Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey reports on uniform changes being made by new Fairfax County Fire Chief Richard Bowers. Among the changes, T-shirts will include a company number and firefighters will be permitted to wear shorts.
Fairfax County firefighters may be showing a little leg this summer. Shorts have just been added to the list of approved on-duty clothing thanks to an early change made by new Fire Chief Richard Bowers.
"Having comfortable clothes for our men and women is important not only to them but to me," said Bowers about the change in policy.
Because the budget is tight, firefighters who want to wear shorts must pay for them. In another cost-cutting move, metal name tags and bars signifying rank will be replace by Velcro and patches. When a firefighter is promoted, a new shirt will no longer need to be purchased.
In another popular move, fire stations will now be able to put their company logo on their shirts, T-shirts and trucks. Firefighters say showing off their logos helps boost company pride and promotes friendly rivalries.
"The fire service is a family environment here and all the surrounding stations have family environments," said Frying Pan Station 36 Capt. Tony Kostecka. "There's a little competition there to make sure we're doing the job a little better than the next company."
Firefighter Keith Bresnahan says he likes the changes.
"It's always a waiting game to see what a new fire chief is going to do... We're really glad he's out listening to the troops in the field and our concerns about the station," Bresnahan said.
Chief Bowers started his new job in May, moving to Fairfax County after serving as chief in Montgomery County, Md. since 2008.
Bowers says another early priority is reviewing equipment and staffing needs and to make adjustments to boost response times. He's also launched a new community outreach program called "Safety in our Community." Firefighters will be spending Saturday afternoons going door to door to single family homes to check on smoke alarms and provide other safety information.
In just the first two weekends, 300 smoke alarms and 300 batteries provided by local businesses, have been handed out.
Bowers hope the effort will reduce fire calls.
"We're making a difference in preventing a 911 call," Bowers said.