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Joel Baker Named Next Chief of Austin Fire Department
Recently retired chief in Atlanta moves west
DAILY News  November 2, 2018, by Chase Hoffberger
"...The Austin Fire Department should have a new chief on Dec. 10..."

Austin Fire Department: Drinking in Drive-Throughs
Two firefighters arrested for DWIs in fast food parking lots
News Story  August 18, 2016, by Chase Hoffberger
"...The past six weeks have seen two sworn employees of the Austin Fire Department suspended 60 days for drinking and driving. In an odd twist, in both cases the firefighters were arrested while purchasing food at fast-food restaurants...."

Fire Department Management and the Union Need to Work Together
Postmarks  November 3, 2009
"...Dear Editor, As a member of the American Fire Service and someone who loves the city of Austin, I have kept a close watch from a distance on the department and city, from the hiring of J.J. Adame through the current situation..."

Warrant Issued for Former Austin Fire Lieutenant's Arrest
James Baker allegedly videotaped female colleagues in the shower
DAILY News  November 16, 2017, by Nina Hernandez
"...Baker apparently contacted the colleague a few hours after she left the shower, asking to have a “private conversation.” She said Baker admitted to installing the camera, and tried to bargain for it back – even offering to retire or transfer to another fire department. Instead, she took it to APD...."

Council Members Shine New Light on Fire Department
CMs Alter and Flannigan stoke the flames of AFD negotiations
News Story  August 31, 2017, by Nina Hernandez
"...Austin Fire has spent the summer in the spotlight as the city's three public safety unions negotiate their contracts. That's for good reason: The department, squeezed by a 2015 decree from the U.S..."

The Color of Fire
The Austin Fire Department is making another attempt at staff diversity – will it do any better this time?
News Story  May 13, 2011, by Josh Rosenblatt
"...Recalling those halcyon days, you might have forgotten that City Hall's current "open-government" fiasco actually started somewhere real, that those emails Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez exchanged with each other during a particularly heated council meeting back in April 2010 – the ones pointed to as proof of rudeness at best and conspiracy at worst – were actually related to legitimate matters in the Austin Fire Department. Over the testy objections (public and private) of Leffingwell and Martinez (joined in their "no" votes by Council Member Laura Morrison), council voted to spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on a consultant whose appointed task was to beef up AFD's targeted recruiting efforts and – in theory – increase the number of African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and women becoming Austin firefighters...."

Fire at the Sheraton Downtown (Updated)
Austin Fire Department is on the scene
DAILY SXSW  March 10, 2013, by Monica Riese
"...Reports from Downtown are saying the Austin Fire Department is on the scene of a two-alarm fire at the Sheraton Hotel (701 E. 11th)...."

The Fire at AFD
Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr leads a department flaming with labor, race, and gender politics
News Story  October 16, 2009, by Wells Dunbar
"...... Never give up your dreams." She adds, "When you're 18, think about joining the Austin Fire Department!"..."

Where's the Fire?
Live Music Venues vs. the Fire Marshal
Music Story  May 30, 1997, by Ken Lieck
"...Or so that seemed to be the case at this year's South by Southwest. Perusing articles in various local and national media about the conference, one could easily get the idea that there's a war going on between the Fire Department and the local music scene..."

Hail to the Fire Chief
Joel Baker comes in to lead a tired department
News Story  November 29, 2018, by Nina Hernandez
"...After a career spent fighting fires – literally and administratively – in Atlanta, Joel Baker is preparing for his next challenge: leading the Austin Fire Department. He arrives as AFD is patching up its tattered coverage map with five new stations; the department is embroiled in negotiations with emergency service districts surrounding Austin; and relations between AFD brass and the rank and file represented by the Austin Firefighters Association are strained, to say the least..."

Point Austin: Putting Out the Fire
Council-brokered agreement at AFD could be a city breakthrough
News Column  February 12, 2015, by Michael King
"...Last week, the new 10-1 City Council accomplished something that had eluded its predecessors: It brought together Austin Fire Department Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr and Austin Fire Association President Bob Nicks in an agreement that – if it holds – could mark a turning point in the city's labor-management relations. The AFD is currently operating under a U.S..."

