City Desk

D.C. Fire Chief Rubin Shuts Down Fireworks @ Nats Games

Today, the Nats lost more than just a game (the team got blanked 7-0 vs. the Mets), the Nats also lost use of its pyrotechnics. D.C. Fire Chief Dennis Rubin put at least a temporary end to the stadium's fireworks displays. Rubin attended today's game, and after a fireworks display for the National Anthem ordered them to be stopped. Why?

Fireworks debris had fallen on the fire chief. According to a source familiar with the dustup, the chief then got super testy—at one point, invoking his fancy fire chief title.

Fire Department spokesperson Alan Etter confirmed the basic account via e-mail.

"[Rubin] said debris did fall on him – he was not hurt," Etter wrote. "He did have a safety concern, that's why the decision was made – so the process can be examined and adjusted, if necessary."

The firework company had been launching its pyrotechnics since the Nats called RFK home. The company's work had been vetted repeatedly. We're awaiting comment from the firework company. There's much more to this story.

Update 7:35 p.m.: According to a source, Rubin was hit with paper debris.

According to a fire department document obtained by City Desk, the fireworks company had a permit for its work at the Nats stadium. There are also clear lines of responsibility regarding fireworks safety. It appears that Chief Rubin overruled one of his own firemen when he shutdown the fireworks.

The document states that department "provides site safety for the pyrotechnics shot at the Nationals Ballpark on game days. The shoot is from the rooftop.... The shoot consists of multiple shots (National Anthem, team-on-field, and any home run/victory)."

The document goes on to state:

"It is the responsibility of the [fire department] inspector to communicate with the operator any observed risks or deficiencies and take the necessary actions to prevent injuries or damage. It is also the responsibility of the inspector communicate with the Nationals Command any observed risks or events that could lead to injury or damage."

Rubin would have had to overrule his own on-scene fire inspector to halt the fireworks displays.

"I know there's something going on. The fire inspector, it wasn't his call. The actual fire inspector on duty. I know it wasn't his call. It was 100 percent Chief Rubin's call and he was just there for the game. He wasn't there for official business," says a source familiar with today's events. The source says the fireworks were completely safe; there had been no complaints until today.

Fluttering-post-launch-paper debris, the source contended, was normal.

Rubin was not exactly diplomatic when he argued for the fireworks to be shutdown. According to the source, Rubin at one point told authorities: "Do you know who I am?"

*photo by Darrow Montgomery.

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Comments

  1. #1

    So does anyone know why Fenty hasn't fired him yet? The whole thing with the demoted firefighters was enought to make him seem like horrible manager, not to mention a d-bag. This just provides further evidence.

  2. #2

    What's the surprise in hearing he said: "Do you know who I am"? He'd pretty much have to say that, or something similar. It's not like Joe Citizen could shut the fireworks down.
    What I want to know is: Regardless of whether he was injured, was the "debris" burning when it hit him?

  3. #3

    Who is this source? Can you tell us any information about him/her? Why was he/she granted anonymity?

  4. #4

    I'm not going to go into why I granted anonymity to this source. I believed their reasons were valid.

    I knew the source had knowledge of the events at the stadium. The person's standing, as well as knowledge of events seemed to me to be legit. I talked to this person twice on the phone and was tipped to them by a fire department source.

    Downtown Rez: I was told that the debris was not burning. Have you ever launched fire works before?

  5. #5

    What’s the surprise in hearing he said: “Do you know who I am”?

    Listen to yodeling much?

  6. #6

    Oh no...some paper debris touched me!!! What a little bitch.

  7. #7

    Snap Pops are the safest firework, much safer than sparklers and magic snakes. We can all learn something here about celebrating safely.

  8. #8

    Maybe the big whiny baby can get the fire truck one of his morons tried to illegally send to the DR parked at Nats Stadium in case there is any paper debris that dares fall on his fat a@@.

  9. #9

    Public drunkenness and showing off for a female friend is no excuse for that behavior. This Fire Chief is here to carry out Mayor Fenty's dirty work (remember that), the citizens of this city are just collateral damage. Suck it up DC this man and his cabinet has open reign on DC, this is very minor compared to the other things that he has done that have been swept under the rug.

