Fire Police In Pennsylvania
Compiled and edited by:
Andrew M. Shecktor
Last update August 12, 2001
Andrew M. Shecktor, Director Of Public Relations
THE WHO, WHAT AND WHY'S OF A FIRE POLICE OFFICER
First of all every Fire Police Officer is an active, and qualified firefighter, then secondly they are a Fire Police Officer. This is very important with our volunteer fire departments where manpower may be minimal during an alarm and the need is imminent to make rescue, render first aid, suppress a fire, and then to act as a police officer.
Fire Police must also take an oath of office, be sworn in by a Judge or Justice of the Peace and be registered with their Townships. To accomplish all of this, they must complete and be certified in Fire Police operations by their county and / or state.
The main function of a Fire Police Squad within the Fire Department is to maintain the protection and safety of department personnel and vehicles while at an emergency scene. These Fire Police Officers protect the emergency personnel and also protect their vehicles and equipment from acts of harm, theft, and malicious damage. Some examples of this include arsonists who will try to damage equipment to prevent a fire from being put out, victims that may become emotionally unstable, relatives/friends who may become enraged and attack emergency people and spectators who crowd around and prevent work form being done effectively, or prevent valuable equipment from reaching a scene, and hamper the operations in general.
Fire Police will try to control the actions of a crowd, and keep them at a distance for everyone's safety. Who knows what hidden danger lies at the scene: explosions, toxic fumes and deadly chemicals which may be unseen and undetected, and many other unstable elements too numerous to mention.
Fire Police will control the flow of traffic to ensure emergency vehicles have a quick, safe entrance and egress to the incident. They may halt traffic, block a road off or detour you in another direction, because of the situation and the dangers involved. They must retain space for Mutual Aid equipment, Emergency Vehicles, and tank trucks that may be needed to relay water to the scene.
Fire Police protect the victims, their valuables and property and preserve evidence at a scene. If a victim needs medical attention they will keep the spectators at a distance to show respect of the patients� modesty and privacy at such time of pain and agony.
Fire Police are there to offer everyone the same treatment and respect as if it was youthat were involved. So please, heed their orders, they are there for a reason and know what they are doing. They play an essential part in the saving of lives and prevention of further fire destruction.
Remember, Fire Police have legal police authority granted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and legally can make arrests if needed at the scene.
Duties of the Fire Police
1. To regulate traffic at fires.
This shall include traffic at the scene of any emergency to which your department has been called, until discharged by your chief, or the regular local police agency.
2. To protect firefighters while fighting fires.
Remember that we are all firefighters first, and fire police second. Our main objective is to provide the adequate protection for the firefighters so that they may do their job without interference of others.
3. To protect the general public at the scene of a fire.
Residents, owners, occupants, relatives, transients, spectators and even the news media tend to hamper the operations. Tact and courtesy must be employed to keep them safe and away from harm or obstructing fire operations.
4. To keep fire areas clear for fire fighting.
Apparatus, emergency vehicles, service vehicles and firefighters' personal vehicles all need room to park, operate within, turn around, run tanker operations and lay hose lines for fire-fighting operations. Always keep this space available and clear.
5. To protect the equipment of a fire company.
Keep all non-firefighters away from and especially off of department vehicles, and away from its equipment. Don't allow anyone to damage any equipment, and prevent looting.
6. To enforce the laws of the Commonwealth Of Pennsylvania relating to fire department activities, firefighting techniques and emergency vehicle driving.
The reckless disregard for safe driving within an emergency area, driving over fire hoses, spectators disrespect for fire lines and non-emergency vehicle intrusions are only some of the laws we must be firm in controlling at the scene with respectability.
7. To cooperate with all regular police agencies.
We are all there for the same purpose and reasons - to provide protection, safety and to prevent a situation from getting out of hand, therefore we must cooperate with each other by working together effectively and efficiently.
8. To protect the property at the scene of a fire until the Chief releases him from duty and turns the responsibility over to other police agencies or to the owner.