Austin @ Large: Austin at Large
For the firefighters, City Hall's rep for putting its people first goes up in smoke
News Column  August 29, 2003, by Mike Clark-Madison
"...But there's a great, big, ugly, angry exception to the rule that the city's people come first. It's the Austin Association of Professional Firefighters, the union that represents the 800-plus men and women in uniform at the Austin Fire Department..."

Department of Justice Initiates Inquiry into AFD
Fire department hiring woes continue
DAILY News  April 25, 2013, by Jordan Smith
"...The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday formally notified the city that its investigators will be looking into hiring practices at the Austin Fire Department, acting on allegations that hiring procedures discriminate against minorities...."

Improving Fire Dept. Response Time
AFD hopes to get five new fire stations
News Story  March 10, 2016, by Chase Hoffberger
"...The Public Safety Commission on March 7 unanimously approved sending to City Council a resolution that would direct city staff to begin looking into ways that it could bring Austin Fire Department stations on board in five particularly needy city areas. Austin Firefighters Association President Bob Nicks told the commission that a 38% increase in the city's population since 2000 (in addition to expectations of similar growth through 2030) has significantly reduced AFD's ability to respond to emergency situations within the prescribed standard time (AFD is expected to respond within eight minutes of each call at least 90% of the time)..."

Austin and the 7-10 Split
Candidates in west and west-central districts find common cause
DAILY News  July 22, 2014, by Richard Whittaker
"...That's an issue on which they will surely find great support from their neighbors to the northwest in District 6. As Meeker noted, "In West Lake Hills, whenever they're removing [brush], they say they're removing fuel." However, the Austin Fire Department is already understaffed because of the ongoing Department of Justice discrimination action, and Meeker sees existing ordinances – such as the $500 firework fine – as both weak and scarcely enforced...."

‘Martinez for Austin’ Kicks Off Campaign
Council member opens all-city tour at Barton Springs
DAILY News  April 5, 2014, by Michael King
"...Martinez’s own remarks were not policy-heavy, as he recounted his Rockdale upbringing and his arrival in Austin as a young man “with $50 and a trumpet,” and a plan to become a musician. A day job at construction work – “I’m a working-class guy” – eventually led him to the Austin Fire Department as a firefighter, then the Austin Firefighters Association and the presidency of the union, then to eight years of service on the City Council..."

After the (SXSW) Party: Where's the Fire?
Party shutdowns unleash backlash against SXSW
News Story  April 6, 2007, by Jordan Smith
"...Although not officially affiliated with either festival, says Le Popov, the FactoryPeople parties have always come off without a hitch – until this year. About an hour into a March 15 SXSW afterparty, at around 12:30am, an Austin Fire Department marshal showed up and shut down the fun...."

Leaked AFD Exam Adds Fuel to Fire
Allegations of cheating exacerbate Fire Department's diversity woes
News Story  May 27, 2011, by Josh Rosenblatt
"...They conjure up thoughts of political sex scandals, financial malfeasance, steroid use, or worse. So when Austin Fire Department Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr hastily took the podium at City Hall last Thursday, we had to figure things were bad...."

Fire Contract May Herald New Hiring Policy
Firefighters close to signing a contract
News Story  October 23, 2009, by Wells Dunbar
"...Contract bargaining between the city and the fire department union has ended for now, and while there's no deal inked just yet, the process has been a far cry from the contentious talks of last year. The last day of prescribed talks between the groups came Friday, Oct..."

The Long Road to Responsive Fire Coverage
It appears the city’s in no big rush
News Story  December 7, 2017, by Nina Hernandez
"...That remains the case today. The Fire Department confirmed in early November that the city has identified possible sites for the five stations, but that not all of the land has been purchased by the city..."

Where’s the Fire, Chief?
City announces finalists to succeed Rhoda Mae Kerr
News Story  October 18, 2018, by Mike Clark-Madison
"...Six candidates – all from out of town, and four from out of state – will contend to be the next chief of the Austin Fire Department, the city announced Wednesday. Former chief Rhoda Mae Kerr joined the long list of departing senior city staffers in July, accepting the chief's post in Fort Lauderdale, where she began her own firefighting career in the Eighties..."