  10. #10

    No, Jason, I haven't. Not unless you count the backyard variety. But I have had burning chaff fall on me at the mall and (duh) at Cardozo High.
    But you seem to be saying there was no public health risk.

  11. #11

    I have season tix in the 300 level at Nats Park (last year along the third base side, this year along the 1st base side).

    I have been hit numerous times by debris from the fireworks. Most have been paper (not a problem), but a handful of times I have been hit by what appeared to be something like a shell casing. It's about the size of a champagne cork but is extremely solid and it does hurt like hell when it plummets from the sky onto your head. Oh yeah, and the casing is hot as all get out as well.

    I complained when I got conked on the head the first time and was told that this was a rare occasion. But when it kept happening and almost hit my 3 year-old daughter, I had enough. I complained again and basically was told "tough." I have sinced moved our seats to the other side of the field and have yet to encounter any falling debris. So if you are on the 3rd base side of the field, look out!

  12. #12

    Was at the game Saturday night, Section 132 on the 1st base side, was hit by paper debris after each firework display. Didn't really bother us, but not sure it is the best customer experience.

  13. #13

    I am a Mets fan who was in town for the weekend series. I got hit by paper debris yesterday while standing on the upper level concourse on the 3B side during the anthem. I also saw falling debris Saturday night. Even though the paper that hit me wasn't ignited, this doesn't exactly sound all that safe to me.

  14. #14

    Thanks for the perspective, Eric. Maybe now the rest of the clowns commenting about this will take off their tinfoil hats and shut up.

  15. #15

    I'm not a fan of Rubin or the Nats stadium deal but the Chief is right on this one. I just don't want him jumping off and using this as a way to place an injunction on the use and sale of "personal" fireworks in DC this year. Remember the emergency bill last year?

    Eric's testimony alone should have at least got some waiver given/presented to fans each Home game. A waiver could've prevented Rubin's Shut Down and also prompted the ownership to investigate prior to now.

    I wonder how many other Ball parks do this and what is their policy. Can you redeem debris for a $1 off discount from the team store?

  16. #16

    I think the waiver idea is a little too much. I think the debris is just a natural byproduct of fireworks. It has to go somewhere.

    The fireworks had been a part of Nats home games since the team first arrived. I'm wondering why this has become an issue for the fire department now? Especially when the fire department oversees the displays for each home game.

  17. #17

    True Jason, waivers sound so litigious, but remember what city we live in. I've watched cinders fall to the Earth and have been hit once by fireworks' debris from the display on the Mall. Yes, debris/exploded fragments/fallout is a by-product of anything that explodes, especially if propelled by a projectile.

    Regardless of what we grew up with or were used to as kids, this is a different age and folks need to be warned.

    How about this as a start, "WARNING VISITORS OF NATIONAL STADIUM: This stadium uses FIREWORKS and other pyrotechnic devices during each game at regular intervals (National Anthem, Home Runs, etc.). While all efforts will be used to contain falling debris as a result of the fireworks display, there is potential for such debris to enter fan seating. During such displays, please use considerable protection if necessary."

    Of course they could add, "The Washington Nationals assumes no liability if..."

    Now granted the Nationals haven't yielded too many homeruns of late, some would say this is a non-issue.

  18. #18

    Apparently somebody is on a roll shutting down events that had previously gone off without a hitch. Hence why no fire performances were allowed at Artomatic this weekend, despite the fact there had never been an issue with fire performers outside of any prior Artomatic.

  19. #19

    Chief Rubin –DCFEMS approved the firework displays at Nats Stadium, issued the permit, and paid a Fire Inspector (certified firework technician) overtime to literally observe every move the shooter makes. Now Rubin is saying it isn’t safe. So, why in the hell is he just reaching this conclusion? He or his people should have known this long before now. If Rubin is correct, then he has put thousands of people at risk and failed to properly management that which he stated is ultimately under his authority. Doesn’t sound like this Chief is the sharpest knife in the drawer Jason, but continue to have fun with him it’s entertaining

  20. #20

    I think that Chief Rubin, if he has desired, could have handled the safety issues in a more discrete manner. I think that it is not wrong to be concerned about safety, but it is wrong to throw your weight around, just because you can.