Allow no one to enter within the scene without proper identification or credentials. Be alert, we may see or hear something from a person that may have a direct bearing upon the situation, protect the scene's evidence, and report unusual events or happenings.
9. To assist the Chief at all fires and emergencies.
WHAT ARE FIRE POLICE?
According to P.A. Act of 1941, P.L. 137, No. 74 Amended July 11,198O. P.L. 580, No. 122,
"Shall have full power to regulate traffic and keep crowds under control at or in the vicinity of any fire on which their companies are in attendance and to exercise such other police powers as are NECESSARY in order to facilitate and prevent interference with the work of firemen in extinguishing fires, and, in addition, shall have the police powers necessary to perform their duties when functioning as special fire police at any function, event, or parade conducted by, and under the auspices of any volunteer fire company, or any event, function, or parade conducted by an organization other than a volunteer fire company, providing the request to perform these duties is made by the governing body of the city, borough, town, township or home rule municipality, in which the event will be conducted, or when accidents, floods, or any other emergency requiring performance of such traffic control and crowd control duties. Such duties may be performed WITHOUT PRIOR REQUEST of the governing body until the arrival of proper state, city, borough, town, township, or home rule municipality police authority or until the emergency no longer exists..."
WHAT DOES POLICE POWER STATUS DO FOR THE FIRE POLICE?
FIRE POLICE, WHEN ON DUTY ONLY, ARE ACCORDED LIMITED POLICE POWER STATUS. That means Fire Police have the authority to enforce the law and make arrests. DISOBEYING a FIRE POLICE OFFICER'S request is the same as disobeying a SHERIFF'S DEPUTY or a STATE TROOPER. ASSAULTING a FIRE POLICE is a FELONY. All Fire Police Officers are sworn officers of the law, highly skilled and trained in their vocation and have their oath on file with their local municipalities.
WHAT DOES A FIRE POLICE OFFICER DO?
In most cases, yourfire police are veteran members who know the procedures and policies of their fire company well, and are very familiar with the community they serve. Fire police respond as volunteer fire fighters, first and foremost, to whatever call for assistance is received by the fire company. While driving to the scene, we utilize mobile and portable radios to communicate with one another and the chief officer at the scene. If the chief officer or police authority deems it necessary, or if immediate conditions dictate such action, fire police then secure the scene as best they can and maintain control of traffic, potential evidence or crime areas and bystanders.
WHY MUST TRAFFIC BE CONTROLLED?
Most people do not realize it, but so many fires today involve hazardous materials and smoke that can be toxic so a perimeter of some kind is usually maintained around any scene for the safety of all concerned. On major roads, this usually means detouring motor vehicle traffic because fire fighters and apparatus are blocking lanes of traffic. All attempts are made to keep traffic flowing, but "rubber-neckers" are a serious threat as they can hit a fire truck or firefighter while gawking at what's going on around them. (These are the people who always claim they never saw us trying to detour them.) We try to keep spectators away from major auto accidents, which usually means detouring traffic as well. We try to afford accident victims some privacy during extraction and treatment. If you were badly injured, would you want strangers gawking at you?? Major accidents also require that the investigating agency (Sheriff, State Police) to take numerous photos and measurements and they rely upon the FIRE POLICE to help preserve the scene as much as possible.
HOW DO I RECOGNIZE A FIRE POLICE OFFICER?
It varies from department to department, but typically FIRE POLICE wear YELLOW OR BLAZE ORANGE COATS AND/OR VESTS AND WHITE OR ORANGE (TYPICALLY) HARD HATS WITH FIRE POLICE EMBLEMS. (Some departments use police style hats or baseball caps.) In very hot weather a reflective orange and white vest alone may be worn instead. In a blizzard you will find us layered under a turn out coat, bunker pants and helmet. We are the ones standing in the road or intersection, telling you, the motorist, which way to detour. We use flashlights, whistles, orange flags, road flares and cones to try and increase our visibility and assist you.
WHAT SHOULD I DO WHEN I COME ACROSS A FIRE OR ACCIDENT WITH A FIRE POLICE ON DUTY?