So, we investigated and found what led up to it.
Back on Nov. 5, a fire broke out in East Cleveland and quickly spread to four homes.
Cleveland fire and EMS crews didn’t hesitate to go there to help, but Cleveland Safety Director Karrie Howard called dispatch and raised questions, saying the city does not have an agreement to help its next door neighbor.
A dispatch recording shows Howard telling an EMS captain, “This is Director Howard. We don’t have a mutual aid agreement with East Cleveland.”
As the conversation goes on, he says, “We don’t have a mutual aid on anything.”
The captain responds with, “Yeah, fire was there first because they’re fighting a triple alarm fire. We haven’t received an updated thing from anyone saying not to go.”
So, why would there be any question about sending help to a small fire department battling a fire spreading to multiple homes?
The dispatch recording shows the Cleveland safety director referring to friction over police chases. East Cleveland police have often chased suspects into the City of Cleveland.
Howard told the EMS captain, “When we tried to talk to East Cleveland about high-speed pursuits into Cleveland, they didn’t want to engage.”
Meanwhile, East Cleveland Fire Chief David Worley says, if another town needs help, you don’t need an agreement.
“When there’s a fire, if a city calls, then another city will help if they have the manpower available,” he told the I-Team. “We reached out to Cleveland Heights, University Heights and the City of Cleveland to assist us.”
Worley also pointed out that his department has helped other cities, including Cleveland.
We wanted to hear directly from the Cleveland safety director. City hall told us he was unavailable, travelling as we put together this story.
But, the mayor’s office released the following statement:
“As the Chief Director of Public Safety, it’s his responsibility to inquire about the operations of Cleveland’s safety divisions, in and outside the city. It is also his responsibility to prioritize the concerns of Cleveland’s citizens, and they are concerned about dangerous and damaging pursuits into the city. The safety of our residents is our main priority and we will always work, formally and informally, to save and preserve life whenever and wherever called.”
While the statement also referred to the East Cleveland police chases, that phone call to dispatch shows the safety director’s concern over those chases even in the middle of a big fire.
He ended the phone call with, “I’ll take care of it and I’ll let you guys know.”
The I-Team plans to follow up for what this means next time another city needs help.