Firefighter detained at accident scene by CHP

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mmckenna

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CHP Traffic

It's not uncommon to see on the CAD page where the CHP will request fire move their trucks and they refuse. Never heard of this happening though.
 

Kirk

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It happens. Been there, done that, got a stern warning and threat of arrest from CHP. It was technically my fault, as I did know that CHP is the IC on all highway accidents, and a firefighter was directing me to park as was a CHP officer. I didn't see the CHP officer (maybe they should wear bright yellow?), and was met by a very irate cop as I exited my ambulance. I was very apologetic, and fortunately the officer agreed it was in everyone's best interest if I tended to the patient and he could move my ambulance.

I think that experience will stick with me forever, as I remember it like it was yesterday when it was almost twenty years ago.
 

desert-cheetah

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Wow. I don't know what to say other than wow. The last sentence of the OP's link, though, is pertinent...at least it is for how I was trained in Arizona...don't know about California. Maybe it's changed, I don't know. My first thought was "he's taking the cops vs fire" war a little too far. My 2nd thought was "how long has the trooper been on the job?" I wondered if maybe he was being a bit over-zealous and Barney Fife-ish. ;)
 

Jay911

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This is a testy issue as troymail has shown. CHP has been the focal point for more than one incident in the past, and the NJSP incident was particularly onerous, with the trooper going absolutely ballistic and making all sorts of ludicrous, asinine complaints (ticketing the engine driver for not having his license with him - it was back at the station - and going completely bananas when he was told he couldn't confiscate the keys for the engine because fire trucks don't have ignition keys).

Cops may have jurisdiction on roads, and in some cases may even have command jurisdiction on crash scenes, but some of them need to pull their heads out and pull on the same end of the rope as the rest of us.
 

ofd8001

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Every time I see reports of adverse police officer/firefighter encounters, I count my blessings. Having been a fire chief for 30 years I've been on the scene of a multitude of traffic accidents on surface streets and interstates. Very, very rarely did I have a police officer take issue with the parking of any of our vehicles and then after explanation, all was well.

As a rule, the cops around our area are excellent to work with on the scenes of incidents.

News videos don't always tell the full story, but what I could tell from what I saw, the fire apparatus was parked in the manner consistent with scene safety. Given the increased number of emergency vehicles and responders being struck at traffic incident scenes in recent times, a whole lot of re-thinking and training has been done on how to best protect responders in such a hazardous environment.

Yeah secondary accidents are always a concern and they can even be worse than the primary. But our goal is everyone goes home at the end of the day. It don't matter who the Incident Commander is as no one should be compelled to to anything they feel is unreasonably adverse to their safety or that of fellow responders.

I think that in so many words, the CHP folks have come to realize that they probably weren't at their very best.
 

RRR

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Bad situation all the way around. Emergency responders must do their jobs, but they should also use common sense and not park in a haphazard manner as to cause further disruption of traffic flow or response by other emergency vehicles, if it would be just as easy to park out of the way. I have seen occasions where all lanes of the interstate were needlessly blocked by emergency vehicles, simply out of laziness or arrogance.

I think making a show of locking up the fella was a little much, but I wasn't there.
 

Jay911

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It's not a question of just 'parking haphazardly' - the rig was parked where it was for scene safety. It's a standard practice worldwide.
 

CaptDan

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It's not a question of just 'parking haphazardly' - the rig was parked where it was for scene safety. It's a standard practice worldwide.
Just curious - were you there ?

The "scene" appears to have been on the opposite side of some concrete roadway dividers, and 2 of the 3 firefighters asked to move their fire trucks from the high speed lane of traffic did so without any hesitation, while one fellow decided that he was a fireman and no one could tell him what to do - seems like an attitude problem to me.

Cooperate and move the truck from unnecessarily blocking traffic just like his co workers did
 

Jay911

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No, I wasn't. However, there are plenty of sources explaining in detail what went on at the scene. As well, I'm a 23-year veteran firefighter with plenty of experience working on highways and with police.

The story as it has been explained on various fire blogs, with direct quotes from the CV and SD chiefs, is:

Two of the trucks were from Chula Vista and one was from San Diego. At the time the CHP arrived, the one San Diego crew, who hadn't even gotten out of their truck in the first place, was leaving. The second Chula Vista truck departed at pretty much the same time. In many agencies, this is not an uncommon occurrence - for example, in my district, a minimum of 3 different units are sent to highway crashes, and it is fairly normal for the first arriving unit to cancel one or both of the other units.

The Chula Vista chief went on to say that the CHP officer demanded that the CV engine be moved off the highway. It was positioned to the right of the center barrier in a fend-off position, to protect the responders from a secondary crash, while they worked at the crash scene. As I said before, this is a standard practice all over the planet.

The video shows the firefighter being handcuffed on the other side of the barrier from the fire crews who were rendering patient care (behind the protection of their engine). In other words, that means the CHP were the ones on the wrong side of the barrier, not the fire crews.

