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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.