Leadership, News

Minneapolis Firefighters Criticize Chief’s Response to Riots, Fires

Firefighters, Union say chief didn’t bring in more firefighters

Law enforcement officers amassed along Lake Street near Hiawatha Ave. as fires burned after a night of unrest and protests in the death of George Floyd early Friday, May 29, 2020 in Minneapolis. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. (David Joles/Star Tribune via AP)

FirefighterNation Staff

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota – The Star Tribune is reporting that Minneapolis firefighters are criticizing the fire chief for not calling in more firefighters and mutual aid departments, and for directing operations from the street, as their city burned during the protests and riots that followed the killing of George Floyd.

Union president Mark Lakosky, told the Tribune that he was dumbfounded by the strategy during the riots.

“There were a couple of nights that some engines didn’t run and I know that fires were burning,” Lakosky said.

Fire Chief John Fruetel relied on mobile fire crews and had increased staff by 10 firefighters during the height of the unrest. The Tribune said that Chief Fruetel did not call in more off-duty firefighters and, with one exception, did not call surrounding city departments for help.

Mayor Jacob Frey said firefighters could not respond promptly to fires until Saturday, four days after riots broke out, due to a lack of protection.

In a statement to the Star Tribune Mayor Frey said “Our firefighters responded to every single call they received – delays were not the result of insufficient fire department capacity, but insufficient law enforcement presence to ensure firefighters’ safety prior to the National Guard’s arrival. Our firefighters displayed courage in preventing the fires from spreading to residential housing, and deserve recognition that there was no loss of life.”

Data gathered by the Tribune found that Minneapolis firefighters responded to at least 69 fires between May 27 and 31.

Over 100 buildings were either damaged or destroyed by fire.

Chief Frue­tel was out on the streets during much of the week, driving back and forth between fires and relaying decisions, instead of working out of a fixed central command post.

Lakosky questioned whether or not that was a wise decision, telling the Tribune, “I don’t know how you assess the big picture if you’re not out where all the cameras are and where all the information is flowing in.”

Fruetel said that it was better to be on the ground looking out for firefighters than inside an information center.