The driver of a fire apparatus answers to the person sitting beside him (the apparatus officer), and no one else. It is the apparatus officer who has the say on whether or not the truck moves. In fact, in previous incidents, officers have gone to bat for their crews and been the ones to get cuffed. And as indicated above, police have paid for that in at least one situation.

Go ahead and say I don't know anything because I wasn't there. That's fine. All I know is I have had excellent relations with the RCMP in the 23 years I have been on the job, and never had anyone so much as yell at me (or any of my crews), much less pull out the cuffs on another first responder.

Unfortunately, we continue to see troopers attacking paramedics, troopers hollering at (and ultimately arresting) fire crews for protecting the scene, and in this case, fire chiefs having to defend their crews' scene safety practices and patient care while the cops interfering with that care only say "we're all interested in providing the best care for our citizens and we'll have to train more on this".
 

jrholm

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There was no reason for this. When FD is on scen doing patient care you let them do what they feel needs to be done. Now had this been after the patient was already transported away and the hose jockeys are standing around jaw jacking, okay I can buy that. But while a patient is being treated, uhmm no.

409 of the California Penal Code states that law enforcement is in command of at the scene of an accident, however it also points out 1178.6 Health and Safety Code that states patient treatement is under the command of the onscene medics and their agency and that the care of the patient is not to be interfered with. Apparently CHP only bothered to read 409 and not the attached H&S section....
 

box23

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I have seen occasions where all lanes of the interstate were needlessly blocked by emergency vehicles, simply out of laziness or arrogance.
Care to explain your reasoning for that? Or at least a little more information such as type of incident, size of incident, traffic density, etc? Seems you were just inconvenienced a little and want to blame someone.

I know of a handful of situations which would warrant shutting down an entire interstate. This very well could have been one.
 

Confuzzled

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This 'officer' should be charged with interfering with a public safety official in the performance of their duties.

If not fired, he should be reassigned to guard a rock out near Needles for the rest of his career.
 

SCPD

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While working for the Forest Service in the eastern Sierra the relationship between the USFS and the CHP was very good. During the 18 years I did this I had to assert the USFS authority and jurisdiction 3 times.

Once was in the winter when an earthquake occurred less than 0.5 kilometers under a major geothermal area with heavy public use. In this location it was essential that I inspect the area prior to anyone from the public arriving. It was snowing heavily and U.S. 395 was closed due to high winds, drifting snow and poor visibility. I drove down S.R. 203 to U.S. 395 where I found a CHP officer staffing a roadblock. I told him I needed to continue to my location using 395 as there weren't any practical alternatives. He told me he had the authority to prevent anyone from proceeding. No one was on the highway including Caltrans as the wind was making their plowing efforts ineffective. I would not be endanering others by driving on it. I reminded the officer that U.S. 395 was located on an easement issued by the USFS on National Forest lands. That easement, I told him, included a clause that the easement was issued on the condition that it cannot interfere with National Forest land management. I reminded him of the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution. I then told him that he was interfering with a federal officer by not letting me through. I then told him that with all due respect it appeared that my need to proceed trumped the CHP authority to close the road. We chuckled and he told me I was crazy to proceed. I then drove to a National Forest system road to the end of the plowing where I put on my skis and reached my destination. It snowed at the rate of 8" per hour and the visibility was such that I had to "feel the ground under my skis" to reach the recreation site.

One of my ancillary duties was as a claims and accident investigator and following a number of lawsuits claiming negligence on the part of the Forest Service in maintaining roads, required that we go to the scene of accidents on USFS roads. We had to determine if the construction and maintenance of the road was a factor in the accident. When I arrived on scene of an accident on a heavily used NF road the CHP was at scene the officer told me to leave and not interfere with his investigation. He looked at me like I was some sort of lookey lou. I then backed off, called my dispatcher and the USFS special agent called the CHP commanding officer, who in turn called his officer to allow me to investigate. I then had a chance to indicate what I was doing, that I wasn't going to do a duplicate investigation, that I needed a copy of his investigation, would not destroy any evidence and was merely there to document the condition of the road, the signage in place, stated my training qualifications, etc. From that day forward the relationship with CHP officers at accidents was excellent. The initial friction was because this was new to both agencies.

