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The 7 biggest fire service controversies of 2022

From Walmart claiming operations made a fire worse to Vanessa Bryant’s $16 million win, these are the stories that stirred discussion this year


Photo/Pike Township Fire Department

Each year sees its share of controversies, some rooted in tragedy, like the death of Firefighter Peyton Morse, and others a bit more surprising, like the “fraud tip” that started a national discussion about whether firefighters should be able to wash their cars at the station.

Here are seven controversies – big and small – that stirred discussion and gave us pause this year.

1. Video: FF injured as crews continue work on Walmart warehouse fire

More than two dozen agencies responded to the five-alarm fire that created heavy clouds of black smoke in Plainfield, Indiana. Crews took a defensive position, and explosions were reportedly heard from inside the building. Investigation results have not been released. An estimated 1,000 people were inside the facility when the blaze began.

Later in the year, the large retailer claimed that the more than 30 fire departments’ response made the warehouse blaze worse. FireRescue1 Executive Editor Chief Marc Bashoor gave us his expert analysis and a breakdown of what happened.


Crews took a defensive position at the Walmart warehouse fire in March.

Photo/Pike Township Fire Department

2. Fraud tip exposes Ore. FFs using station facilities to wash personal vehicles

A Portland auditor said an investigation by her office found members of Portland Fire & Rescue had violated rules against the personal use of city resources after receiving permission to do so from department leadership. Columnist Linda Willing offered her insights on the controversial topic.

The news item also generated a lively discussion on the FireRescue1 Facebook page.

3. ‘Downright rude': Man claims FF’s social post after house fire was insensitive

A Houston man was offended by a social media post made by a responding firefighter to a fire at the man’s childhood home. The Houstonian, Mickey Reed, and other family members contacted the firefighter though Facebook; the firefighter took down the post.

Reed said he wants people to learn from the firefighter’s actions.

4. All 23 Mich. city volunteer FFs quit at city council meeting

Mass resignations were not new in 2022, but we saw two this year that involved entire fire departments.

In March, 23 members of the Charlotte Fire Department in Michigan quit over the city council’s actions, after accusing board members of gatekeeping resources from the department. They have since been reinstated.

Earlier in the year, all 12 volunteer members of the Cosmopolis (Wash.) Fire Department resigned and wrote in a Facebook post that the mayor was accountable for taking away “necessary funding, and leadership where it was most needed.”

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5. Why so many firefighters don’t become paramedics

Ben Thompson detailed five reasons why firefighters don’t become medics. He wrote:

“It’s time for fire-based EMS to realize that there simply aren’t enough paramedics out there to fix our problem. The answer lies within – encouraging our existing firefighters and firefighter-EMTs to become paramedics.”

Thompson called for honesty, and this article generated plenty of frank discussions both on our site and the FireRescue1 Facebook page on matters such as tests, training, income, culture, career, workloads and expectations.

6. Kobe Bryant’s widow awarded $16M in trial over crash scene photos

This story began with the basketball star’s death in 2020, but it also had an impact this year.

The jurors’ unanimous decision found that deputies and firefighters taking and sharing photos of the remains of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, invaded widow and mother Vanessa Bryant’s privacy and caused her emotional distress.

After the court ruling, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors took steps to make sure such photo leaks do not happen again.


A grand jury declined to file criminal charges in the death of Watertown Firefighter Peyton Morse, citing a lack of evidence.

Photo/Morse Family

7. No criminal charges will be filed in death of Peyton Morse

Watertown Firefighter Peyton Morse, 21, suffered a medical emergency during a training exercise at the New York State Fire Academy in March 2021 and died in a Pennsylvania hospital nine days later.

Developments in the Morse story have been surfacing all year. Watertown Fire Chief Matthew R. Timerman has expressed his disappointments with the investigation and frustrations with the academy.

Both Timerman and Morse’s father, Dave Morse, testified before the grand jury.

Leila Merrill served as an assistant editor for FireRescue1 and EMS1. Merrill has worked as a writer, editor, copy editor, digital producer, journalist and communications professional for the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle and other companies. She double-majored in English and communications at Trinity University.

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