Fire Chief Fights Diversity Battles
Kerr called back to Arkansas for a pending lawsuit
News Story  July 17, 2009, by Wells Dunbar
"...It seems that controversy follows Austin Fire Department Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr wherever she goes. While extinguishing local blazes over everything from staffing decisions to a redesign of the department emblem, Kerr was called back to Little Rock, Ark..."

Can Austin Get Its Arms Around ESDs?
Austin Fire Department and ESD 6 negotiating possible merger
News Story  January 20, 2012, by Josh Rosenblatt
"...Every time Austin annexes part of an outlying district, it takes a portion of that district's tax base to provide emergency services. Rather than sit back and wait for that to happen piecemeal, the ESD 6 Board of Com­mis­sioners last year gave LTFR clearance to look into creating a partnership with Aus­tin that would essentially fold ESD 6 into the Austin Fire Department, thereby preserving Lake Travis fire and rescue jobs and smoothing the way for what many see as an inevitable annexation...."

The Fire Last Time: AFA and City at Impasse
I/O Solutions becomes entangled in latest dispute about AFD's hiring process
News Story  August 9, 2013, by Mike Kanin
"...Two years ago, to the tune of an 18-month, $118,000 contract, I/O Solutions was hired to help the city of Austin redevelop the tests it uses to select new members of the Austin Fire Department. The deal was supposed to help put an end to the hiring conflicts that had brought AFD to the attention of the U.S..."

AFD's Volunteer Hire Department
AFD recruitment efforts not unlike speed dating
News Story  May 6, 2011, by Josh Rosenblatt
"...About two months ago, the Austin Fire Department posted an announcement on Craigslist that looked a bit out of place among the site's advertisements for used dishwashers; rides to Flagstaff, Ariz.; and illicit sexual encounters. AFD, it read, "is looking for 48 outstanding citizens of Austin to become part of the Oral Interview Boards that will screen incoming potential Fire­fight­er Cadets..."

Department of Strange Clarifications
Fire chief sets the record straight
News Story  March 18, 2011, by Michael King
"...In last week's Chronicle (March 11), I inadvertently helped put Austin Fire Department Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr in the awkward position of announcing (initially on the Austin-American Statesman news blog), "I am not a gay woman." That unusual moment came about because I was reporting a story ("Council E-mails Prompt Ethics Complaint, Lawsuit") about some of the fallout from the City Hall e-mail releases – specifically, the NAACP ethics complaint against Mayor Lee Leffing­well and Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez (along with the Public Information Act lawsuit filed by the Austin Bulldog) for e-mail comments they made during an April 8, 2010, City Council meeting. I interviewed Austin NAACP President Nelson Linder (by phone) about the ethics complaint, and among several other things, asked him what he meant in the complaint by citing "racist and sexist overtones" in the comments by Leffingwell and Martinez: that is, Martinez criticizing City Manager Marc Ott and Assistant City Manag­er Mike McDonald ("jokes") and Austin African American Firefighters Association President Bobby Johns ("bought off"), and Leffingwell describing Kerr as a "company man."..."

Fire Chief Goes Easy on Accused Harasser
Wrist-slap for captain’s rude, sexist “horseplay”
DAILY News  February 9, 2019, by Nina Hernandez
"...Baker released a disciplinary memo on Jan. 11 suspending Fire Captain Roger Scarcliff for a single day over his “discourtesy” to a fellow employee and violation of department rules...."

City Hires New Fire Chief
Recently retired chief in Atlanta moves west
News Story  November 8, 2018, by Chase Hoffberger and Nina Hernandez
"...The Austin Fire Department should have a new chief on Dec. 10..."

Former Firefighter Under Fire, Arrest
Erik Spalteholz charged with possession of child pornography, tampering with evidence
News Story  May 3, 2018, by Nina Hernandez
"...The Austin Fire Department planned to open an administrative investigation into the video, but that was cut off when Spalteholz retired on April 30, after more than 20 years with the department. AFD brass vowed this week to cooperate with APD's investigation, which received the initial tip, and the Blanco County Sheriff's Office as the two departments continue their criminal investigation into the actions Spalteholz detailed..."

