- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2001

DUNDALK, Md. (AP) Five volunteer firefighters from this Baltimore suburb have been suspended after traveling to New York to help clear away rubble from the World Trade Center's collapsed towers.
Wise Avenue Volunteer Fire Company leaders said the firefighters were guilty of insubordination when they violated a direct order from Baltimore County fire officials, who have jurisdiction over the volunteers.
Acting Fire Chief David Martini said he told the five that if they went, they would have to go as observers and could not take county gear or wear clothing identifying themselves as county firefighters.
But the suspended firefighters said they traveled to New York on their own time with their own gear to help fellow firefighters.
"We were following our hearts," said suspended firefighter Judi Ulsch. "This was a disaster. I want to help my community, and I feel that you can go anywhere and help."
Baltimore County did send 10 firefighters to New York as part of an official Federal Emergency Management Agency search-and-rescue unit.
On Sept. 11 the day of the terrorist attacks in New York and outside Washington Miss Ulsch, Mike Kratochvil Jr., Will Willinger, Chuck Bruzdzinski and Kim Bruzdzinski began planning their trip.
That day, a Baltimore County fire captain had issued a memo to all paid and volunteer services personnel saying that members were "encouraged" not to go to New YorkCity without being officially summoned.
Mr. Kratochvil said he did not consider the memo an order.
"I said, 'Whatever, I'm still going,'" he said.
The five arrived in New York at 1:30 a.m. Sept. 13. They woke later that morning and signed in to help at the Staten Island center.
Later that day, the five worked on a bucket brigade, hauling debris from the pile at the trade center. They wore their Wise Avenue Station 27 shirts.
After spending one day at the site, the firefighters returned to Maryland and submitted a photograph from their trip to a community newspaper. The picture and their names in the paper gave company commanders evidence to suspend the five.
As part of their suspensions 30 days for the firefighters and 45 days for Mr. Kratochvil as an officer they were stripped of their gear and banned from the firehouse.
The suspensions end Oct. 22 and Nov. 1, Chief Martini said.
In New York, three volunteer firefighters from Mechanicville 17 miles north of Albany were suspended for 90 days for disobeying their chief's orders and helping with rescue efforts at the World Trade Center.
Fire Chief Charles Wheeler said he didn't know the trio had left until he heard they were on television the evening of Sept. 13.


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