The last incident was the most disturbing. I was retired, but a member of the county's RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) and was there under the command of the S.O. RACES sergeant. Both the S.O. and the CHP located their command post about 10 miles away from the Incident Command Post. I was operating the radio at the county/CHP command post and accompanying the media inside the fireline. At one point the CHP and county wanted to have 395 reopened in spite of the highway being inside that line where engine and hotshot crews were working. Opening the road would expose the fire crews to dangerous traffic and the public to falling rocks as the closed highway was in a very steep and narrow canyon. The I.C. came to the LE command post to explain why the highway would not be opened. I had worked with the I.C. in the past as he had worked on the Inyo NF and the fire was located on the Bridgeport Ranger District of the Toiyabe NF where I worked for 7 years. I was had absolute confidence in the IC, who was a National Incident Type I Team in charge of this fire. After he left the CHP and county officers threatened to open the highway in spite of the IC's direction. I finally spoke up, after asking for permission to speak freely and with all due respect. I told them federal law stated they were working for this IC in spite of their claims they didn't have to follow his direction, because they stated they had ultimate authority over the road. I also had the supremacy clause and easement discussion I mentioned in my first incident. They took my words begrudgingly, but did not attempt to open the road. I spoke to them in a very calm and matter of fact manner.

A couple of weeks later I was working a large event in Mammoth providing communications for the event, the PD, etc. in a mobile command post. This time I was working for the PD. A fellow RACES member then told me that the RACES sergeant "was gunning for me because the CHP officer at the fire complained that I spoke to them when I shouldn't have, that I was disrespectful and harassed them. So much for interagency cooperation. Law enforcement agencies in some rural areas sometimes don't have a lot of large federal incidents and aren't practiced, nor trained well in ICS. They often cause coordination problems for the incident. When I've been on fires in southern California they understood ICS and law enforcement, including the CHP, L.A. County, San Bernardino County, Ventura County, Riverside County, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo County integrated well into the command structure. They always placed their "command post" at the Incident Command Post. They always helped us and worked hard as a part of the organization. At the large fire incident I spoke of there was plenty of room and facilities for the county/CHP to located at the Incident Command Post. They purposely chose to not locate there.

I had one other run in with law enforcement during the initial attack phase of a small fire near a USFS campground. I responded to evacuate the campground and a deputy was sent to assist. This peacock of a deputy arrived on scene just after the I.C. cancelled the evacuation as they had knocked the fire down. This deputy arrived and gave me hell that I stopped the evacuation. He pulled up on the dirt road at the entrance of the campground, skidded to a stop, which threw a large amount of dirt in the air toward me, the district's LEO and a dozen or more campers who were interested in the fire response and listening to our radios. The deputy stormed out of his rig, threw his hat onto the road, shouted my name and yelled out "what in the hell are you doing?" I replied in a very matter of fact manner, without my voice raised, and said I was following the direction of the IC, who he and I worked for on this incident. He stopped and stared at me while pointing his finger at me, without saying anything, picked up his hat and turned around on the dirt road and sped off.

I don't think cops are arrogant, They have to control scenes as soon as they arrive. If they lose control the scene becomes unsafe for them and the public in the vicinity. Anyone that has worked in law enforcement, which was one of the hats I wore, knows this. This is what officers are trained to do. Sometimes they get tunnel vision and don't integrate well with the other agencies on scene, as I have pointed out in the 3 incidents I related above. They don't work with ICS often, nor do they do a lot of mutual aid, especially at distant locations at large incidents. Firefighters are very used to mutual aid, traveling to distant locations and working in an ICS structure. ICS resulted in the fire family extending to every firefighting agency and making it the fire service, rather than individual agencies. Some law enforcement agencies and individual officers are reluctant to become a member of a greater public service family.

Arresting or detaining a firefighter at the scene of an incident on a highway when they are doing their job according to their agency's policy and directives is not a good thing. Every one at the scene of an incident needs to look at the big picture of what everyone is there for. Everyone shares a common goal, to serve the public, work for the safety of every person working the incident and provide for public safety. The management of the highway must be a part of reaching those goals and keeping it open in conflict with those goals should not be allowed. Everyone on an incident should follow the chain of command, which this officer is probably very familiar with.

It will be interesting to find out the details of this incident and what the justification was for the arrest. Things are often not as clear cut and simple as they first appear.
 

W8RMH

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With 40 years in public safety, having worked on both sides of the fence, I have seen a few of these incidents over the years. As a law enforcement officer at a crash scene, when fire/EMS arrived I just let them do their thing, unless the situation was an immediate threat to life or property. If some motorists have to sit in traffic for a while, so be it, as patient care and personnel safety is my priority here.

If I had a problem I would speak to the fire/EMS chief/officer in charge and ask what they thought about a situation before I would order or threaten any member of service, just out of respect.

I have seen some officers react this way because the are thinking from a "directing traffic" standpoint instead of patient care, and probably never had any fire/EMS experience. This can be avoided with a little cross-training or orientation.

In the case here I think this CHP officer didn't like the fact that his "orders" were not followed and had a macho reaction.

I also recall an incident as an EMT dispatched on an MVA where the vehicle was ready to tip over with 1 occupant inside. When I called for a rescue truck to stabilize the vehicle it was refused because the officer "didn't want any more equipment crowding his scene." We had to remove the victim while physically stabilizing the vehicle by hand. This was back in the days before an engine or rescue were regularly dispatched on auto accidents.
 
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