Point Austin: ... And Two Steps Back
Firefighters fulfill threat to contest DOJ decree
News Column  July 3, 2014, by Michael King
"...Having just labored through the pleadings filed by the Austin Firefighters Assoc­iation to the federal court considering the proposed consent decree on firefighter hiring between the U.S. Department of Justice and the City of Austin, I find myself agreeing with Council Member Mike Mar­tin­ez..."

Council: Fire, Flood, and Men on Horseback
Contentious issues fill this week's slate
News Story  May 15, 2014, by Michael King
"...Sued if you do, sued if you don't. That looks like the choice facing City Council at today's meeting, Thursday, May 15, whatever they decide on Item 10 of their agenda: "Approve a settlement of claims asserted by the United States Department of Justice concerning hiring practices within the Austin Fire Department." This particular blaze has been simmering a while, and the city had delayed hiring new AFD cadets until the claims of discrimination – more specifically, "adverse impact" on minorities in the qualifying process – were reviewed the DOJ...."

AFD Hiring: Smoke or Fire?
Add the EEOC to the parties weighing in on firefighter hiring
News Story  February 28, 2014, by Jordan Smith
"...The unfolding story of allegedly discriminatory hiring practices within the Austin Fire Depart­ment – already the subject of a possible consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice – took another turn Feb..."

Point Austin: One Last Chance
Council moves to resume firefighter negotiations
News Column  February 5, 2015, by Michael King
"...The political honeymoon may not be entirely over, but today (Feb. 5) the new City Council is scheduled to address its first truly contentious (and long-festering) policy issue: Aus­tin Fire Department hiring..."

The Film After the Fire
Richard Linklater talks about giving back to Bastrop this weekend
DAILY Screens  September 14, 2011, by Richard Whittaker
"...With over 1,550 homes destroyed, Linklater said, "In a small community, that's a large percentage homelessness. Everyone I talk to has been affected, and it's a real jolt to someone's life." That made it particularly important to him that the Heart of the Pines Volunteer Fire Department be one one of the event's beneficiaries..."

Roaring Fork, Smoldering Fire?
Fire at the the restaurant in the Stephen F. Downtown.
DAILY News  February 15, 2007, by Wells Dunbar
"...Says the Blotter, "About 30 units from the Austin Fire Department are on the scene of a three-alarm restaurant fire inside the Inter-Continental Stephen F. Austin Hotel downtown..."

Point Austin: Money Matters
The city says "Never mind!" on Midtown Live loan – and everybody's hanging fire
News Column  April 8, 2005, by Michael King
"...Folks are already lining up to harangue the council on the Midtown misplay, but the clumsy, panicky way the entire matter was handled – a direct consequence, despite official denials, of the public relations disaster created by the stupid, unprofessional, and marginally racist comments of Austin Police Department officers during the Midtown Live fire – backfired completely. The deal was already on life support when the city released Futrell's memo to Brewster McCracken, summarizing the discussions that had taken place, in the immediate aftermath of the fire, among Futrell, Assistant City Manager Michael McDonald, and Jo Cash Baylor, acting on behalf of her mother, Selena Cash, and the Cash family (owners of the nightclub)..."

Raw Paw’s Chris Dock Talks About the Fire that Destroyed Their HQ
Local arts collective devastated by flames as the year begins
DAILY Arts  January 8, 2018, by Wayne Alan Brenner
"...In both directions. And the fire, that destroyed our house? A neighbor called the fire department at four in the morning..."

Finding a New Fire Chief
Search to replace Rhoda Mae Kerr trudges on
News Story  October 11, 2018, by Nina Hernandez
"...The city takes a step toward appointing a new chief of the Austin Fire Department next Wednesday, Oct. 17, with the announcement of a slate of candidates that will take part in interview panels the week after..."

Council: Fire in the Hole
The new Council begins its re-organization
News Story  January 22, 2015, by Michael King
"...The morning meeting hasn't gotten quite as much play – only two items, and the first, "Legal issues related to hiring in the Austin Fire Department ...," is an executive session consultation with the city's legal counsel, presumably bringing the new Council up to date on the status of the U.S. Depart­ment of Justice consent decree covering AFD firing..."

