The resignation the Coatesville, Chester County, fire chief monday came after a blistering independent report that chastised the department as ineptly led and dysfunctional.
The evaluation was sought by the city after a Sept. 10 apartment fire resulted in injuries to seven firefighters, some of whom required hospitalization. The Inquirer has obtained a copy of the report which has yet to be made public.
Kevin Johnson, who had headed the Coatesville Fire Department since 2006 - an era that included a 13-month string of 70 area arsons - submitted his resignation Monday morning from the part-time position, and it was unanimously accepted by City Council at its Monday night meeting.
Johnson, who did not attend the meeting, did not return telephone or e-mail requests for comment.
The repor was written by James P. Smith and William Shouldis, two retired Philadelphia firefighters with decades of experience in firefighting safety.
It describes a chaotic scene of about 100 firefighters at the Millview Apartments complex Sept. 10. "Little or no direction was being relayed" from Johnson or his operations chief, it said, with firefighters "working for themselves." A "key" crew member was inside the building with a dead battery in his radio and out of communication, according to the report.
As a result, firefighters on an open-air stairwell did not know how much damage had occurred above them, the report said.
As one firefighter started to climb a portable ladder, the roof collapsed, hurtling debris at seven firefighters, some of whom were temporarily trapped on the stairs and some of whom sustained injuries by jumping from the second and third floors, the report said.
Standard fire-safety protocol, such as accounting for firefighters, was absent and led to some firefighters' reentering the building to search for a colleague "under extremely dangerous conditions," only to learn that he had gone home without telling anyone, the report said.
"In interviews and statements, it seems this was not an isolated occurrence," the report said. "In fact, the lack of accountability seems to be a chronic and widespread problem."
Coatesville City Manager Gary Rawlings said some of the changes the report recommended were needed and would be implemented.