  21. #21

    "But we've ALWAYS done it this way!" A classic baseball reason for doing things.

    Too lazy to look it up, but I'm pretty sure there are a few crowd injuries a year from professional, certified-whatever fireworks displays. Far fewer than injuries from, say, balls and bats flying into the stands. But there's always --

    "Awww, I've spun the chamber and fired half a dozen times. This Russian Roulette stuff ain't so bad..."

  22. #22

    Q: You said you're not a lawyer, but you sure have the instincts and analytical abilities to be a good one. One note, though: warnings are important and arm folks with facts they may not have known, but self-serving staements such as "we assume no liability for our f..ups" will rarely be upheld because one cannot unilaterally absolve one's own negligent/reckless conduct. BTW, congrats on commenter of the week honors.

  23. #23

    Fenty tore Rubin a new one! The conversation went something like this…Fenty: Fool, what were you thinking? You have until the close of business to fix this S*@# stupid. Rubin: But. Fenty: But my ass. Did you hear what I said? Rubin: Ummm yes Sir. Fenty: Welcome to DC Chief Rubin. Stay in your league {the minors} beating up on low level Fire and EMS personnel. Don’t you dare interfere with the Learner Family operations fool. You do what you are told by me and moe (Peacoholics), don’t go getting drunk and acting an ass at the NATS games. No more Boldwiser for you. and shampoo that S*%# out of your mustache from all that ass you kissed today. LMAO

  24. #24

    WTF? Why is everyone complaining? Usually the story line goes like this:

    1. Something really bad happens.
    2. DC offical is nearby
    3. DC offical does nothing.
    4. Somebody reports it
    5. Everyone is rightly outraged

    This is actually the opposite. A DC offical (on his time off even!) see something HE thinks is bad and does something about it!

    I don't know about the rest of you, but this is a refreashing change.

    Hats off to our dedicated Fire Chief!

  25. #25

    Rubin is right on the money!
    Who cares that he had to say "do you know who i am"?
    Obviously he had to identify himself to people. The best part of this story is the Nats did not score anymore runs in the game. The root of the problem is the Nats suck!

    Sounds like a reporter with an axe to grind with the chief and the mayor. Don't drag firemen into that are just trying to do their job.

  26. #26

    Jay'O, you forgot "6. DC official denies any wrongdoing put promises an investigation." As this is a non-issue now, it if funny that something as simple as changing the ANGLE has boggled the minds of folks for how many years now? The question is, NOW where is the 'fallout' falling? LOL! In the Anacostia? In the new Half Street business district? On people's cars in the exclusive parking? Who knows...and better yet, who's gonna clean it up?

    Thanks "Truth Hurts" for the kudos! It truly was an honor being nominated too, LOL! I knew the “The Washington Nationals assumes no liability if…” line would fail, but it is typical rider language for folks who don't want to be sued.

  27. #27

    [Nats Fan29] As you stated, Cherkis is a reporter. Sounds like he’s doing his job not grinding an axe. He gets paid for reporting news. Apparently, the Fire Chief’s handling of this matter is news worthy as it has been so widely reported. Perhaps because it gives the public a peek into the chief’s decision make processes as the head of an essential public safety agency. Cherkis just happen to break the story. Great Job WCP! Please keep us informed about our elected and appointed officials on/off duty behavior.

  28. #28

    Jason hits another Home Run!!!

  29. #29

    Tom Miller - you are on "Q". That DC Fire Chief is a nut case and should be investigated for EVERYTHING.

  30. #30

    I don't blame the fire chief for "wigging out". This is the most fire he has seen in a long time. He most likely extinguished his inferno with his glass of "Kool Aide".
    "Stupid is as stupid does"

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