ACL: The Fire Updated
DAILY Music  September 14, 2007, by Austin Powell
"...At approximately 2:30pm a large fire broke out in an employee-only area near the Wamu tent and the AT&T stage, where Pete Yorn was performing. The Austin Fire Department was called to the scene and quickly extinguished the fire, whose smoke clouds loomed large over the festival grounds..."

City of Austin vs. Casa de Luz
News Story  June 14, 2013, by Elizabeth Pagano
"...› Aug. 2010: Inspection by Austin Fire Department cites inadequate access to building; Longoria still seeking sufficient parking...."

'Bernie' Benefit for Bastrop Fire Relief
Rick Linklater's Bastrop-shot comedy screens on Sunday
DAILY Screens  September 13, 2011, by Kimberley Jones
"...100% of the proceeds will benefit relief efforts, including such organizations as the Bastrop Emergency Food Pantry, Heart of the Pines Volunteer Fire Department, and Friends of the Lost Pines State Parks...."

KOOP Arson: The jazz behind the fire
Music dispute is reported motive behind crime
News Story  February 8, 2008, by Justin Ward
"...Austin Fire Department's chief arson investigator, Greg Nye, said that on the Friday before Feinstein's arrest, he submitted to a polygraph test, which showed signs of deception. After investigators showed him the results, he confessed and was given until Monday morning to turn himself in to police..."

Three More Casualties of Austin's Growth
A deadly accident in West Campus highlights the dangers of construction work in Texas
News Story  June 19, 2009, by Michael King
"...The three men were on a scaffold 11 stories high when it appeared to collapse, according to witnesses, and the men fell to their deaths. (A fourth man was able to hold on to equipment and received only minor injuries.) The circumstances of the deaths remain under investigation by the Austin office of Occu­pa­tional Safety & Health Administration of the federal Department of Labor; according to Elizabeth Todd, an OSHA spokeswoman based in Dallas, safety compliance investigators have six months to complete their investigation before releasing the results...."

Point Austin: Balancing Budget Numbers and Needs
Council wants a property tax cut, but service needs are real
News Column  May 14, 2015, by Michael King
"...The General Fund (operating expense) and Support Services Departments came up with $23 million in potential cuts (the enterprise/income producing departments are not in this exercise), and your judgment of their wisdom will likely depend on your sense of city service priorities. At a minimum, I would think folks might wonder if a $50 kickback to homeowners would be worth what it will cost in community needs...."

Mike Martinez: 'Leadership of Austin's Tomorrow'
News Story  May 29, 2014
"...We don't allow this shell game of padding the budget through [job] "vacancy savings" continue year after year. When Code Compliance department needed 19 new FTEs last year, yet they clearly demonstrated in their own data that their number of inspections from the previous year to the coming year was going to drop, by several thousand inspections, it didn't make sense to us..."

Gay Place: Austin Pride Parade
A look back at the 2009 Pride Parade as we prepare for 2012
Columns  September 14, 2012, by Kate X Messer and Anne Harris
"...Wearing a vintage white lace number procured by Mme. Kate Messer, I was just getting settled among the beanie babies and arranging some Twinkie packs, when WHOOP, lights flashing, here came an Austin Fire Department truck..."

Real Austin Stories
Austin's Exploding Documentary Scene
Screens Story  March 13, 1998, by Jerry Johnson
"...Stekler was hired last year by the University of Texas as head of production for Austin's Department of Radio-Television-Film. Currently one of the most successful documentary producers in the country, his works have included two highly acclaimed PBS series, Eyes on the Prize and Vote for Me: Politics in America (for which he was awarded an Emmy and a Peabody), and he carries with him a reputation for being able to bring together disparate elements and meld them into cohesive working units (i.e., he gets things done)..."

'Austin Chronicle' Uncovered 5-13
The color of fire
DAILY Chronolog  May 12, 2011, by Logan Youree
"...Will the Austin Fire Department ever look like the city it serves?..."

A Walk in Austin's Shoes
Curious tidbits and Austin arcana
News Story  March 19, 2010, by the News Staff
"...Don't get the Downtown Rangers confused with the Texas Rangers. These citizen officers of the Austin Police Department patrol a 200-block area of Central Austin (7am-6pm, weekdays; 8am-5pm, weekends) and can be a useful source of advice if you get lost..."

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