Mark Hayward's City Matters: Old injury a pain for would-be firefighter
He doesn't take it lightly, and he said that's the last thing he wants to do.
But twice Fosher — a strapping 23-year-old who hopes to follow his father and grandfather into the city firefighter ranks — has been promised the job in writing. And twice he has been denied for medical reasons that his surgeon and state fire officials have said should not be an issue.
"You go to the (New Hampshire Fire) Academy, you do all the fire work there. You go through all this, you get hired, and it comes back to haunt you," Fosher said.
The standards accommodate many ailments. As long as you pass physical and agility tests, you can have a history of substance abuse, cancer or heart surgery. You can have arthritis, migraines, partial limb amputation, irritable bowel syndrome, gastrointestinal bleeding, cystic fibrosis or hearing loss.
Fire Chief Jim Burkush has twice offered Fosher the job. Burkush said he's been advised to avoid extensive comment on the case because Fosher has filed a complaint with the New Hampshire Human Rights Commission.
"The doctor is totally impartial," Burkush said.
Meanwhile, Burkush is dealing with other issues related to employment. The mayor wants to reduce the number of firefighters working at any given time.
He has an associate degree in fire science. He holds a commercial driver's license and certifications for emergency medical technician and Firefighter II — all required before someone can even get interviewed for the job.
His orthopedic surgeon at Boston Children's Hospital has cleared him for work as a firefighter. And the New Hampshire Fire Standards and Training Commission granted a waiver from the back injury standards.
The Human Rights Commission complaint is pending. The city has answered it, said Peter Chiesa, an assistant city solicitor who said he won't discuss the matter because of the pending complaint. If the commission doesn't make a ruling by the end of this month, Fosher has the option of filing a discrimination suit in federal court.
"It's a matter of people being so wrapped up in rules," Meyer said. "Jon has run into a bureaucracy and just can't get through it."
Today, meanwhile, is a day for firefighters.
Thousands from across the country gather in Boston today out of respect for Michael Kennedy, a firefighter who died last week in the line of duty.
"I've learned to realize I can't wait and put conditions on being happy," he said, "but this is what I want to do in life. My career's on hold."
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