I expect this story will generate a lot of discussion over the next few days.
My own experience(s) with running calls in both a lights-and-siren equipped POV as a volunteer deputy chief, and now as a career fire chief, have convinced me that no matter what we do to be visible, emergency response in a passenger vehicle (or any other vehicle, frankly) is an extremely hazardous activity that deserves a serious risk-benefit assessment every time.
When you look at the number of firefighter fatalities each year during POV responses, it seems clear that they deserve special attention by fire departments and individual responders.
NEW BLOOMFIELD, Mo. — The Holts Summit Police Department issued a reckless driving ticket to a New Bloomfield Fire Protection District volunteer firefighter as he was en route to a fire on Saturday.
Volunteer firefighter Matt Ousley said that he was driving responsibly, but taking the liberties an emergency vehicle is authorized to. He admits he was driving 10 mph over the speed limit and passing cars as they were yielding to him. Ousley said because he was using his blue flashing light and siren, his driving was legal.
The Holts Summit Police Department Assistant Chief Bryan Reid disagrees. He said a volunteer firefighter's personal vehicle, even when equipped with appropriate lights and siren, is not an emergency vehicle. "A first responder vehicle is not considered a full emergency vehicle," says Reid, "By statute it is not exempt."
The confusion lies within the state statute. Both the police and fire departments reference the same statute — but interpret it differently.
New Bloomfield Assistant Fire Chief Dean Powell said the statute "says right in it, very specifically, it states different things that they can exceed the law. Similar to a police officer when they are responding. They're personal vehicle at that point becomes an emergency vehicle."
When KOMU confronted the police with the fire department's justification, Officer Reid referenced another state statute, 304.022, which he said gives more specific information about what can be considered an emergency vehicle. However, according to that statute, Ousley's vehicle was following all the appropriate regulations to be considered an emergency vehicle.
Reid said even if Ousley's car was considered an emergency vehicle Ousely's driving was reckless that he still deserves the ticket.
Ousley's account of his response to the fire does not describe any disregard for other drivers' safety.
Both departments agree on one thing; Drivers should yield to any vehicle that has a siren and flashing lights.
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