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Police targeting firefighters for using illegal emergency lights

According to current law, all emergency lights must be on the outside of the vehicle; police say interior lights look too much like unmarked police cars


PITTSBURGH — The Pennsylvania State Police are going after volunteer and career firefighter for interior-mounted emergency lights saying the public will think they are undercover cops. Fire officials say the exterior-only law puts the public at risk.

Troopers are issuing written warnings for emergency lights illegally mounted on the interior of fire vehicles, WTAE reported. This includes volunteers who use courtesy lights on their personal vehicles as well as official, fully marked department officer vehicles.

East Carnegie (Pa.) Fire Chief Adam Kauer found out his lights were illegal when he got a visit from the state police. A trooper issued a warning to Kauer and two of his volunteers who use blue lights inside their vehicles.

In the past few months, state police have issued 25 warnings to firefighters for using illegal lights.

“It almost looks like you’re lighting it up for Christmas,” Trooper Robin Mungo said. “We’re noticing these vehicles, and we’re taking action by issuing a written warning to let them know, ‘Let’s get this right,’ so no one is endangered.”

Mungo says the concern is that the interior lights make firefighters look like undercover police.

“I’m not saying the volunteer firefighters are attempting to impersonate a police officer, but it’s the perception the general public has,” Mungo said. “They don’t know the difference, and it could be a dangerous situation.”

Kauer said using a single light on top of their personal vehicles could put the public in jeopardy.

“I think it would be less safe,” he said. “The updated modern lighting is much better. It’s much brighter.”

State Rep. Dan Miller said he is sponsoring a change to the light law.

“We want them to have the right stuff they need to keep everybody safe when they’re responding,” Miller said.

The bill would affect only vehicles with red lights, but some volunteer firefighters are also pushing for changes to the blue-light law.