Wauwatosa firefighters fight firings

CREATED Mar 6, 2014 - UPDATED: Mar 7, 2014

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WAUWATOSA – Two former firefighters are now fighting something they never expected: their firings.

Michel DeLisle took an oath to protect the people of Wauwatosa nearly 16 years ago.  During that time, she did it all. DeLisle spent time on the Wauwatosa Fire Department’s rescue squad, in the honor guard, and on the hazmat team. She even earned the rank of lieutenant.

With all that service under her belt, DeLisle wonders why she was fired by WFD.

"It is very difficult to feel as discarded and abandoned by a city that you have worked so hard for so many years,” she exclaimed.

Saving lives certainly has its risks. Michel began to develop upper respiratory problems in 2010.

“After I would fight a fire, it would take me three or four days [to recover]. I'd be a little hoarse. I'd have a little cough. Sometimes I'd go on an antibiotic," she said.

After battling back-to-back fires in 2012, DeLisle had more problems.  She went to a number of doctors who told her she couldn't fight fires again.

"[The doctor] said, 'You're done. You're just going to get worse," DeLisle explained.

The lieutenant filed for disability under a Wisconsin state law protecting firefighters who suffer from respiratory illnesses on the job.

That's where the city of Wauwatosa comes in.

Delisle tells TODAY’S TMJ4 attorneys stalled and argued her lung damage wasn't work related--despite a number of experts saying the contrary.

After more than a year of delays and holdups, an attorney for the City of Wauwatosa faxed a notice to DeLisle's lawyer, informing her she was terminated.

Her union fought the decision, but in February the City decided to cut DeLisle and another firefighter loose from the department.

TODAY’S TMJ4 reached out to city leaders for days.  They refused to comment, claiming state statutes prevent them from weighing in.

DeLisle, who will run out of insurance coverage next month, just wants the city to have her back.

"If this benefit's not available to me, it's not available to anybody,” she exclaimed.

“So how many firefighters are thinking they're protected and their health and their family is protected, just to find out that it's the same for them?"

There is much more to this story.  Another firefighter with similar lung troubles, is fighting his own battle.

He and DeLisle are arguing their case against the city in front of an administrative court judge, trying to get disability status restored with the Wauwatosa Fire Department.