
EL...not that I condone the

EL...not that I condone the order from the officer, but in the story, it is stated that the order to go inside with a fire extinguisher was given after the homeowner said the fire was out. Obviously the officer missed the day in class where they teach that when homeowners say the fire is out you shouldnt automatically take their word for it. Im with you...lay the line, get some water going and C.Y.B. Its always easier to step down the response plan than ramp it up...

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs